HIS Royal Highness, Oghenekevwe Owin Kumane, Eruvwedede 111, the Ovie (paramount ruler) of Evwreni Kingdom in Ughelli North Local Government Area of Delta State, is a sad man in pain and anguish. His kingdom has been on fire for over 20 years and it has reached a melting point.
On January 20, 2000, his father, Owin Kumane, Eruvwedede 11 who was the reigning king, was brutally dethroned when armed men invaded his palace and shot him dead at about 3.pm. As if the act was not sacrilegious enough, they tied his body to a motorcycle and dragged him along the streets of the community in broad daylight.
Perhaps, he might have faced the same fate 20 years later, precisely on July 1, when some armed men allegedly attacked his palace. He was returning home from a security meeting at the office of the chairman, Ughelli North Local Government council. On arrival in his community, he met a mammoth crowd on his way home and stopped to find out what was happening. He was being briefed when sounds of sporadic gunfire was heard around his palace.
Youths of the community reportedly mobilized to the scene to confront the attackers who retreated before their arrival. After a frantic search, the youths eventually returned to the pal- ace with a suspect identified as Omamus Oghenekevwe Akporuekpo, who was allegedly caught with a gun and charms. It was a terrifying sight for the monarch when he returned to his palace with the gate and car riddled with bullets.
With death staring at him in the face, King Kumane Eruvwedede 111 invited the police at ‘A’ Division Ughelli and handed over Omamus, the suspect caught with a gun immediately after the shooting at his palace. He also lodged a formal complaint on the incident to the police and petitioned the Inspector General of Police in a letter dated July 5, 2020.
A few days after the attack, the monarch relocated from his palace to an undisclosed location for his safety, an act which formed part of the grounds for a rival group to seek his dethronement. In an undated letter to the state governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, a faction in the community which identified itself as Otioghare Family Ruling House, requested the withdrawal of his Staff of Office, the symbol of authority to the throne.
“We the undersigned kingmakers and principal members of the Otioghare Family Ruling House of Evwreni in Ughelli North Local Government Area of Delta State wish to inform Your Excellency that the Ruling House has removed the monarch of the community, Oghenekevwe Kumane, as the Ovie of Evwreni Kingdom. We have removed him; therefore, he can no longer tower over the people.
Your Excellency, over four months now, the king has fled the community as he is wanted by the Inspector General of Police for crimes committed against the community”, part of the letter reads. It was by signed by Patrick Edema, Omudia John and five others, who claimed to be representatives of the Echera, Urofo, Esemerhorho, Idjogho, Obugha, Asanuvie, Erharha, Erharho, and Okokofuvwe families of Otioghare Ruling House of Evwreni Kingdom.
King Kumane has however dismissed the petitioners as impostors, contending that the Otioghare family which wrote the petition is not a Royal House in Evwreni Kingdom, which consists of three Ruling Houses including Edade, Eruvwedede and Iyerhi. He said authentic members the three ruling houses had since distanced themselves from the petition. The monarch also denied fleeing his kingdom.
“My father was killed on January 20, 2000 at Evwreni; they shot him dead in the palace at about 3.pm. After shooting my father, they tied him to a motorcycle and dragged him around the community. Those who did it were the same Samuel Adjogbe group because it is the same quarter in the community; they are dragging the kingship. I did not flee my kingdom as was alleged; I travelled because if my father had heeded advice, he would have been alive today. I don’t want to experience what happened to my father, so I travelled for my safety; I travelled because they attempted to assassinate me. They came and shot at my palace, shot at my car. But I am back fully to my kingdom”.
Kumane, who succeeded his father and was crowned Ovie of Evwreni Kingdom on July 3, 2002, says he is passing through a familiar tuff. In April, 1997, some aggrieved persons in the community had travelled the same path taken by the Otioghare family but met a brick wall when the Emueribu royal lineage comprising the Iyerhi, Eruvwedede and Edade Ruling Houses, vehemently opposed a petition dated April 9, 1997, which sought to withdraw his kingship.
