Until March 7, the people of Umunonu and Umuzeani had lived peacefully for 30 years. On that fateful day, the communities were thrown asunder when Engineer George Ugwu, announced the dethronement of Chief Joseph Agbo, the Ugwumba or traditional Prime Minister of their community and installed his Second-in-Command, Chief Anthony Ugwu Oya, in his stead. Since then, the community has known no peace.
Engr Ugwu, is the chairman of the town union, a designation that carries the title of Power of Attorney. He in conjunction with his father, Chief Raphael Ugwu, who happens to be the oldest man in the town, are alleged to have connived with others to inflict royal injuries on the Ugwumba.
But the Eze is no coward. Irked by the allegation that he has been dethroned because he was causing trouble in the land, Chief Agbo on Tuesday, March 8, debunked his alleged dethronement stating emphatically that he remains the Eze (king) of Umunonu, Umuezeani in Ugwuogo.
Ugwumba warned the public not to engage in any land transaction on behalf of the community with Engr George Ugwu because to do so, would be at one’s peril.
“He has no power to remove me as the Eze, king, of my community. He does not have the power. Nobody should do any land business with Engr George Ugwu. Any land deal without my signature on the title in Umuezeani is not valid,” the Eze said.
The leadership tussle between the traditional prime minister, Chief Joseph Agbo, and the Chairman Power of Attorney, Engr George Ugwu, has thrown the hitherto calm Enugu East Local Government Area community into chaos.
The duo are at each others’ throat over an alleged shoddy land deal that took place in 2012 and counter allegations over non-performance and constitutional powers.
Chief Joseph Agbo Ugwumba, who was installed the Eze of Umunonu, Umuezeani since 1986, was alleged to have been fomenting trouble in the land by throwing the youths opposed to him into jail.
Speaking on the genesis of the problem, Chief Joseph Agbo Ugwumba, who incidentally is the member representing Enugu East Rural Constituency at the Enugu State House of Assembly, said that it was never his desire to be the king, Eze, of his community, but was begged to do so about 30 years ago.
He said when he mounted the throne, his community had land issues with their neighbouring communities in Isi-Uzo and Nsukka local government areas all of which he resolved amicably, Today, he said, they are living in peace with their neighbours.
“I have taken it upon myself to make sure that peace reign in my community. I have made peace with Neke, Okopi and other boundary communities in Isi-Uzo. I knew that there would be no development without peace, so I made sure that we defined territories.
“I have never taken any kobo from anybody. I have never sold a piece of land to anybody in the name of my community. How then can anybody say that I fomented trouble and as a result has dethroned me as the Eze?,” he queried.
The Eze explained that trouble ensued in the land when they made the mistake of making Engr George Ugwu their town union president entrusted with the Chairman, Power of Attorney.
According to him, trouble began in 2012 when Engr Ugwu was asked to map out and survey the community land for a layout that would not be sold but reserved exclusively for the youth to build on.
He said Ugwu plotted the land and told the community that it was 1,000 plots whereas he kept back 250 plots for himself thinking that the people would not know but somehow the bubble burst and the shoddy deal leaked.
“After plotting the land, it was discovered that there was a shoddy deal. He was asked to render account which he declined and some youths took the matter to court.
“Later, George came to me and said I should not allow the youths to take legal action against him, but I declined because the people were right to demand accountability. He then swore to make things difficult for me and even remove me as Eze,” he explains
Community members, who spoke to Friday Magazine on the issue, said Chief Agbo still remains their Ugwumba-Eze because he was a peace-loving man who ensures that they live in peace with their neighbouring communities.
An elderly woman, Mrs Benedette Anieke, had this to say. “Ugwumba is our chief. We don’t want him removed. We begged him to be our Eze, how can we say we don’t want him again?
“Ugwumba is good, the only thing is that some people are fomenting trouble for him, “the old woman said.
A board member in the community, Ozo Sunday Agbo, said that it had never crossed their minds to remove Chief Joseph Agbo as their Ugwumba.
“We have never thought of removing Chief Joseph Agbo Ugwumba as our Eze. George Ugwu thinks he can do anything and get away with it.
“If George Ugwu is clean, why is that he has never rendered account? Why has he been selling community land and has never accounted for it?” he asked.
Two elderly men, Anthony Okolo and Sylvester Ngwu, also spoke against the purported removal of Chief Agbo Ugwumba as their Eze. Elder Okolo, “Chief Agbo is still the Ugwumba, our Eze,” he said.
Elder Ngwu condemned Engr Ugwu’s plan to distabilise their community. “George said that anything he says is what will happen. We begged him, “Ugwumba,” to be our Eze. We went abroad to beg him to come and be our chief. He is a peace maker,” Ngwu said.
A youth leader, Okechukwu Okolo in supporting Chief Ugwumba called on the Enugu State Government to come and intervene in the crisis in their community. He condemned George Ugwu accussing him of causing trouble in the community.
“Where we are building our town hall, he, Engr George Ugwu, went and built his own house very close to it. He said he would cause trouble in our place and he has started by saying that they have removed our Ugwumba.
“We want government to come and intervene in this matter. Ugwumba is a nice person. He is still our chief. He has never sold our land,” he said.
However, Engr Ugwu, who is supposed to be the arrow-head in the purported removal of Chief Joseph Agbo as the Ugwumba of Umunonu, Umuezeani, Ugwogo, disclosed in an interview that he had nothing against the dethroned Ugwumba.
He said that anybody who cared to know the truth about Ugwumba’s dethronement should go to the community to find out why Chief Joseph Agbo was dethroned as Ugwumba. He said that the community acted according to the constitution and removed him as their Eze and so he remains removed, pointing out that it was neither him nor his father as the oldest man in the community that removed him but a collective decision by the entire community.
