*How widows’ farms were burnt
More details have emerged of how the governorship candidate of the Labour Party in Enugu, Hon. Chijioke Edeoga, used his position as Commissioner for seven years in Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi administration to oppress the poor people of his community, Mgbuji, Eha-Amufu, Isi-Uzo Local Government Area of the state.
In a July 2021 video, which resurfaced on the social media space, a poor farmer from Edeoga’s community, Mrs. Regina Ogbu, recounts her ordeal in the hands of Edeoga and his surrogates.
She said, “My fellow Igbos, we are of the Umugwu Nwebe Nworube in Omulor, Eha-Amufu, in Enugu State. We are here to tell the world what we are passing through in our own community. We are managing to survive. We farmed these destroyed cassava and also these destroyed fiofio (pigeon pea) that I’m holding here, by some leaders of Eha-Amufu, namely; Sunday Edeoga, Chijioke Edeoga, and Barr. Chukwuma Edeh, Ivuvu Odoh Ebeh and many others, who mobilised some young men whom they use to unleash terror in our community to attack us in our farms on the morning of 3rd July 2021.
“They were shooting sporadically. And we started running because we were just farmers and only prepared for farm work, not the war that they visited on us today.
“So, after we ran away, they descended on our farms, destroying our livelihoods and sweats because they said there was nothing we could do because we have nobody to defend us and no money to pursue justice.
“But we know that since we have God, He will protect and defend us. We are complaining to the world because we are very upset. The government has been telling people to do a lot of farming; that we should till the soil and produce food for ourselves and for our children and also have some to sell to look after our children both for today and tomorrow.
“But, now that they have totally destroyed our labours and sweats, what shall we do? We are angry and we want the world to hear this and be the judge.
“They did this to us because they are convinced that we have no money and nobody. But we know that since the good people of Enugu State are there; and since the good people of Isi-Uzo are there, we have people. Please, let justice be done”.
Also collaborating her account in a different video, another farmer, who was also recorded in destroyed farm, Mr. Silas Ofiagu, alleged that the thugs sent by Chijoke Edeoga attacked them with guns and dangerous weapons. And when they ran for their lives, the thugs descended on their farms and ruined everything.
“Among the thugs that attacked us were Udoka Olinya, aka Onyenso; Friday Edeh; Samuel Ogenyi, aka Akari Ogenyi; among others.
The thugs were sent by Chief Sunday Edeoga, Hon. Chijioke Edeoga, and Barr. Chukwuma. Emeka Edeoga, alias Yaro led the boys that destroyed our farms”.
The incident triggered protests in Eha-Amufu, which also went viral on the internet. Reporting the development under the title “Enugu Farmers Protest the Destruction of Farms Worth Millions”, on the 9th July 2021 edition of Vangaurd newspaper said, “Scores of farmers in the sleepy agrarian community Umueba, Mgbuji, Eha-Amufu, Isi-Uzo Local Government Area of Enugu State, have cried out over the destruction of their farms valued to run into millions of Naira by thugs allegedly sent by prominent indigenes of the community led by a serving Commissioner in Enugu State.
“The farmers lamented that the most pathetic aspect of their ordeal is that most of them obtained loans from various sources to buy crops for their farms and wondered how they would repay the loans in the face of their predicament.
“The farmers, many of them elderly men and women, including widows, had in a bid to attract public attention to their ordeal, demonstrated in their community on Wednesday.
They accused Hon. Chijioke Edeoga, Enugu State Commissioner for Environment and others of allegedly sending people they referred as “thugs” to destroy their rice, yam, cassava, maize and other crops in their farms”.
However, Edeoga denied the allegation, saying it was meant to smear his name.
He however added: “But ask them if they are the owners of the land or do they just go into a land and start farming”.
But the 2021 event was not the first. The 31st December 2019 edition of Vanguard newspaper in a report entitled “Enugu Farmers Protest Destruction of Crops, Farmland”, detailed how Edeoga and his cohorts sponsored some local hoodlums to destroy the livelihood of peasant farmers., including rice farms which were being harvested.
The report filed by Vanguard’s Chinedu Adonu, read in part, “According to the protesters, many of whom are widows and the indigents, the leaders included a serving commissioner and their town union president, who they also alleged was imposed on the community.
“One of the major victims, a widow with seven children, Mrs. Eunice Odogbu, while expressing helplessness over the burning of her farm, noted that her husband died on 2000 and that farming has been their only source of survival.
“According to her, the most painful part of the attack on their farms was that the miscreants chose the harvest period to carry out their evil act.
“Another victim, Mr. Edeh Chinedu, father of two, disclosed that they destroyed his farmland last year, which he reported to the police and human rights groups, adding that they came this year and destroyed the farm with chemical and fire.
Meanwhile, the petitions to the governor such as the one dated December 2020 and entitled, “Re: Unlawful and Forceful Expropriation of Land from the Umu-Ugwu Nwebe Orube Family of Omulor, Mgbuji Autonomous Community, Eha-Amufu, Isi-Uzo LGA of Enugu State with Threats of Morbid Dimensions: Petition Against Hon. Chijioke Edeoga, the Honourable Commissioner for Environment and his Cohorts”; petition to the Inspector General of Police over the illegal detention, among others has not helped the people to secure justice as Edeoga practically used his influence in government to block them.