The son of a murdered Army Major in Benue State, has revealed how his father was brutally murdered by hoodlums who attacked him.
A building after it was destroyed in the fracas
As an uneasy calm descended on the troubled Ondo-Ogobia communities in Otukpo Local Government area of Benue State, some gory details have emerged on the attack that claimed the lives of a former state chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Major Lawrence Ugboh (retd.) and three others penultimate Thursday.
Also killed in the early morning attack on the village were a retired police officer, Obeluva Ujah, the security officer of the local government and one other person.
During a visit of our correspondent to the community, one of Ugbo’s children, Edwin, a state Commandant of the Peace Corps in Kaduna, said that on the eve of the fateful Thursday, he had spoken with his father in the night, who requested him to assist some youths, who were looking for job only to be informed few hours later that his father had been killed.
“Around 9pm on Wednesday, my father had called, requesting me to help some youths secure a job. He said he was going to send them to me and asked me to ensure they got the job, only to receive a call the following day around 7am that my father that I spoke with less than 12 hours was gone.
“The family has been reduced to zero, I was told that my father made distress call to security chiefs in Otukpo from 5am till the time he was killed around 6am and that there was no response.
“The attackers bundled my father into his car and burnt him alive; it was a well coordinated attack.”
Another son, Okpe, who resides in Makurdi, the state capital, said that he was with his father three weeks ago when he came to submit the SOS letter to the state governor, Samuel Ortom; and other security chiefs in Makurdi.
He explained that the attack in the town, which was a fallout of a land dispute between two brothers claimed the life of his father in a tragic manner.
Okpe said his father was blamed as siding with one of the siblings at the centre of the crisis.
He said, “One of the two brothers had told elders in the community that he was fronting for my father in the sales of land at Ogobia but my father had refuted those claims because he had no hand in the land dispute.”
Wife of the slain Major, Mrs. Josephine Ugboh, told our correspondent that the land dispute that claimed her husband’s life culminated in hoodlums taking control of the two communities, particularly, Ogobia.
She said, “For a long time, Ondo and Ogobia communities had been taken over by cult members, who terrorised people. It became worse on market days when the cult members in broad daylight attacked market women brandishing guns openly and extorting money from traders.
“There was a time the cult members raided a corp members’ lodge at Ogobia. The corps members came to my husband and reported the case and they threatened to leave but he was able to calm them down.
“All along there had been unrest in the communities here. As a result of the porous security in Ogobia, Major had personally visited Makurdi with a ‘save our soul’ letter, drawing the attention of the government to the security lapses in the two communities. He copied all the security chiefs in the state and personally submitted the letter to them.”
“Despite his fragile health condition, he made it a personal sacrifice to see that peace did not elude the two communities; he was always in contact with security chiefs at the local and state government levels.
“If the SOS letter he sent to the security chiefs in Makurdi few weeks ago had been responded to, Major might still be alive today. Now, we have lost everything; two houses and five vehicles.”
Mrs. Ugboh described her husband as “a loving, caring, humorous and kind-hearted person” who loved to help people within the communities. He was nicknamed 007 in the Army because he was a sharp-shooter, yet at the point of death that Thursday, he was with his gun but he refused to shoot any of his attackers.”
The younger brother of the slain retired major, Nart Ugboh, a commandant of Federal Road Safety Corp, Otukpo said that his elder brother had paid the supreme price to ensure that peace returns to Ondo-Ogobia communities.”
“He was a gallant soldier and to him, death was nothing. He was always fond of saying that as a soldier, you signed off your life the moment you are enlisted into army. After all, his mates were those majors who died in the ill-fated C130 plane that crashed in Ejigbo, Lagos in the 90s during the Ibrahim Babangida regime.
“For him to have lived his life seeking peace and died in the process is a plus for us and I hope his death would bring lasting peace to our communities.
As Ugboh family members were mourning the demise of their breadwinner, wife of the retired police officer, Mrs. Christianah Ujah who is attending to her 13-year-old son, who survived a gunshot injury, said that the incident happened around 6am when they were yet to wake up from bed.
She said, “I was in my room when I heard gunshots within our compound, I had to scamper for safety. The hoodlums would have wiped out the entire family if not for God’s intervention.
“They were shouting my husband’s name while gunshots rent the air. They entered the living room and shot my husband dead and my son who was coming out to see what was happening was shot in the leg.”
Another injured woman, Mrs. Rebecca Sunday said that she was holding her 18 months old baby when the attackers invaded the house at Ogobia, adding that her husband’s saving grace was that he had just left the house when the attackers came calling and wanted to see him.
