South-South — The event of November 13 in Idjerhe (Jesse) in Ethiope-West Local Government Area of Delta State proved tragic.
It was an innocuous case of a suspected ritualist arrested by some villagers. The suspect was dragged to the palace of the town's monarch, His Royal Majesty, HRM, Erhikevwe 1, by his accusers, who wanted jungle justice.
The monarch, an enlightened man, knowing what the law stipulates, pleaded with his people to allow him call security agents to interrogate the suspect, establish his culpability and scope of operation, before taking the next line of action, but they refused to hear him.
Apparently dipping into his bag of wisdom, he devised a plan to keep the mob waiting and, furtively, invited soldiers to the palace to whisk away the suspect for interrogation, as it was obvious that the mob was not prepared to accept his counsel.
6 dead, 25 injured
In the eyes of the law, he did the right thing, but, in the eyes of the people, his cup was full.
Soldiers came quite all right, but, before they could leave the palace with the suspected ritualist, no fewer than six persons lay dead and 25 persons critically injured.
What happened? It was gathered that the mob not only stoned the soldiers, but also attacked and prevented them from taking away the suspect.
Incensed by the conduct of the villagers, who practically attempted to wrestle the ritualist from their possession, the soldiers opened fire. Hell was let loose. The mob, provoked by the bloodshed, descended on the palace of the monarch on the grounds that he was the person, who brought ant-infested maggot to the house. The palace was set ablaze and looted.
Delta State Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Charles Muka, who confirmed that 28 persons arrested in connection with arson and murder in the community were moved to the State Criminal Investigation Department, SCID, Asaba, Wednesday, disclosed that vehicles parked in the palace were also burnt.
At about 9.00 am when Sunday Vanguard visited Jesse, November 13, the palace was was still smoldering. A motorcyclist, who carried the reporter from the junction at Warri-Sapele-Benin expressway, told him, " Jesse is on fire.Soldiers are everywhere; there is tension; nobody knows what is going to happen next.This is disastrous".
The palace itself was a no-go area, as soldiers cordoned the bastion and refused access to everybody, including journalists.
Ritualists on the loose!
For some weeks running, a source said, "Ritualists have been on the rampage in Idjerhe, killing about nine persons, a development that made the monarch to set up a committee to probe the ugly development".
It was gathered that the villagers mounted a search party and the efforts reportedly paid off when one of the suspected ritualists was nabbed in the bush and brought to the palace.
The monarch, however, resisted the pleadings of his people to lynch the suspect and correctly invited security agents to handle the matter. That was what led to the mayhem.
A source told Sunday Vanguard, "Is it not an irony that the decision of the monarch to set up to checkmate ritual killings in his domain is what led to the death of his subjects and burning of his palace".
Lawmaker condemns attack
Member representing Ethiope-West in the House of Assembly, Hon. John Nani, condemned the the attack on the monarch's palace, saying he brought the matter before the House under matters of urgent public importance, same day.
He called on the people of Jesse to stay off the streets to avoid being arrested by security agents, adding that soldiers whisked away the monarch to Koko to avoid being attacked.
Twenty-four hours after the incident, the monarch, who was rescued by soldiers with members of his family from the palace, was said to be taking refuge in Asaba, the state capital.
PPRO, Muka, however, told Sunday Vanguard,on Wednesday, that the community was calm, as people were going about their normal businesses.
He said, "The command warns youths not to resort to self help, as persons caught in such act will be made to face the full wrath of the law. People are urged to go about their business without fear."