People of Amumaraokahia village in Adakam Amumara Autonomous Community of Imo State have cried out to the Imo State Government to urgently take measures to stop their alleged intimidation and exploitation by the traditional ruler of the community, Eze Ositadinma Nwokocha.
The people are alleging that the monarch has hijacked the entire sand dredging activities in Amumaraokahia village and converted it to his private business for his personal benefit and those of his few allies.
TNC correspondent investigation revealed that following the indiscriminate activities of the monarch, a meeting was in July 2021, held between him and a delegation from the affected village over the sand dredging controversy and dispute.
At the meeting, the Amumaraokahia village delegation argued that the traditional ruler cannot set up a committee to collect registration fees from sand dredging contractors to operate in Amumaraokahia rivers and set up a task force to be collecting tolls for him from tipper drivers.
As a fallout from the meeting, a Memoradum of Understanding was developed and forwarded to the monarch on who should control the process of registration of dredging contractors and tolls collection.
The leader of the Amumaraokahia delegation to the meeting, Comrade Okey Nwanguma in a chat with our correspondent on Monday, said early January, another delegation was sent to the traditional ruler to inquire why the MoU has not been implemented but he answered them that he had not resumed work for the new year and that he would resume on the 16th January.
Nwanguma regretted that almost one month after, the monarch was yet to act on the document and instead had gone ahead with the business, without accounting for the proceeds to anyone.
He noted that Amumaraokahia land bears the rivers and suffers the environmental impact of sand dredging as well as the destruction of community roads, as a result of the articulated trucks that carry tons of sand from the rivers.
“There should be a limited number of dredging machines where we agree on terms and conditions.
“Our roads are being incrementally damaged every day and becoming impassable.
“Yet huge revenue is accruing from activities in the rivers.
“Amumaraokahia should be in control of the process of registration of dredging contractors and tolls collection and be making contributions to Adakam account and the palace as well
“It is worrisome that the MoU to define the terms and conditions of dredging and managing the revenues which the monarch asked us to developed, has been discarded by the same ruler,” he lamented.
Nwanguma revealed that the traditional ruler’s boys are presently collecting fees from more contractors and tolls from tipper drivers on a daily basis.
According to him, they molest and threaten Amumaraokahia youths who insist that the village and not the king should be in charge of dredging activities.
He wondered why they will be treated in such manner when no such thing is happening in other villages including Okpanku and Umuokpo, which also have rivers.
Nwanguma called on Governor Hope Uzodinma and the state Commissioner of Police, Rabiu Hussain to wade into the matter, to avoid breakdown of law and other.
“The monarch is not listening to cries that our resources are being exploited at our expense and our roads are deteriorating.
“All he cares is to make money using his fronts including 2 investors from his village, Obibi, who are setting some misguided Amumaraokahia youths against their fellow youths and against their elders.
“The millions in naira being generated from registration fees and tolls are not being accounted for either to Adakam or Amumaraokahia which actually should be the primary beneficiary.
“Where are all the revenues going to?
“We call on our governor, Senator Uzodinma to prevail on the traditional ruler to listen to his people and stop using intimidation and violence against us and to withdraw his thugs from the River.
“He should stop all sand excavation activities and enter into dialogue with the host villages and also account for revenues- running into several millions- so far generated from registration of investors and toll from tipper drivers,” Nwanguma demanded.
On his part, the Chairman of Amumaraokahia village youths association, Ikechukwu Ogbonna said they have been suffering violent attacks and threats by youths of Obibi village, the village of the traditional ruler over the matter, calling for immediate attention from the government.
“We no longer have peace in our village as a result of the conduct of the traditional ruler.
“We need government’s urgent intervention so as to avert the looming communal crises as a result of this injustice,” he said.
Meanwhile, when TNC contacted the traditional ruler, Eze Nwokocha, he denied the entire allegation, saying he discussed with all the community and they agreed that the dredging be done that way.
Nwokocha said the village had taken him to court on the matter and he will respond to their litigation at the appropriate time.