Tension in Enugu community over ‘most senior’ village claims

The peace that exists among the people of Achara Nsukka autonomous community in Nsukka, Enugu State, is under threat following alleged plans to change its villages’ order of seniority by the community’s constitution review committee.

Umuagwene, one of the villages that make up the community, has alleged that the newly drafted constitution of the community placed their village as third in order of seniority instead of first, warning that such a move would spell doom and crisis in the community if they went ahead to sign and adopt the new constitution.

Speaking with reporters in Nsukka on Monday shortly after the general meeting of the village, Mr Micheal Ezugwu, the eldest man in Achara community, who is from Umuagwene village, said that his village was the oldest in order of seniority.

Ezugwu, who was represented by his son George Ezugwu, said that the village square of Unuagwuene has always been used for general meetings of Achara community, being the most senior village in the community.

‘Umuagwuene is the oldest village in Achara community, that is why the village square is always used for Achara general meeting and other important activities of the community,’ he said.

‘Even when we are in a gathering or meeting with other communities, it is Umuagwuene village that takes kola nuts on behalf of Echara community.

‘We as a village will not swear with anybody in any diety to prove that our village is the most senior in our community because seniority is natural and cannot be obtained by taking an oath,’ he said.

He urged all Achara people to see one another as kin like their forefathers had done and avoided anything that could cause crisis and bloodshed in the community.

Also speaking, Chief Aniebonam Ezugwu accused Chief Peter Okonkwo, the state Commissioner for Local Government Affairs, who is the Chairman of the Achara Constitution Review Committee, as the one who relegated Umuagwene to the third oldest village of the community.

Aniegbo, a former Senior Special Assistant to Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi on Market Matters, said the village was calling on local and state government to intervene in order to avert what they see as the looming crisis the anomaly might cause.

‘The people of Umuagwuene are not happy that the constitution review committee deprived them of their natural right as the oldest village in order of seniority in Achara community,’ Aniegbo stated.

‘It’s unfortunate that the committee now recognizes Amaokpu village in the constitution as the oldest village in Achara, which is a new development.

‘If this constitution becomes a working document, my village has lost its natural right as the oldest village in Achara community and it is capable of triggering a communal crisis.

‘We are surprised that Okonkwo, a serving commissioner in Enugu State, who should be a peacebuilder, is the one building a bridge of rancor and disunity in Achara community.’

Aniegbo said that in spite of a certified true copy of a document obtained from the National Archives that placed Umuagwene first among eight villages of Achara community, the committee went ahead to alter the order of seniority in Achara community.

‘Is this document from National Archives not enough to prove that Umuagwuene is the oldest village in Achara community?’ he asked.

When contacted, Okonkwo said the decision to place Amaokpu as the oldest village and Umuagwuene as the third was not done by the constitution drafting committee members but by the entire Achara community.

He said recently at a general meeting of Achara community the two villages contesting the ‘oldest’ status were give two weeks to bring one person from their village to swear before a deity in Achara that they are the most senior.

‘Amaokpu village brought one person who swore to prove its claim but Umuagwuene could not; thereafter, Achara community agreed that Amaokpu village should be placed as the oldest village in Achara.

‘You can see that it is the entire community that recognized Amaokpu village as the oldest village and not the constitution committee,’ he said.

The commissioner said Mr Chris Nwangwu, President-General of Achara town union, who is from Umuagwuene village, could confirm his account of events.

When contacted Nwangwu confirmed Okonkwo’s account. Amaokpu village had sworn to prove its claim as the oldest village in Achara, whereas Umuagwuene declined to take the oath.

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