1995/99 Invasion

Preamble:

Umueri town precisely Otuocha segments, Aguakor and Parts of Ikenga Umueri were invaded by a Neighboring Aguleri community on 30th September -4th October 1995 killing, maiming and destroying properties worth millions of naira. As if this was not enough another attack which was on a larger scale was unleashed on the same Umueri community by Aguleri and Umuoba-Anam community starting on 2nd April 1999 - July 1999. The Crisis that ensued following these invasion has not been heard or witnessed in any part of Igbo land but it was subsequently brought under control with the intervention of the then Nigeria President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo .However, cold war, hatred and envy persists after the cessation of hostilities between all the neighboring communities.

Background to the Invasion:

The Crux of the crisis existing in the Anambra Valley is land disputes involving the exclusive ownership of Otuocha land. This matter and that of a dispute over a land called Aguakor has been the bone of contention between the communities (1933-1984). This matter has been variously entertained in the court of law since 1933-1984 in which the Supreme Court eventually agreed that neither of the two community can claim exclusive ownership of Otuocha land though admitting that they believed that Otuocha land was an empty piece of land and that its the people of Umueri who first came into the land and have even stayed for more than 100 years before the Aguleri came there. And this judgment was reached after cross checking the age of buildings, ownership of the ancient antiquities (i.e. deities and historical sites in the disputed land) and that of testimony of Umuoba Anam community during the Supreme Court Judgment. This Judgment therefore reversed the earlier verdict given by the appeal court which has given judgment in favor of the Aguleri.

The above Judgment notwithstanding, both communities of Umueri and Aguleri continued to dispute exclusive ownership of Otuocha. There was signpost verbal war in Otuocha. In Aguleri majority of signposts bears Otuocha Aguleri or Aguleri for short where as in Umueri, one can see Otuocha Umueri or Otuocha .Thus the both parties continue to misinterpret the Judgment either by design or mistake. And this create a situation of fears, tension and suspicious within the entire Otuocha.

But the signs of the bad things to come, happened in 1994. Aguleri community who failed to challenged effectively the land dispute over Agu-akor land decided to establish a Motor Park/Market on the said land despite petition and complaints from Umueri that the land belongs to them. The Local Government then under the leadership of Mr. Michael Edozie, an Aguleri natives went ahead to give them Certificate of Occupancy. In the Same Year, the Aguleri People destroyed the Statute of the Blessed Virgin Mary mounted on Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church Otuocha, removing all signposts bearing Umuleri and leaving the ones bearing Aguleri. There was also rumor then that Aguleri were planning to attack Umuleri with the support of the then Local Government Boss who was from Aguleri. Following complaints and petition from Umueri community who didnt believed that communal crisis is possible in the 21st Century world, the Federal Government drafted Mobile Policemen to Otuocha between December 1994 and April 1995. This action nipped the extermination and cruel plot of Aguleri in the bud.

The Invasion of Umueri Town

Following the redeployment of the Mobile policemen out of Otuocha, members of Aguleri community invaded and attacked Umueri on September 30th 1995 unleashing massive destruction of human lives and properties. It was initially alleged to be rumor when on 28th and 29th of September there were great traffics of able bodied men from Aguleri Otu & Enugu Aguleri(referred as mmayi people), river line  communities of Aguleri at the border of Kogi State and Anambra as they were entering Otuocha via ship through Anambra River . The Umueri Community couldnt fathom out the reasons for such movement of able bodied men such time of the year. But individually some Umueri were warned to leave the town by their friends and relatives from Aguleri. This prompted Umueri community to appeal to the Local District Police Officer (DPO) at Otuocha Police Station but his appeal to raise more security in the town falls on deaf ear . It was until 30th September that Umueri realized that there was conspiracy theory on what happened.

At first, selected Umueri monuments and buildings of eminent Umueris were penciled down for destruction. A new construction site for Gas Station of Chief Daniel Ekwevi in which he bought from Ochiagha Ikeli Anakwe was the first target of the aggressor. The workers there were chased out and the sites destroyed. The Invaders also destroyed schools, churches, community projects and individual houses numbering more than a thousands buildings. Ironically been that most of the invaders did not know or live in Otuocha, few houses of Aguleri natives were also destroyed on assumption that it belongs to the Umueri. Many Umueri were killed, maimed and abducted during the 1995 Invasion.

It was not until 4th October that the State Government was able to draft Mobile Police unit in the town to quench the crisis. And there was a relative peace and yet cold war, abduction and hatred persist.