In a letter to the then military administrator of Delta State, Col. David Dungs, dated August 23, 1997, the three royal lineage in the kingdom described allegations against the late Kumane for which a request for his dethronement was made, as frivolous, baseless, false and malicious. Part of the letter reads:
“At a meeting of the Emueribu Royal Family held on the 3rd day of May, 1997, the writers of the of- fending letter/petition dated 9th April, 1997 were ordered to withdraw same within a period of three days…The report of the ad hoc Emueribu Royal Family Peace Committee was presented and deliberated upon on the 22nd day of June, 1997. It was unanimously accepted and agreed upon that a rebuttal of all the allegations contained in the said petition be made known to your Excellency, Col John David Dungs”.
Though his father was exonerated of the allegations against him, he only won the battle but did not win the war following his gruesome murder. But unlike his father, 42-year-old Oghenekevwe Kumane, the reigning king of Evwreni kingdom, says he is determined to win the battle and the war, despite a web of thorns woven around him.
He points at a former Executive Director (Projects) of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Engr. Samuel Adjogbe, an indigene of Evwreni community, as orchestrating the crisis in the kingdom. He further accused him of plotting to dethrone him to take control of the kingship, the entire Evwreni community and its vigilante group to assume traditional power and authority over the people.
Money, power tearing my Kingdom apart –Monarch
In an interview with Saturday Sun, the 42-year-old monarch gives an insight into the remote and immediate causes of the intractable crisis, which he linked mainly to the allure of money and power. His words:
“There are two causes of the problem on the ground. First is the issue of control of the vigilante security group covering Evwreni kingdom. Second is the issue of Heritage contract to four communities, Uneni, Okpakha, Urevwe and Unenurhie, which form the Evwreni kingdom. Heritage is an oil servicing company working for Shell. The contract is for pipeline surveillance. Each of the communities provides a contractor which in turn provides workers from the community. After payment of the workers’ salaries, there is a portion that goes to each of the communities to be used for development projects.
This has been the situation for over 30 years until Bright Adjogbe, a cousin to a former executive director of the NDDC, Samuel Adjogbe, became the President General of Evwreni in December, 2019. His role is to bring development to the communities through the government and companies. But he hijacked the Heritage con- tracts and diverted it to Fidcom Strength Security Limited, a company owned by his cousin, Samuel Adjogbe, and dropped all the workers from the community who had been engaged for the contracts. A sum of N1.5million is paid monthly to be shared by 13 workers through four contractors. There is also another package that accrues to the communities.
Also, when Bright took over as the President General, he said he had dissolved the vigilante, but the community told him he had no right to dissolve the vigilante except the king recommended to the local government council chair- man and to the police DPO in charge of the area before it could be dissolved. They want to hijack the money, take control of the vigilante and control the entire community”, he alleged in an interview with Saturday Sun.
In his letter to the IGP, Mohammed Adamu, dated July 5, 2020, the monarch alleged that the ex-NDDC top official was arming some youths to cause mayhem in the kingdom. He said a major cause of the crisis was the hijack to his company, Fidcom Strenght Security Limited, of a pipeline surveillance contract awarded the community by Heritage, an oil servicing company handling jobs Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC).
Part of the petition which was written and signed on his behalf by Shokare Sherrif, principal partner of a law firm, Shokare &Partners, reads: …The youths were complaining amongst others, Mr. Samuel Adjogbe’s hijack of IPPS contracts from existing contractors using his company, Fidcom Strenght Security Limited… Mr. Samuel Adjogbe who, with the aid and support of a DIG, is the architect of both the remote and immediate cause of the unrest that rocked our client’s kingdom, using the above underline named individuals to perpetuate mayhem and acrimony in Evwreni Kingdom”.
Two days after the monarch’s letter to the IGP, the ex-NDDC boss, Adjogbe also wrote a counter petition to the police chief, alleging an attempt to assassinate him along the Ughelli axis of the East-West road. In a letter written by his solicitors, S.M Anyanwu & Co dated July 7, 2020, the petitioners further alleged that “HRH Oghenekevwe Kumane openly declared to his kingdom that anybody bearing the of our client as his surname will definitely join his ancestors soonest without any reason given that led to his instructions”.
