April 13, 2021

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AfricaTopForum – News Around Africa

How businessman evacuated 200 trapped children from Ebonyi ‘war’ zone

4 min read

By Emma Anya

From 180.1 kilometres away, Nwoye Samuel Ogechi heard the cries and lamentations of children, their parents and other hapless aged men and women in crisis-torn Effium, an agrarian community in Ohaukwu Local Government Area of Ebonyi State.

Ogechi would not let them die in the ‘war’ allegedly stoked by motor park touts acting for politicians. Since he was not on the ground, the 38-year-old Onitsha-based businessman mobilised a team led by his Personal Assistant, Onyekachi Akin-Goodluck, to arrange logistics, including vehicles to move in and evacuate close to 200 trapped persons.

And of course, no one goes into such a danger zone without security protection and guides. Ogechi provided the funds to pull the evacuation of the trapped persons through.

Some were taken to the homes of their relatives in Abakaliki, the state capital and nearby communities while others, with nowhere to go were dropped off at Internally Displaced Camps in Abakaliki.

Ogechi did not stop with just taking to safe grounds, he also made sure they were fed not only during the five days the evacuation lasted but thereafter.

He didn’t do so because he was from the community, his love for humanity and urge to fill the gap left by the authorities propelled him.  His own community, Ikwuator Idembia in Ezza LGA, is dozens of kilomtres away from Effium.

”I reside in Onitsha in Anambra State but what prompted me  to help the displaced members of   Effium and Ezza Effium get evacuated from the crisis areas is the fact that I see human beings as one irrespective of where they  come from.

”Life is sacred, and as such, should be respected. Even the Holy Bible records that thou shall not kill but today, we see people killing and maiming each other for nothing.  Those children, the old men and women, young boys and girls were in danger. Imagine spending nights in the bush because of the crisis not caused by them?

“I just decided that something must be done after reading their ordeal  via Facebook posts. Initially, I thought of where to take them to but some of them said  they had places they could be taken to. So, my team acted based  on the location where they wanted to be dropped.

”Some were dropped at their relatives homes  in Abakaliki town, some were taken to other communities where they have relations for safety. Some who had nowhere  to go were taken to IDP camps also for safety. These people were close to 200 and we evacuated them in batches for five days,” the young business man added.

The businessman and philanthropist  said  paying the drivers, the security personnel and the guides through his pet organisation, Ogbogu Foundation, was not a challenge. What worried him the most were the safety of all involved in the evacuation process, the trapped persons,  the deplorable state of roads leading into and out of Effium. Effium shares border with Nwokwo Odoke, another agrarian community in Benue State.

It takes just an hour from Ngbo junction to  get to  Ezza-Effium. But those on the evacuation mission feared using the route  because of the hostility from the axis. They therefore had no option than to ply the road linking Effium and Izzi, a route that takes   close to 24 hours to reach    Abakaliki.

”Funding the evacuation really was not a big issue. The most challenging  thing was  journeying into the crisis areas. You know anything could happen during a crisis of that magnitude. If you listened to Governor (Dave) Umahi  on February 22, he  said 25 persons lost their lives  to the  crisis between the people of Effium and Ezza Effium. Governor Umahi also said that 125 houses, fuel and gas stations were  burnt while 26 arms were recovered. That shows the magnitude of the ‘war.’ Anything could have happened.

“Another challenge we had was  locating  a safe  road  to ply to get the trapped people. There was also poor telecom network coverage in the areas. That alone seriously affected my team in establishing contact with the  victims of the crises. We went through these challenges but  God saw us through.

”You  also  know it’s not possible for one  to bring  out people to safe ground  and fail to    feed them. I made provision for their feeding too.”

Ogechi is not interested in seeking recognition by either the state government or Ohaukwu LGA authorities. He is more than happy that he actualised a divine mission to rescue victims of the ‘war’

“I come of the Lord! I am not doing it so as to be acknowledged by anybody or any authority. It’s a way of laying my support to the downtrodden.”

The philanthropist however has advice for the state government as well as Ezza-Effium  and Effium youths.

”The area in dispute should be taken over by the government until normalcy returns. The stakeholders of the two conflicting clans should be summoned by the government with a view to resolving the issues in dispute. I am happy that the state government  has  set up a panel of enquiry to investigate the immediate and the remote causes of the crisis and possibly come up with resolutions,” he said.

To the youths, he said:  “You are the leaders of tomorrow. Youth leaders have much to offer in advancing a culture of peace. Given tools and the opportunities, they can change the world while still young. It is time for the full development of the capacities and quality of life of all citizens on planet Earth.