There is chaos in Assa community in the Ohaji-Egbema Local Government Area of Imo State where clashes over oil between rival cult groups have left nine people dead.
The fight over oil deposits which began last week Monday have seen members of the community flee the town in order not to add to the death toll.
32-year-old Vitalis Walata, a father of two and a pregnant wife was one of the victims. He was attacked in the market square where he was shot and killed.
Walata’s relative, Kinglsey Igwe said, “After he was killed on Monday, those gunmen shot two people dead on Tuesday. On Wednesday, another man in the community was killed. On Thursday, a taxi driver was waylaid and shot dead. A total of nine people were killed last week.
“As I speak to you, there is no school, market or church in the community that is functioning. Everybody has deserted the place. I have also run away.”
Emeka Ononomadu, who is a native of the town, said, “That place has been reduced to a war zone by cult members due to the deposit of oil in the community. And the problem started when the state government decided to encroach into the traditional selection process. Some groups, who did not want to be ruled by leaders imposed by the government, kicked and started fomenting trouble. This developed into a full-blown war among communities, led by cult groups.”
The Commissioner of Police in Imo State, Taiwo Lakanu, said the command was working with the military to end the crisis in the community.
Lakanu, who spoke with a Punch correspondent said, “We heard that some people were killed, but the situation is not as terrible as that. Two cults are involved in the crisis in that community and the problem has been on for about three years. After killing each other, they would retreat into the creeks.”