Ignatius Okpara, Enugu
The Traditional ruler of Oruku Community in Nkanu East council area of Enugu state, South- East Nigeria, Igwe Emmanuel Mbah, has threatened legal action against a serving Nigeria Army officer, Major Raphael Okenwa, his Uncle, a retired Permanent Secretary, Chief Raymond Okenwa, Moses Nnamani, and others, over alleged character defamation and campaign of calumny against his person via various social media platforms.
He therefore, warned them to desist forthwith from such wicked act, or meet him in court, saying his sin against the fellow kinsmen is because of his disposition towards probing how the past leadership of the area used the Community’s common wealth to enrich themselves.
It would be recalled that before the recent peace that was brokered by governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi led administration, Oruku and neighbouring Omuode communities, had engaged each other in bloody communal war that lasted for over 27 years, which claimed scores of lives as well as properties valued several millions of naira destroyed.
A document issued by some indigene of the area who preferred to be addressed as “Concerned citizens of Oruku Community” made available to newsmen in Enugu Friday, stated that “the Video clips and its accompanied story being circulated recently in the social media to tarnish the image of the Igwe, is not unconnected with the upshot from the amicable resolution of the dispute between Oruku and Umuode.
The people explained that several past administrations were unable to settle the dispute, but the current government succeeded . The leadership of both Communities embraced peace , they came to a comprise in sharing the community lands. 70% and 30% for Oruku and Umuode respectively, and a memorandum of understand to that effect was signed by both community leaders.
According to them, in an efforts to enthrone and sustained everlasting peace, the state government dissolved the Oruku Town union Executive, inaugurated a six man Care taker Committee to Superintend over the Community affairs for six months, adding that at the expiration of the Committee’s tenure, the Town union Executive and a new Traditional ruler, for the Community, Igwe Emmanuel Mbah, were democratically elected on 26th, of December 2019.
They said since after the election, some of the contestant and their sponsors, including a former Head of Service and Permanent Secretary in the state, Chief Raymond Okenwa, who is an uncle to Major Okenwa, have continued to resist moves by the traditional ruler to sanitise the corrupt system in the Community, including probing alleged embezzlement of funds in its coffers .
The document, read thus: “on assumption of office, the new leadership was taken aback, on the alarming manner members of the past leadership allegedly fed fat on the Community’s funds, including how they withdrew the sum of 35, million naira within a month from its account which was uncovered through a First bank statement of account printout .
Aside alleged embezzlement of the community funds, the past exco, according to them, “allotted various numbers of community plots of lands to them selves, with a serving Major in the Nigeria Army, Raphael Okenwa, having over 50 plots of land, including others who acquired huge numbers illegally to the detriment of the locality.
They said for instance, Mr. Moses Nnamani, who is among the Igwe’s blackmailers, bought 9 plots of lands from the past leadership of the Community, and was given one extra, but surprisingly, he want behind the Community to grab over 50 plots. When the Igwe and the new Town union leadership uncovered the dubious act, via available records, they invited him for clarification, but he bluntly refused to honour the invitation.
Following his refused to honour the invitation, the Monarch, alongside a former Chairman of Nkanu East Council area, Hon. Ejike Ani, and some members of the Community’s vigilante group went to the site where he (Nnamani) bought the said land and was developing a structure with a view to ascertain the true position of things, adding that on getting to the place Nnamani , raised alarm to the effect that the Igwe and the ex- council boss with the local vigilante men came to abduct him.
However, in a three page petitioned filed on behalf of the Monarch by his lawyer, Godwin Onwusi, (Esq) addressed to the Brigade Commander 4, Brigade, Nigerian Army, Benin city Edo state, where the accused officer is currently serving, the traditional ruler, posited that the officer, who hails from same Oruku Community with him, is out to tarnish his hard earn reputation and image.
The petition dated 7th, September, 2020, and made available to our Correspondent Friday in Enugu by the Monarch’s Counsel, alleged that “Major Okenwa and his cohorts, which includes Moses Oko, Chidi Gabriel Nwatu, (Alias) Gabriel prince and Onyedika Obinna have embarked on online campaigns of calumny to malign and defame our client.
“That sometimes in the past, when the traditional rulership stool of the Community became vacant, our client indicated interest to ascend the throne, but did not have the support of Major Raphael Okenwa along with his Uncle, Chief Raymond Okenwa, a former Head of Service in Enugu state.
According to the petition, “eventually our client triumphed and became the recognized and certificated traditional ruler of Oruku Community by the Enugu state government, and “ever since Igwe Mbah, ascended the throne, “Major Okenwa, and his cohorts have continued to tarnish his image as well as blackmail him through the internet in various social media platforms.
” Major Raphael Okenwa, using his online name, “Visual Storyteller”, has continued to concoct false and malicious stories against our client both on his Facebook account and in his contributions on the WhatsApp platform of the the indigenous people of Oruku Jiaba.
The petition, therefore, asked the 4 Brigade Commander to reprimand Major Okenwa, and direct him to stop further concocting and sharing of information defamatory to “our client, as such actions from him rub- off negatively on the image of the Nigerian Army, as well as contravene Section 24 (b), of Cybercrimes (prohibition, prevention etc) act, 2015.
” In one of the many publications, Major Okenwa, tagged the picture of our client to the picture of a man he alleged to is being held hostage somewhere, and claimed that our client is responsible for the man being held hostage.
The petition further accused the officer, of concocting a Video purporting to link the Royal father “to the man being held hostage. Print out of the said publications are annexed as annexures A & B, adding that Major Okenwa, has been sharing these concocted stories and Video on Facebook, Watsap, and other social media platforms.
“Against the backdrop, of the above, we humbly submit thus: that the actions of Major Okenwa, are defamatory of our client, as they are injurious to his reputation ,lower him in the estimation of right thinking members of the public. And equally expose him to hatred, contempt or ridicule”, pointing out that such actions is also capable of causing other persons to shun him as well as discredit him in his office as the traditional ruler of the Community.
It also claimed that ” the motivation behind Major Okenwa’s actions is to discredit our client before the Enugu state government with a view to the government withdrawing his Certificate of recognition so that his preferred candidate can be enthroned as the Igwe of Oruku Community.
The petitioner, equally noted that as a serving Major in the Nigerian Army, with strict military discipline and law, the officer in question is not supposed to dabble into local Chieftaincy title issues, “or to defame our dear client, so as to create way for his preferred candidate.
“We also respectfully urge you to, in strict compliance with military discipline, mandate Major Okenwa to publish an apology to our client, both on Facebook account, Whatsapp platforms of indigenous people of Oruku Jiaba and in a national Daily newspaper, insisting that the Monarch would have no option rather than seeking redress in court should the officer fail to adhere to the above mentioned request within 30 days of the receipt of the petition.
When contacted, Chief Okenwa, dismissed the allegations, by the Monarch, saying “am sorry for him, because he is a drowning man looking for what to hold unto. Although, I Wouldn’t want to join issues with him. He knows what to do, let him go to court and also go and face the charges facing him. Meanwhile, efforts to reach the other accused persons was unsuccessful, as their mobile line could not go through as at the time of filling this report .