The petition was titled, “Complaint against Iyu John, Sylvester Adjogbe and Others Criminal Conspiracy, Armed Robbery and Unlawful Possession of Prohibited Firearms, Attempted Assassination, Threat to Life, Militancy and Con- duct Likely to Cause Breach of Public Peace, An Appeal for Urgent Intervention”. Ironically, Sylvester Adjogbe, the second suspect named in the petition, is a younger brother of the petitioner, Samuel Adjogbe, who allegedly died of gunshot injury on the day the palace of the Evwreni monarch came under attack.
Messy police investigations
Interestingly, rather than resolving the crisis, interventions and investigations by the police authorities at the Force Headquarters in Abuja, seemed to have further fuelled the situation. For instance, checks indicated that petitions and counter-petitions by the warring parties to the Inspector General of police, were endorsed to several units and formations including the Special Tactical Squad (STS), Inspector General of Police Monitoring Team (IGP Monitoring), Deputy Inspector General of Police, Force Intelligence Bureau (FIB) and the commissioner of police, Delta State command, for investigation, allegedly leading to a duplication and abuse of police processes.
In a letter dated 15th July, 2020 with reference number CB: 7000/IGP. SEC/ABJ/ VOL.489/418, the IGP had in response to a petition dated 5th July, 2020, written by Shokare & Partners on behalf of the Ovie of Evwreni Kingdom, directed the commissioner of police, Delta State, CP Hafiz Inuwa, to investigate the complaint and furnish him with a report. The IGP in another letter dated 7th July, 2020, with reference number CB: 7000/IGP.SEC/ABJ/ VOL.487/712, directed the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Force Intelligence Bureau, to handle a complaint by ex-NDDC executive director, Samuel Adjogbe, which was written on his behalf by his solicitors, S.M Anyanwu &Co, dated 7th July, 2020, same day it was received and acted upon by the IGP.
Saturday Sun investigations further revealed that in another letter dated 6th August, 2020 with reference number CB: 7000/IGP.SEC/ ABJ/VOL.492/677 which was addressed to the DIG FIB and the Commissioner of police, Delta State command, the IGP directed the DIG FIB to stand down investigations on a petition bothering on the crisis at Evwreni Kingdom. Part of the letter which was signed by the Principal Staff Officer (PSO) to the IGP, DCP Idowu Owohunwa, reads: “…In order to avoid duplication of investigation and abuse of police process, I am to respectfully convey the directive of the Inspector-General of Police that DIG FIB Abuja should stand down investigation while the Com- missioner of Police Delta State should conclude action in the case and furnish detailed investigation report”.
A similar directive was also given by the IGP in a letter addressed to the Commissioner of Police, Delta State command and the Assistant Commissioner of Police, IGP Monitoring unit, dated 27th August, 2020 with reference number CB: 7000/IGP.SEC/ABJ/VOL.497/228, in respect of another petition linked to the troubled kingdom.
Part of the letter which was also signed by the PSO to the IGP reads: The Inspector-General of Police notes that the Commissioner of Police, Delta State Command had earlier been directed to investigate the same matter and furnish a re- port. However, the contending party surreptitiously forwarded a counter petition which was inadvertently also endorsed to your Unit thereby engendering investigative duplication and a negation of the Inspector General of Police’s directives.
“Consequently, the Inspector-General of Po- lice directs as follows: Assistant Commissioner of Police, Monitoring Unit to immediately suspend further investigative action into the case and return the case file (if it has already been taken over) to the Commissioner of Police, Delta State command. Due to the resonating attempt to abuse the Police process in relation to the conclusive investigation of the matter, the Commissioner of Police, Delta State Command is to henceforth, disregard any other directive that could be surreptitiously obtained from this office or any other office…”
Following the IGP’s directive, Saturday Sun learnt that a four-man team of detectives was drafted by the Deputy Commissioner of Police, State Criminal Investigation Bureau (SCID), Delta State police command, Asaba, to the Force Headquarters in Abuja to take over the case file from the IGP Monitoring Unit, which at a point, had taken over investigations into the case from the Special Tactical Squad (STS), a unit under the office of the DIG FIB, currently superintend- ed by a former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), AIG Ibrahim Larmorde, in acting capacity.
Curiously, the detectives from the SCID Delta police command who were led by an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) reportedly met a brick-wall at the Force Headquarters as the authorities at the IGP Monitoring Unit allegedly frustrated their efforts to take possession of the case file, prompting the team to return to Asaba after spending almost a week in Abuja.
