Effium Communal War: The Truth The World Should Know.

By Monday Eze

Since January 2021, Effium Community in Ebonyi State has been enmeshed in a fratricidal war over attempts to suspend the operation of the Nigerian constitution in the community. With a total of 95 polling units, Ezza-Effium 66 and Uffiom 29, five electoral wards and two Development Centres, Effium Community is the largest autonomous community in Eastern Nigeria. Since 2021, properties worth billions of naira and thousands of people including innocent children, women and the physically-challenged have been killed. Over 10,000 children, thousands of women and men live in squalid refugee camps without access to food, healthcare, education and other basic needs. Those the bullets missed die by hunger and diseases. Yet, managers of state apparatuses in Ebonyi State have carried on as though nothing was amiss. The bedlam which trailed Ebonyi State Government's lethergy over Effium carnage attracted federal government attention. A joint security team comprising the military and other security agencies was sent to restore peace in Effium in April 2021. Vice-president Yemi Osinbajo; and the former GOC 82 Division of Nigerian Army, Enugu, Maj. Gen. Taoreen Lagbaja, visited Effium in April 2021. It is worrisome that notwithstanding federal government's maintenance of the joint security team at great costs in Effium for over two years, hostilities have continued to escalate therein with rise in death tolls and anguish of war refugees.

Why have federal government peace initiatives for Effium not yielded desired results? For starters, the former GOC 82 Division of Nigerian Army, Maj. Gen. Taoreen Lagbaja, arrested and handed 66 armed warriors in Okpoduma Effium over to Ebonyi State Police Command for further investigations and prosecution in April 2021. Before the GOC could return to base, 55 of the suspects allegedly escaped from custody! An enraged Ebonyi State commissioner for internal security, Chief Stanley Emeagha, condemned the development in strong terms. Briefing newsmen, he said: “Our visit today was a major breakthrough by arresting those people but very unfortunate that out of the 66, security agencies that were saddled with the responsibility of guarding those people to Abakaliki compromised. As we moved, they released them ..." Nothing was heard about the remaining 11 or the officials under whose custody the 55 suspects purportedly escaped. Thenceforth, suspected prime sponsors of Effium war have continually been shielded from the law: Another set of 31 AK-47 bearing warriors arrested in December 2021 by soldiers at Inikiri Effium and handed over to the police for prosecution were released in April 2022 by Governor Umahi under the pretext that they were underaged! Assuming without conceding that they were underaged, should they be released without arrest of those who engaged and armed them? And without reformation plan? In another development, Governor David Umahi announced at Abakaliki Township Stadium that security men taking sides in Effium war had been arrested. It was allegedly discovered that the police armoury in Ebonyi State was put at the disposal of Uffiom warriors fighting in Effium; and a police armourer, Insp. Chika Elom; a retired army officer, James Agena; and others were arrested and detained by the police. Despite public outcry for their prosecution, they were released. It is instructive that whenever these arrests were made, hostilities in Effium subsided; and each time those prime suspects were released, aggression resumed.

Several ceasefire agreements between parties to Effium war were breached by Uffiom. Yet, Ebonyi State Government and Ebonyi State Police Command seem to have a common obsession of traducing Ezza-Effium before the public: A Catholic priest, Rev. Fr. Ngwuta, from Ezza-Effium, was framed up as sponsor of Effium war and detained in prison for months. He was admitted to bail because there was no criminal information against him. Government is yet to withdraw charges of murder and sponsorship of Effium war against the innocent priest. The police and Ebonyi State Government have made frantic attempts to taint Ezza-Effium with the murder of the five missing NELAN engineers. Corpses which police and government claimed were of the missing engineers exhumed from Ezza-Effium have all failed DNA tests! Currently, a video maliciously dramatizing Effium hostilities by people with police gear who bemoaned shortage of "ammo" is circulating on the internet. Describing the video as "handiwork of detractors", Ebonyi Police Command claimed that, "Ezza warriors have launched an attack on Effium Community and the security forces stationed in the zone"! No evidence was shown to support that grevious allegation and no effort was made to unmask the dramatis personae of the infamous video clip! For all these and more, rights groups fast-tracking return of Effium peace have commended the Nigerian army for professionalism in Effium; and called for investigations and strengthening of the neutrality of some other security operatives involved in the FG peace initiative for Effium. These suggest that Effium war has thrived on the compromise of some security operatives and some Ebonyi public officers who frustrate the laudable Federal Government peace initiative for war-torn Effium. The federal government and all peace-loving people are charged by this piece to look at that direction as the search for peace continues for the sake of children, women and other vulnerable victims of Effium communal war.