THE land dispute between Abagana in Njikoka local government area of Anambra State and Ukpo in Dunukofia local government area, reached the climax last week when hundreds of youths, suspected to be from Abagana, attacked a police post located on the border between the two communities. The attack claimed the life of one of the security men guarding the large expand of land, while the Divisional Police Officer, DPO, for Dunukofia and three other policemen sustained various degrees of injury.
The area where the incident took place was like a war zone when Sunday Vanguard visited the place as two patrol vans belonging to the police and five buildings under construction were destroyed with explosives suspected to be dynamites. Several dangerous weapons, including live ammunition, three AK47 rifles and dynamite, were said to have been recovered from suspects arrested in connection with the attack by the police.
It was gathered that two prominent indigenes of Abagana and Ukpo respectively were behind the struggle for the land and that, at the peak of the dispute, the land allocated to the police to build a post to serve the area. Sunday Vanguard learnt that the decision to allocate the land to the police was in the overriding public interest as it was thought that it would help to end the dispute.
What was said to have angered Abagana people was the building of a gate, with bold inscription, “Welcome to Ukpo”, by an Ukpo billionaire at a place they considered to be their territory. An indigene of the town said that, as if that was not enough, a police security post was mounted at the place, while construction work was taking place on the massive disputed land.
On their part, Ukpo people said the land belongs to them, adding that they donated it to the Federal Government for the building of the police post and wondered why a group of people should have the audacity to destroy government property.
The policemen, who were on duty when the incident happened, said they were overwhelmed by the crowd, adding that a large number of people would have been killed if the police had decided to challenge them.
Anambra State new commissioner of police, Mr. Sam Okaula, said the command had arrested 23 persons in connection with the incident, adding, however, that investigation into the matter was continuing.
Okaula said those involved in the dastardly act had murdered sleep and vowed that they would never go free. The CP said: “Hoodlums, numbering over 200, from Abagana and fully armed with explosives and other dangerous weapons, invaded Ukpo and descended on a police post, while engaging in heavy firing. They overwhelmed the four policemen on duty and instantly shot and killed the security guard, Emmanuel Okafor.
“The assailants went further to bomb the police post and ten-room self-contained police barracks, after burning two police vehicles.
“The DPO Ukpo, who led a patrol team to the scene, was overwhelmed and shot. Three other policemen received various degrees of bullet wounds from the assailants. The DPO and the policemen are presently on admission in hospital.
“I led a team to the scene and, based on intelligence report, arrested ten of the assailants in Abagana. Detectives further arrested eleven other suspects from their various hideouts. It is to be noted that a team of Explosive Ordinance Department (EOD) identified and detonated an Improvised Explosive Device, IED, and recovered another one at the scene. “Also, four pump action guns, with two live cartridges, three AK 47 rifles, three locally made pistols, cutlasses and other arms were recovered.
“It could be seen from the magnitude of this unwarranted attack that the perpetrators obviously embarked on what appears to be like an act of terrorism. Investigation is currently in top gear and those found culpable will definitely face the full wrath of the law. Those arrested have also made very useful statements to the police.”
The CP said that prior to the attack, a meeting was held in an hotel belonging to a prominent indigene of Abagana where the dastardly plan of attack was allegedly hatched. However, while the 23 persons arrested in connection with the incident were being paraded at the police headquarters in Awka, some of the denied being among those behind the mayhem.
One of the suspects, who is in his late 20s, said he was in his house close to the area when the police came and arrested him. “I am innocent. I work somewhere else and I was getting ready to go to work when the police came and dragged me into their vehicle and took me to the station,” he said amid sobs.
In the meantime, people passing through Abagana -Ukpo road since the incident have had ugly stories to tell as they claim security operatives harass them to the point of asking them to undress to be searched. “I don’t know why our big men should cause us this problem at this time,” one of them said.