The then Military Government of Anambra State constituted a 3 Person Judicial Commission of Inquiry headed by Retired Judge of the Anambra State High Court to investigate the crisis. The communities sent memoranda and appear through counsel and their representatives to give oral evidence before the commission of Inquiry. At the conclusion of the Commission Sitting, the Commission reports found amongst other things that the attacks on Umueri by Aguleri were carefully planned, executed and was not a spontaneous reaction. The Report therefore indicted both the then Local Government Chairman and Divisional Police Officer (DPO) who did little or nothing to avert the crisis. It also recommended amongst others that Otuocha be constituted into a separate Urban Local Government itself ad that the traditional rulers of both Umueri and Aguleri be required to relocate their palace to their various inland town. It also recommended that all public buildings and property destroyed should be made good by the Aguleri Community and that of rebuilding of private property should be borne by Government. Aguleri been the aggressors should bear their own.

Government in its white paper rejected most of the commission recommendation. It did not rebuild any of the buildings as recommended by the commission rather it directs State and Local Governments to channel Public relief fund to Umueri than Aguleri. It directed the police to ensure those that aided or taken part in the armed conflict were brought to book. Although the commission also recommended that Government should Endeavour to reduce to the barest minimum areas of conflict and therefore crisis between Aguleri and Umueri and in addition to further urbanization of Otuocha, the Government agreed that the boundary between Aguleri and Umuleri should be demarcated with large screaming beacons.

Again the Government failed to implement the recommendation concerning ensuring that those behind the invasion were brought to book and in any case not implemented by the Government. For instance, the Local Government Chairman during the 1995 Crisis was only recommended to be severely reprimanded. However, this inadequate recommendation was not even carried out by the Government.

When eventually there was another more serious crisis in 1999, it was therefore not surprise for analyst and commentators to presumed that it was reprisal attack citing government rejection of the commission white papers which would have seen to demarcation of boundaries between the two communities. But that seems to be fallacy as the 1999 crisis according to Umueri account was a continuation of the pogrom and extermination of 1995 since they believed that Government as usual would be on their side.

Therefore, the 1999 invasion just like that of 1995 was carefully,well organized and orchestrated plot to drive the people of Umueri out of the Otuocha land by both the Aguleri and Umuoba Anam. The Umuoba -Anam due to their strategic location in Otuocha and greed for more land that would contain their ever growing population easily agreed in this plot with hope that more land would be given to them in the course of the annihilation of Umueri out of Otuocha land. This could be seen from the both communities write up and tag on the destroyed properties of umueri. One could see the following phrases " This Building belongs to Aguleri, Keep OFF", "..this is Umuoba Anam territory,beware". For instance, the Umueri Community bank was destroyed and a paint was used to write- " This House belongs to Aguleri-keep Off"

But unknown to them, those kind plot would have achieved its desired mission if it had occurred 100 years ago and not in this very new world. Umueri were able to reorganize and retake back their land.

Prior to 1st of April 1999, a great and large number of Aguleri migrants from Enugu Otu and Aguleri Otu (referred as Ndi Mmayi)were seen in Otuocha. This led to pandemonium as many that witnessed the events of 1995 did not want to see such crisis again.  Many Umuerians started evacuating the town to Umueri inland town for fear of another crisis. On 2nd April, there was protest march of Aguleris along the Street of Otuocha in pretence of wake keeping of Mr Michael Edozie(who incidentally was the former LG Chairman during the 1995 Invasion). It was that same evening that Messrs. Chieke and Anthony Mbuesi (Father & Son) were equally abducted and beheaded and their heads carried away and paraded in Aguleri before being used for ritual sacrifice on April 2 1999 to coincide with the funeral rites of the Ex- Chairman, Late Mr. Michael Edozie whom they claimed was "Great Illustrious Son that helped them against Umueri". Few others were also killed and a lot other people were chased out of their house and their houses razed down and in retaliation Umueri Youths assembled and the resultant effect of the clash then was a bloody crisis that ensued. It was the Intervention of then President Olusegun Obasanjo that the war was brought to an end. And since then the two communities have hold cease fire, covenant to prevent future crisis, boundary demarcation have also been effected and yet peace seems to have returned back to the Anambra Valley once again

 

THE TOWN PROFILES

Name:
Umueri(Mispronounced Umuleri)

Location:
Anambra East LG of Anambra State.

His Royal Highness
(Traditional Ruler)
 


H.R.H Igwe Nelson U. Okoye
Igwe Okebo 1 of Umueri

His Majesty
(Traditional Prime Minister)


HRM Mike ekweonu
Onowu Iyasele  of Umueri

P.G Umueri General
Assembly (UGA)


Hon. Pius Okonkwo
(President General, U.G.A)

Title(Male):
Amanwulu,Ivejioku,
Oba,Asammuo
Ogbuevi,Ogbuanyinya

Title(Female):
Ekwe, Iyom,Nne-
Mmanwu,Okomme

Population:
Est. 155,000.00

Occupation:
Farmers,Fishers,trading
business,Crafts & Arts etc