THREE persons were killed and several others are lying critically ill, after a clash in Ogwuikpele Community of Ogbaru Local Government Area of Anambra State, over sharing of oil largesse and common patrimony.
Those who lost their lives include 70-year-old Anthony Mmadupue, Ajie of Umueleke kindred, an adolescent, Tasiemuobi, whose mother hails from the same place, and one other person whose identity could not be immediately ascertained.
At the centre of the mayhem, it was gathered, was a disagreement over the sharing formula of the N20 million grant which Sterling Exploration and Energy Producing Company (SEEPCO), currently drilling oil in the community allegedly gave to the family.
It was said to be money meant for land acquisition. SEEPCO is expected to pay the balance of N20 million upon the completion of civil engineering works on the site.
Trouble was said to have started during a peace meeting convened by Umueleke kindred to settle warring factions and thereafter adopt an agreeable sharing formula for the money paid early last September.
Our correspondent learnt that the family was divided between supporters of one Ben Egwujioha, alias Post Master, and those of Sunday Mmadupue.
While supporters of Egwujioha claimed that Mmadupue, who resides in Okpai Obieze, Delta State brought in thugs for the meeting, followers of the latter insisted that trouble erupted after a young man who ferried Mmadupue to the meeting in a speed boat was shot on the leg.
Our correspondent was told that when the boat driver’s relatives got wind of the shooting incident, they reportedly stormed Ogwuikpele, leading to a free-for-all during which several dangerous weapons, including guns, were freely used.
Only last Friday, November 6, Governor Willy Obiano of Anambra State had cause to report the oil prospecting firm to Federal Authorities, for allegedly “engaging in illegal activities in the Community.”
Declaring open a Stakeholders Engagement on Environmental Impact Assessment on the proposed Ameshi Field Development Plan, Governor Obiano stated that “SEEPCO had been operating in Ogwuaniocha and Ogwuikpele Communities since 2014 without proper registration with the State and lack of observance of the rules in the exploration industry.”
Drilling under Oil Mining License, OML 143, SEEPCO currently operates two wellheads in Umuezeoma village, Ogwuikpele and are on the verge of mining two fresh ones in Umueleke and Okichi villages of the same Community.
Although SEEPCO’s license straddles three contiguous States of Delta, Imo and Anambra, they surreptitiously began exploration in Anambra without any form of Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the affected Communities. Instructively, they were compelled to fulfill all necessary conditions in Delta and Imo States, while ignoring to do the same in Anambra.
Meanwhile, for now, palpable tension continues to reign in Ogwuikpele, with the urgent intervention made by the Transition Committee Chairman for Ogbaru, Hon. Arinze Awogu, forestalling an escalation of the crisis.
The Council Chairman has called for restrain on all sides, assuring that those behind the disturbances will not be spared.
He further thanked the Governor for his swift response to quelling the situation in Ogwuikpele.
Efforts, our correspondent gathered, were being made to draft men of the Nigerian Navy based at the Odekpe Outpost to the community to maintain tranquility.
BY SUNNY A. DAVID