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Ukpo And Abba Land Dispute: Setting The Records Straight By Ukpo Community – A Rejoinder

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PREAMBLE:
The attention of the leadership of Abba Town Union has been drawn to the publications in Vanguard Newspaper of Friday, 12th July, 2019, both in print and online, purporting to setting the ‘’records straight’’ on the land dispute between Abba, on the one hand and Ukpo/Ukwulu, on the other hand.

This rejoinder has become necessary for a number of reasons. First is to assuage the genuine concerns of the citizens and well-wishers of Abba town. Secondly, to correct the distortions and falsehoods contained in the said publications. Thirdly, to educate the people of Ukpo community, who have been deceived for so long and are genuinely desirous to know the truth. It is not in the culture of Abba community to indulge in frivolities as the bootlickers and perennial under-achievers masquerading as the President General and Legal Adviser of Ukpo Improvement Union would want to drag us into.

HISTORICAL FACTS:
Abba, Abagana, Nimo in present day Njikoka Local Government Area and Eziowelle in Idemili North Local Government Area share a common ancestral history and constitute the clan called the ‘’Umuowelle’’. The communities originally lived contiguous to each other. Records made by the colonialists that could be obtained from the National Archives bear out this relationship. In one of such records, Abba town was recorded to be situated North of Abagana turning left from Onitsha/Enugu Road at Mile 13 point (from Onitsha).
The boundary of Umuowelle was adjusted when a portion of land belonging to ‘’Orofia’’ village, Abagana was given to Ukpo (known then as Ukpo-Akpu) because of an alliance between it and Abagana in the aftermath of the war between Abagana and Dunukofia clan. This arrangement repositioned Ukpo community enabling it to be a direct boundary neighbours with Abba in the border originally existing between Abagana and Abba.
The Ukpo revisionists may wish to reveal who hired Abba as ‘’mercenary warriors’’ and explain the logic of keeping defeated mercenary warriors with you. Until recently, not up to a decade, a clan in Ichida still came to Abba for the performance of some traditional/customary rites. How then could Abba have come from Ichida?

THE LAND DISPUTE:
It bears emphasis that these clarifications are made;
Title was not an issue for determination in the appeal instituted by Abba town at the Supreme Court in the suit no. SC.589/2016.
The appeal was on the impossibility imposed on Abba town (by the missing records of proceedings) to test the judgement of the High Court at a higher Court – the Court of Appeal.

At no point did the Panel of Inquiry on the missing Court records hold that Abba community has ‘’questions to answer ….’’ This is patently false.
Prince Arthur Eze, the leading protagonist of the expansionist movement, has twice made overtures to Abba community. However, his condition could be likened to the request of the biblical prostitute on King Solomon to divide the live child between her and the rightful mother. Prince Eze’s request is a poisoned chalice and unacceptable to Abba.

The land in dispute is generally called ‘’Agu Abba’’. It used to be a dwelling place of ndi-Abba. Incursion into the land began with the disengagement of Paul Kamuche of Umugama village, Ukwulu from her Majesty’s military service. Paul Kamuche was given a portion of the land by Ire and Ezi-Abba villages, Abba for farming purpose. Over time, Paul Kamuche departed from the purpose for which he was granted the land by building permanent structure on the land. Ire and Ezi-Abba villages, Abba instituted a legal action against Paul Kamuche & 7 others in Suit no. 0/76/63 at the High Court, Onitsha. The suit, which was later consolidated with other suits, 0/146/64 and 0/150/64, and determined by Hon. Justice Egbuna in 1967 ended in favour of Ire and Ezi-Abba Villages of Abba.
It is interesting to note that Ukwulu people lost despite the fact no less a personality than Dr. Walter C. Eze, who later became the traditional ruler of Ukpo Community, testified in favour of the people of Ukwulu alongside his kinsman, Barrister Okunna.

However, shortly after the civil war, Umugama Village of Ukwulu resumed their trespass on the same land already judicially determined in favour of Ire and Ezi-Abba Villages of Abba (vide the judgment of Justice Egbuna in 1967). In reaction, Ire and Ezi-Abba Villages of Abba not being so sure of the legality of the judgement obtained in the defunct Biafran regime instituted a fresh suit against Umugama Village of Ukwulu in 1976. Incidentally, Okpuluoji Village of Abba hitherto not part of the suit accused Umugama Ukwulu of including Okpuluoji Village land in their (Umugama Village’s) dispute plan and sued Umugama Ukwulu for trespass. The legal battle raged until sometime in 1986 when the people of Ukpo who had been testifying as witnesses to Ukwulu people made a volte face, and to the chagrin and consternation of all, applied to join Ukwulu as party-owners of the area of land the title to which they had earlier testified as belonging to Ukwulu people.

The suits were later consolidated and in the year 1999 late Hon. Justice Obiorah Nwazota determined them in favour of Ukwulu and Ukpo people. The people of Abba obtained a stay of execution of the judgment before Hon. Justice G. U. Ononiba, but could not access the record of proceedings in the case. The furore generated by this bizarre and scandalous disappearance of the court proceedings led to the State Government setting up a Panel of Inquiry headed by Hon. Justice P. A. C. Obidigwe. The Panel sat for three months and submitted their report saying they could not trace the record of proceedings. It was after the barren effort of the Panel of Inquiry that our people appealed the judgment for whatever it was worth in Appeal No. CA/E/30/2009. The appeal failed because the record of proceedings, which are indispensable materials for determination of the appeal, could not be placed before the Court of Appeal. A further appeal to the Supreme Court by Abba people in Appeal No. SC.589/2016 equally failed as the apex court upheld the judgment of the lower court and directed the parties to go back and “clear the mess” occasioned by the disappearance of records at the State High Court. The Supreme Court at page 27 paragraph 1 of the lead judgement by Paul Adamu Galumje (JSC) in the Appeal No. SC.589/2016 aforesaid held as follows;
“In the instant case, there is in place what I may call “force majeur”, an unexpected occurrence which has the capacity to defeat even the enforcement of the judgement obtained at the trial Court in the two consolidated suits. It follows therefore if nothing is done,there will be a total failure of justice. The loss of the record of the appeal is a factor that has in my view vitiated and rendered the judgement invalid. Is there a way of enforcing the judgement in absence of the record of the case? This is what may unfold later. I think it is in the best interest of the parties to go back to the trial Court and sort out the mess”.

As firm believers in the rule of law, Abba people filed a new suit which has been rescheduled for hearing on Friday, 26th July, 2019 before the Administrative Judge of Awka Judicial Division, Hon. Justice O. M. Anyachebelu. All the parties have been duly served.

CONCLUSION:
Contrary to all tenets of civilization and rule of law, Ukpo community through their Chief protagonist, Prince Arthur Eze, has since turned the Nigeria Police Force into their private deadly instrument against Abba people. The former Anambra State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Dandaura, Divisional Police Officers of Ukpo and Abagana Divisions, respectively, were unceremoniously transferred when they resisted attempts to get them to further indulge in illegality against Abba community.

If Ukpo community is sincerely seeking peace and harmonious co-habitation; If Ukpo community is in possession of a valid Writ of Possession, why is it offensive to it that Abba community has filed Court processes on the matter? If Ukpo community has any valid title, why has it not used the Surveyor General and Boundary Commission of Anambra State to establish the boundaries of the disputed areas?

We wish to make it abundantly clear that we have not clung to being law abiding and peaceful because we are cowards, but because we are convinced that it is wrong to do otherwise. It is common knowledge that no community has monopoly of violence or unruly behaviour.

Engr. B. C. Anaekwe,
President General.

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