She said, “It was few minutes to 6am when four young men forced their way into our house. But before then, my husband had left the house. When the hoodlums came and asked of my husband, I told them he was not around; but before I could finish talking, they shot me on my leg and my breast and left immediately. My baby was crying and I did not know how I got to this hospital.”
Our correspondent noticed during his visit that there was apprehension that the fragile peace in the community might shatter at any moment.
One of the youth leaders at Ogobia, who did not want his name in print for fear of attack, told Saturday PUNCH that about 25 persons had lost their lives in the past three years. He said, “As things are here, no one knows who the next target is. It’s like the two communities are sitting on a keg of gun powder which can explode anytime.
“I can assure you no one will dare speak to you on this crisis except those of us living outside these communities.”
True to his statement, efforts at speaking with people in the two communities were rebuffed as many who had earlier responded to greetings even at drinking joints at Ogobia’s popular junction and Ondo village pretended to be deaf and dumb when the issue was raised.
Findings indicate that the crisis started three years ago when two brothers of the same father – Benjamin Udenyi and Ijachi Udenyi – started a fight over land. The two siblings were said to be among the seven children born by one Oyinlobagwu who owned Ondo land which spreads to Ogobia community.
Due to its proximity to Otukpo, the ancient town and trado-political seat of Idoma land, Ogobia is said to have a great potential, which has made the cost of land very expensive.
According to the anonymous youth leader, as rural as Ogobia community is, a plot of land goes for between N1m and N2m depending on the location.
The persistent rift between the two brothers in Ondo was said to have started when Ijachi was appointed caretaker chairman of Otukpo Local Government Area. Upon assumption of office, he was said to have conveyed a meeting of elders in the two communities (Ondo and Ogobia) where he directed that the other six children should hold on to Ondo while he controlled Ogobia.
It was this declaration that sparked off the crisis between Benjamin and Ijachi, which has lingered till date and has claimed about 25 lives.
The latest crisis started penultimate Wednesday when some loyalists of Benjamin, a member of the PDP, attacked a group loyal to Ijachi, who is a member of the All Progressives Congress.
The hoodlums numbering about 40 were said to have invaded the two communities in groups between 5am and 7am of the fateful Thursday in a selective attack.
Major Ugboh could have been one of the major targets, according to eyewitness. It was said that the hoodlums, after fruitless efforts to kill him with a gun, resorted to hurling stones and sticks at him and bundled him into one of his vehicles and set him ablaze.
By the time the dust settled, five houses had been razed, two of them belonging to Major Ugboh and his five vehicles completely burnt down. At present, his family members have taken refuge in Ugboh’s younger brother’s house in Otukpo.
Adakole Pius, another victim of the attack who is receiving treatment at a hospital in Otukpo, said it was the sporadic gunshots that woke him from sleep that fateful day.
“It was the gunshots that woke me up few minutes after 6am and I heard noise of people who were running helter skelter, I immediately put on my clothes and dashed out only for me to be shot.”
When contacted, Mr Joseph Ada, personal secretary to the paramount ruler, Ochi’doma, His Royal Magesty Elias Ikoyi Obekpa, described the issue as ‘sensitive’ which only the paramount ruler could speak on but said that with the schedule of the paramount ruler, “it will be impossible for you to see him throughout this week because of his busy schedule.”
The council chairman, George Ali, told our correspondent that security men were detailed to guard the late major’s house for some days following a directive to beef up security around him, adding that Ugboh was asked to move his family away from Ogobia when he decided to stay in the community.
He said that the security men were there for a few weeks before the ugly incident that claimed his life, adding that he had to rush to the scene of the incident as soon as he was alerted.
“There was a directive that we should beef up security around him when he complained of threat to his life. This, the security operatives did, and when he decided to stay, he was asked to relocate his family which he did and policemen were detailed to mount surveillance on the area.
“That Thursday, immediately I got wind of the incident around 7am, I rushed down to the scene of the incident and helped in conveying the injured ones to the hospital in Otukpo.”
The chairman, however, faulted claims in some quarters that the clash was political, stressing that it was as a result of prolonged land dispute between two brothers who though belong to different political parties.
Reacting to allegations against the police in Otukpo for not responding to calls from the late military officer on the fateful day, the state police spokesman, ASP Moses Yamu, denied it; he explained that every police officer always picks calls.
He added that the Area Commander acted swiftly. “You know he has to mobilise all his men and what we know is that as soon as he got the distress call, he promptly swung into action by arranging his men and deploying them in the area.”
Yamu who attributed the incident to the persistent crisis between the two brothers revealed that Benjamin Udenyi was already in police custody, adding that police were on the trail of his brother, Ijachi, ‘who had relocated from his place of abode.’
He assured that police would surely apprehend him.
Investigation to the crisis, according to him, is on going.
Via Punch Metro