“I am not the one that removed him. I have nothing against him. It was the general assembly that removed him. He was removed according to the constitutional provisions.
“He was causing a lot of confusion in the community. He has penchant for taking people to court without recourse to communal means of settlement. The board of trustee, Council of Elders and all the citizens that made up the general assembly removed him.” Engr Ugwu explained.
Ugwu also explained that it was Chief Agbo who was selling community land, and not himself. Further, he alleged that the former Ugwumba was removed because of non-performance.
For instance, he alleged that as Ugwumba, Chief Agbo never celebrated the yearly Ofala for 30 years since his installation, he never embarked on any development project and never opened account for the community until he, Engr Ugwu came into the picture.
Ugwu said a month before he was removed, Ugwumba was invited to come and defend himself but he never showed up, instead he started causing trouble and putting people in jail. This, Ugwu said, made the General Assembly to decide to remove him.
Corroborating these allegations, a member of the community, Hon. Dons Oko, said the removal of the former Ugwumba was long overdue. “In 2007, we wanted to remove him but he pleaded for a chance for change of attitude, but he never did, instead he continued to sell community land without recourse to constitutional provisions.
“In 2012, the same thing happened, abuse of office. He wanted to be all and all, that whatever he said carried,” Hon. Okoh said.
A youth leader, Thomas Ndubisi Ugwuoya, said that Chief Joseph Agbo deserved what befell him because of the trouble he had been causing in the community. He said Engr Ugwu has been a blessing to the community and should be praised for the numerous development projects he has done in the community.
“The former Ugwumba deserved to be removed. Since he was installed, he has been causing trouble in the community. In Nike culture, you don’t sell community land without the consent of the community,” he said and accused Chief Agbo of using a group that calls itself ‘Concerned Citizens’ to foment trouble.
On the issue of land verification, Ugwu said the former Ugwumba and his group were given the opportunity to verify the layout in their community, but they disagreed and went to court instead.
“They, the Concerned Citizens, were given the go ahead to verify the land and report to the community. They had three months to do so. After the time frame elapsed, they came out with nothing, instead chose to go to court,” he explained.
Thomas Ugwuoya, who was once jailed by the Ugwumba, explained that the layout carved out by Engr Ugwu was fair because every taxable adult got three plots each. “Chief Agbo was given two extra plots, even his late father, Nwabueze Agbo, was given two plots because the layout project started in his day as the oldest man in the community.”
Apart from getting extra plots of land, Chief Agbo got 10 percent of proceeds from every land sold as the then Ugwumba, Mr Ugwuoya explains stating that the former Ugwumba also sold nine plots of land to Engr George Ugwu and four other plots to one Mr Nicodemus Oko in 2003 and 2004 respectively, though he denied ever doing so.
Elder Ani Nwekete, the second oldest man in the community said the former Ugwumba, Chief Agbo, deserved to be removed because he was not doing well.
His words, “We the elders made him our king, but soon thereafter he had no regard for the elders. We wanted to build community hall, but he refused efforts to do so.
“We gave him land, yet he was not contented. He sold Umuzu without the consent of the elders and the General Assembly and without accounting for it.
“He frozen our account at First Bank and said that we will not build the community hall. He said we should build Oye Ugwuogo that does not belong to us alone but Umunonu and Umunnamezu.
“He took the community to court and used the police to molest the youth. This is against the constitution that specifies that one should not invite the police into the community unless for criminal cases,” elder Nwekete alleges.
The secretary general of Umunonu, Umuezeani, Thomas Anike said the former Ugwumba had served his term as the Ugwumba of the community but his services are no longer needed.
“He lost the zeal of commitment. His removal is a constitutional matter. In section 5 of our constitution, he has rights, duties, responsibility as a traditional ruler. He had his scope. And there is section 7 where he has limitations.
“His duty is to protect the interest of every member of the community and to protect our customs and tradition, but he has failed in his assignments.
“On December 27, 2015, he, the former Ugwumba, disrupted the Umuezeani Day held every year. He prevented the masquerade from being paraded and later reported the community to the police, but the Commissioner of Police allowed us to carry on for peace to prevail.
“He was just being power drunk. As the traditional ruler, he was supposed to have his official outing that day but he decided to cause confusion, instead,” the secretary narrated.
The oldest man in the community and father of Engr George Ugwu, Chief Rapharl Ugwu, aka Enyiduru, told Friday Magazine that the dethroned Ugwumba had failed in his duties and was rightly removed.
“He was made chief in 1986, 30 years ago and he has not been doing well. He takes decision without consulting the elders, the Oha. Sometime last year, he ganged up with a group of miscreants called ‘Concerned Citizens’ to cause trouble in the community by accusing members of the Board of Trustee of embezzling community fund.
“During the General Assembly meeting, they employed the services of an external auditor to audit the accounts of the community. They were given one month. After one month, two months, nothing happened. After three months, they instituted court action against those that operated the account- chairman, secretary and financial secretary. The case is still in court.
“He ganged up with the miscreants to suspend the eldest man in the community without just cause. The general assembly directed him to reverse it but he has not,” Chief Ugwu explained adding that Chief Agbo was in the habit of inviting the police to harass and arrest the youths.
“He travels without informing the community. Recently, he travelled again to overseas for one month without informing the community. He is no longer popular among the people,” Chief Ugwu concludes.
Speaking on the processes for removing an Ugwumba, elder Ugwu explains, “If the chief is dead or accused of any crime or misconduct, there is a regent that will act for one year and that is what we have done.”

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