Adamu Elleman, an Assistant Commissioner of Police and Officer-in-Charge of the IGP Monitoring Unit admitted retaining the case file, but said it was based on a fresh directive by the IGP. “There was an approval initially by the PSO to the IGP that we should take over the matter from Delta. When I sent my men to take over the matter from Delta, the CP Delta called IGP and said there was a matter he is doing and IGP Monitor- ing Unit is coming to take over that matter. Now, IG directed that no, that I should hand off and allow the CP Delta to continue.
“I now told my boys to come back; I said leave the matter there, let them do it. The following day, IGP with his red ink, wrote to me that OC Monitoring, go and take over from any- where, consolidate, investigate and later you personally report to me. I think this was as a result of that same complainant, I think he came and met IG to say I am the complainant before at the Delta State police command, and the only reason I decided to come to here was because there are some powerful influence in the matter that has stopped Delta police command from doing what they were supposed to do. That was why I have lost confidence in them.
So, now IG called me and said go and take over the matter. That was exactly what happened. If you want to see the directive of the IG with red ink, I am ready to give it to you if you come tomorrow. This happened after PSO Idowu’s memo on leaving the case to CP Delta to handle. When the complainant met IG and told him he has lost confidence in Delta that they can- not do it for him, IGP now rescinded the earlier decision and said I should take over the matter, and everything was clear to the CP Delta, PSO and everybody that has interest in that matter”, Elleman told Saturday Sun in a telephone inter- view.
Evidently, the fouled atmosphere at the troubled kingdom seemed to have permeated the police going by claims and counter claims of various units involved in the investigation of petitions arising from the crisis. Though it could not be ascertained if the ex-NDDC executive director, Adjogbe, formally lodged a complaint of compromise against the Delta state police boss, there was indication to that effect in a request for comments by the IGP on an allegation of “compromising in the line of professional duty by the Delta State Commissioner of Police and the Divisional Police Officer Ughelli”. The IGP’s request for clarification on the allegation was contained in a letter dated 24th August, 2020, with reference number CZ: 7050/IGP.SEC/ ABJ/VOL.133/241.
However, in his response to the letter dated 28th September, 2020, with reference number CZ: 7050/DTS/VOL.9B/81, CP Hafiz Inuwa, the Delta State police commissioner launched a blistering attack on his accuser. It read in part: … “Engr. Samuel Adjogbe truncated all measures and steps taken by the Command in resolving the Evwreni crisis. One of such truncating measures was his refusal to honour the Commissioner of Police’s invitation. Another truncating measure was Engr. Adjogbe’s refusal to allow the Delta State Police Command to investigate the death of his brother (Sylvester Adjogbe) to ascertain whether he was shot by friendly fire… or by the community mob chasing the attackers of the king’s palace as he tirelessly writes frivolous petitions against the office of the Commissioner of Police whom he never knew/met in person.
“…These allegations are being orchestrated against the Commissioner of Police and the DPO because the command refused to be bought over by the billionaire Samuel Adjogbe against the king of Evwreni and the entire Evwreni community…Engr. Samuel Adjogbe’s sudden ac- cumulation of wealth makes him feel he can buy over/control any officer of the law to commit/ perpetrate mayhem in Evwreni community with reckless abandon…I therefore plead with the Police authorities to investigate the man Engr. Samuel Adjogbe and his mentioned hatchet men while disregarding the complaints of the petitioners…”
For two days, several efforts made at reaching the former NDDC executive director drew blank as repeated calls put across his mobile telephone rang without response. When he eventually responded to a call at about 5.pm on Tuesday, he expressed his unwillingness to speak on the is- sues. “I have no comment; the issue is before the police for investigations, so I don’t think I would want to comment on it more than that”.
When pressed on allegations by the king of Evwreni and the Delta State Commissioner of Police that he was using his wealth to fund the crisis in the Kingdom and had also refused to honour invitations by the state police command, he retorted: “How did you get that report? Like I told you, the matter is under investigation and I am not going to say more than that. The matter is under investigation. When prodded to speak, he insisted, “the matter is under investigation; I won’t speak on it. It is the same policemen that are investigating; when they finish investigation, then, we can take it up from there.