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NIPP's N60m: How Traditional Ruler Lied

06 February 2014, 15:06 Chris Richards

Ipupe autonomous community is a clan in Ubakala area, Umuahia South Local Government of Abia State with nine villages under its administration. His Royal Highness, Eze (Captain) Bob Chima Ubiaru is the traditional ruler of the area. Chris RICHARDS chronicles how this monarch lied to his people, the plot to sack him and how the embattled traditional head has been intimidating his subjects through his police connection.

When the people of Ipupe community decided to prepare for themselves a code of conduct, through a guiding constitution and bye-laws which spelt-out their dos and don't and the way every Ipupe person should behave, many then did not see any seriousness in what they were doing until now that the constitution's sledge hammer has fallen on its first victim.

His Royal Highness Eze (Captain) Bob Chima Ubiaru, the Aji Ukwu 1 of Ipupe Ubakala was on July 23, 2002 recognized and given the staff of office to serve as the traditional head of the following component villages namely, Umuobinola, Umuala, Amata, Avom, Okworonkwo, Umuogba, Umuoldriko and Umukpo by the Abia State government. But today the story is different. What is the matter you may ask? It is the urge and lust for personal wealth acquisition from the people's commonwealth. Trouble started when the National Independent Power Project (NIPP) came to the area to execute government's people-oriented projects which affected a reasonable portion of Ipupe's ancestral farmlands and shrines. Compensation to the tune of N60 million was paid, especially for the shrines' relocation and for the destroyed crops of peasant farmers.

nationalTRAIL gathered that when the compensation was paid through the traditional ruler, he unilaterally diverted same to his personal account, denying that he only received N20 million from NIPP at the first instance, and when he was pressed further he gave another figure of N30 million, but finally confessed to the crime when was arraigned before the ICPC. It was at this point, that Ubiaru's troubles started with a people whom had earlier trusted him. With the letting loose of the can of worms, the various village heads, as well as some principal members of the embattled eze's cabinet decided to invoke the powers of their constitution, which articles 7(v,vii-viii) and 12(a-f) deals with the code of conduct for Ajiukwu, and suspension and deposition of the Ajiukwu respectively, drawing inference from the provisions of Section 12 of the Traditional Ruler's and Autonomous Communities, Edict No.8 of 1991. Section 7 (subsection V) read, "He (Ajiukwu) shall not demand directly or indirectly gratification in cash or kind before or after discharging his duties towards any member of the autonomous community", while Section 12 (subsection V) says, "If in the opinion of the community, he (Ajiukwu) has manifestly contravened the code of conduct to which he swore to uphold."

Against this backdrop, the people of Ipupe cried out that they do not want Ubiaru any longer and demanded for his immediate sack and prosecution by the anti-graft agencies for embezzling the communities' money worth N60 million which he had earlier denied any knowledge of. When the fire was too hot for him to bear and sensing what might befall him, he decided to take all those who spearheaded the move for his probe to the police, alleging that the whole community had conspired and attempted to murder him. The troubled royal father had in January 4, 2013, in a letter addressed to the Chairman, Ipupe Truth and Reconciliation Committee, entitled: Settlement of crisis in Ipupe, in response to the one written by the committee stated that "Since all the problems in Ipupe has been narrowed down to the NIPP compensation for the relocation of shrines in Ipupe forest, in the interest of peace, I am willing to cooperate with the Ipupe Truth and Reconciliation Committee to bring this desired peace in Ipupe.

"You will recall that I have always maintained that what accrued to Ipupe is N20 million out of the N60 million compensation for the relocation of shrines. N20 million is banked at First Bank Umuahia and we have spent some amount as detailed on the attached list. As soon as IDUF furnishes the council with its account number in any bank, the balance of these monies will be transferred forthwith. On the issue of development projects, I hereby hand them over to the union through the peace committee," the memo concluded. The communities' queried the purported detail of Eze Ubiaru's expenditure on the said N20 million between May 31, 2011 through the demonstration against erosion to March 9, 2012 on the Transformer PR, arguing that due process was not followed and that the people were not carried along in all his dealings.

What baffled the elders of the communities was, according to them, while the matter was before the Zone 9 Police headquarters in Umuahia, surprisingly they were summoned to Abuja on a different allegation they do not know anything about. The letter of their invitation to Abuja, which emanated from the Commissioner of Police, General Investigation Section, "D" Department (FCID), The Nigeria Police Area 10, Garki-Abuja dated 19-11-13 reads in part, "This office is investigating a case of conspiracy and attempt to murder, arson, threatening violence, conduct likely to cause breakdown of law and order in which your name was mentioned. You are by this required to report at the General Investigation Section, Force CID, Abuja, on November 25 at 10.00 hours. On arrival you will ask of CSP Freedom Friday and ASP Bala S. Mohammed."

Unfortunately, the police invitation was signed by a no named person but General Investigation Section, "D" Department (FCID), Abuja, raising doubts of the credibility of the so-called report.

When the representatives of the communities spoke to nationalTRAIL through their secretary and spokesman, Mr. Chimezie Ochi Ogbuaku, the acting President-General, Deacon Charles Nwakerendu, a former Umuahia South Local Government Chairman, Pastor Goddy Kanu, as well as the Reagent, Ipupe Autonomous Community, High Chief Anthony Iheukwumere Atubo, were of the opinion that since Ubiaru has erred, he should vacate the communities' sacred seat. They maintained that a liar cannot lead them and that he should refund all the community's money in his possession, calling on the anti-graft agencies to do what is expected of them and to keep faith with the anti-corruption crusade of President Goodluck Jonathan. The reagent accused the police of playing double standard in the matter, if after hearing and seeing what had happened have continued to make them suffer by inviting diem to Abuja over nothing.

They complained that there is no iota of truth in whatever the embattled Eze had alleged, adding that as a retired military officer, he is using military tactics to rule the civil people of Ipupe which is not acceptable to them. The over 80 year-old reagent said he is a crook and wicked for wanting to take glory for what he did not do.

Also responding to the issue of mounting of the transformer raised by Ipupe people which Ubiaru claimed, he did, wife of the late Chairman of NEWS Engineering and a prominent son of the area,, Lady Josephine Nweze, said her late husband started the job before his sudden demise in the 2006 Sosoliso plane crash, pointing out that she completed the project against the claims of the eze, which was commissioned by Governor Theodore Orji in 2007. She maintained that the records are there to verify.

When our correspondent from the premises of the FCID Area 10 Garki-Abuja called Eze Ubiaru on his mobile phone on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 to ascertain the true position of the story, he claimed he was driving and promised to return the call which he never did. Again, on Thursday, December 12, 2013 the call was repeated, and after listening to the preamble of the matter, he cut off the line. When it was repeated, he claimed he was boarding a plane back home and switched off.

When the purported ASP Bala S, Mohammed's mobile number was called, an officer who claimed he is not Bala and whose voice could not be heard audibly, said Bala will call back when he comes into the office, while the CSPs number was ringing without any response as at 2:26pm on Thursday, December 12, 2013.

However, at about 2:29pm and 2:3:08, the CSP called our correspondent stating that his office was only dealing with the criminal aspect of the petition brought against the people, which has to do with conspiracy and attempted murder, etc. He narrated that he advised them to go back to ICPC for the case of fraud in order not to duplicate the matter which is already with the agency, claiming that they were happy with his advise. But all efforts to reach the Force Public Relations Officer, CSP Frank Mbah, to confirm the incident proved abortive as his line could not be reached

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