By Obinna Omadi
Many people have wondered why the Imo State Governor Senator Hope Uzodinma has maintained silence over the mayhem happening in Izombe, in Oguta Local Government Area of Imo State. The reason is not far-fetched. The reason is that the crisis was as a result of rivalry by cultists recruited by the Hope Uzodinma lieutenants from the same Izombe community to control tolls accruing from illegal Oil Bunkering which has assumed a high dimension since Hope Uzodinma became Governor.
Top in the list is the complicity of two men, Mr. Eugene Dibiagwu and Mr. Kyrian Uchegbu. Both men are henchmen and top loyalists of Senator Hope Uzodinma and they come from the same Ward in Izombe. Their rivalry within the Uzodinma political camp has been long, daring back to when Kyrian Uchegbu upstaged Dibiagwu to emerge Hope Uzodinma’s nominee into the NDDC. The battle further extends to the leadership tussle over who is the Apex leader of the Ohaji/Egbema Oguta area between the present Managing Director of Imo State Oil Producing Areas, Development Commission ISOPADEC, Chief Charles Orie and Rt, Hon. Goodluck Nana Oppiah. While Dibiagwu ia backed by Chief Orie, Hon Uchegbu is sponsored by Rt. Hon. Oppiah. In the ensuing rivalry, both camp scrambles to control the top cult gangs in the area and in the midst of that is the new boom. The oil bunkering business now going on unhindered under the Hope Uzodinma government.
The true story is that Hon. Eugene Dibiagwu had set up a group of cultists who control the Bunkering Business in Oguta areas, including collection of tolls and boys who control the illicit trade. The illicit Oil Bunkering trade had the Brigade Commander of 34 Field Artillery Brigade Obinze and the Commander NSCDC Imo State Command. Both has their representatives who receive tolls from the illicit oil bunkering and returns kickbacks to them.
The Dibiagwu Boys have been controlling the toll gates at various points out of the illegal Crude Oil refining camps now thriving and enhanced by the Hope Uzodinma henchmen. Because of the rivalry among the leadership of the area, Rt. Hon. Goodluck Oppiah was appointed the Coordinator to Imo State Governor on Oil & Gas. To make that office relevant, he expanded the scope of the office by empowering the rival cult groups of his own Izombe born ally, fellow Hope Uzodinma henchman and ally in rivalry to Dibiagwu, with tags and ID Cards as toll collecting agents. So they also set up their own tolls and have been collecting their own tolls and making returns to the duo along their chain of commands.
The upsurge in Oil Bunkering business in the Oguta/Ohaji Egbema has witnessed an upsurge under the Uzodinma administration because his henchmen from the area rather than cub the menace, enabled the illicit business. Residents of Oguta have been uncomfortable with the increase in Oil Bunkering under Uzodinma, its negative environmental impact and its contribution to rising cult activities and restiveness. However fear of the being attacked or killed by the powerful and well armed groups has made them keep quiet and continued to live in fear. In fact, to one who spoke to us on condition of anonymity, the tension had been building and it was only a matter of time before it exploded into a serious security crisis in the manner as was seen in Izombe. There are reports that the increasing bunkering activities has led to the pollution of the waters in Ogbuide Oguta which now mixes with oil.
TRUE STORY WHAT HAPPENED IN IZOMBE
On what happened in Izombe on the 7th and 8th day of October, 2021. Report has it that a Tanker fully loaded with adulterated petroleum product called “Bunkering” began the journey into the town as is usual with the illicit business. They were said to have settled the Dibiagwu group where he paid the regular toll. When he proceeded on his journey, he was stopped by the Kyrian Uchegbu and the IMC Chairman Emma Mazi boys who held him and insisted on collecting their own share of the toll. When they couldn’t agree, the Tanker Driver was alleged to have gone to report to the soldiers stationed in the area about how “Obere” who works for Mr Uchegbu and the IMC Chairman has been disturbing their normal illicit business arrangement. The soldiers being also complicit in the illicit trade of oil bunkering, moved to confront Obere and his boys.
The soldiers as reported, arrived the scene and surrendered the pro-Kyrian Uchegbu boys. Whey were all ordered to lie face down which they did. Report said the deceased aka “Obere” knowing he was an escapee of the Owerri Jail Break decided to take off, knowing he was a wanted fugitive. It was in his attempt to run that the soldiers opened fire on him, killing him. The killing made the youths become restive and dare the soldiers. They burnt their van and blocked all their exit routes. The soldiers only succeeded in escaping to the house of the Eze of the area.
As news of the killing by the soldiers on illegal duty spread, more youths joined them as they surrounded the Eze’s house. At the Eze’s house they got two of the soldiers while the other two ran away. They eventually killed the two soldiers in reprisal. After killing the soldiers, the Army reinforced and returned to the village burning over 30 houses according to reports. There has been no officially verified number of the houses burnt by the soldiers, while the officially verified casualty is the two unnamed soldiers and the youth they shot and killed.
The reason it has taken Governor Hope Uzodinma time to respond to the Izombe crisis is because his Lieutenants are complicit and neck deep in the Oil Bunkering business and recruitment of rival cult leaders and cartels fighting over control of the illicit business. In fact the brother to one Prince Henry Okafor, who is a former appointee to Rochas Okorocha, now an Uzodinma henchman called Mr. Chike Okafor is fingered as having a pit where illegal Crude refining business. He is reported as being the person who controls settlements to powerful people in the Uzodinma government, the head of the NSCDC, Army and other security agencies and stakeholders to allow the massive bunkering of petroleaum products going on in the Oguta/Ohaji Egbema areas. They are reported to have recruited over 1000 cultists and youths of the area to enhance this illicit trade.
This is the story about how Uzodinma’s government is enabling Bunkering Business and rival cult strife in the battle of control of the illicit trade. This is why Governor Hope Uzodinma has refused to come clean as to the real cause of the crisis, because he knows his inner henchmen are complicit in the illegal business of Bunkering.