Five persons have been reportedly injured following pandemonium in Awka, the capital of Anambra State, as policemen and soldiers sealed off the palace of a self-acclaimed traditional ruler of Awka town, Ozo Austin Ndigwe.
It was learnt that Ndigwe had planned to celebrate this year’s New Yam Festival.
But as early as 6.30 am on Saturday, roads leading to Umukwa in Awka town was blocked by security operatives stopping vehicular movement in the area.
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An eyewitness told our reporter that some guests were teargased when they refused to leave the venue of the New Yam Festival which caused stampede at the entrance of the palace.
An elderly man in the village who did not want his name in print said, “They woke me up this morning and people told me that police wanted to seal off the palace. I told them that traditional rulers from the South East and beyond are already inside the palace and the one that is more disturbing is that the security operatives were firing bullets at the people mostly youths who came to find out what is happening.
“I am not sure if anybody died but there were those who got injured and I think about five persons were injured during the stampede.”
He further explained that he contacted the police but was told that the order came from the government house in Awka.
One of the policemen on duty told our reporter that he was only carrying out an order from his superiors adding that he was not in a position to provide details.
It was alleged that the order to stop the festival was from Governor Charles Soludo but government officials said they were not aware of any order from the governor.
Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters, Mr Tony Collins Nwabunwanne, said that he was not aware of any directive to that effect, stating that the security operatives were carrying out their duties of maintaining law and order.
The Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Tochukwu Ikenga, said he was not aware of the presence of security operatives at the palace of Ndigwe but promised to make a statement as soon as possible.
This recent development seems to be connected to the lingering crisis over who is the substantive Eze Uzu of Awka Kingdom which has pitched cabinet chiefs against each other following the emergence of Ndigwe who claims to be Eze Uzu the 3rd.
However Igwe Gibson Nwosu, the Eze Uzu the 2nd, is still on the throne and recognized by the Anambra State government since the military era till date.
When contacted, Nwosu said he was not aware of the presence of security operatives at Uzu’s palace, adding that there is nothing like Eze Uzu the 3rd.
Nwosu had since last year petitioned the state police command over the claim by Ndigwe but the then Police Commissioner explained that traditional chieftaincy tussle was not part of his duties.
When contacted, Ndigwe the factional traditional ruler said he was in a meeting and could not talk at the moment.