Days Of Death, Destruction In Ebonyi
Ebonyi State is engulfed in endless internal communal clashes, even as some of the blood-letting often times come from communities in the neighbouring Cross River State
The scores of killings that trail the several communal clashes in Ebonyi State
have become a thing of worry and concern for the state and federal governments, groups and indeed the international community, as unending communal clashes continue to shatter peace and co-existence among the people of the state as well as those of the neighbouring Cross River.
The latest of such clashes claimed three lives and over 400 houses including a public school that was razed. Killing, maiming and wanton destruction of private and public properties have become the order of the day in some communities in Ebonyi State and those sharing border with communities in the neighbouring Cross River despite efforts by security agents and the state government’s efforts to control the violence and ensure peaceful co-existence among the people.
Series of clashes have characterized the past one and half year including the most recent that involved the people of Offerekpe Enyigba in Abakaliki local government area of the state and their neighbouring Enyibichiri-Alike, Ikwo local government area also of the state that claimed three lives with two abducted persons still missing and over 400 houses burnt.
Farmland and fishing ponds have usually been the cause of the unfortunate incidents.
Disagreements over right to a farmland was indeed at the centre of the unexpected clash that happened between the people of Onweonweiya and Mkpumaekweoku communities in Izzi local government area of the state in November last year. In the unfortunate incident, four persons were killed and thrown in a swamp and over 100 houses razed in the crisis. Similarly on January 11 this year, a bloody clash between the people of Azuoffia Edda, Enyigba community in Abakaliki local government area of the state and neigbouring Ogurude, Obubra local government area of Cross River State was also triggered-off by land tussle. The incident was not without loss of lives as 10 people were brutally killed while over 200 houses burnt were burnt.
Despite the heavy presence of soldiers and policemen in the theatres of war to prevent further break down of law and order, the attacks have continued with the people of Cross River invading Ebonyi communities and unleashing mayhem on the innocent people including pregnant women and children. The Ebonyi State government has continued to make efforts at bringing succour to the displaced people, sinking over N30million on relief materials so far on those displaced by the crisis.
While people continue to count their losses, the intractable crisis has continued to rear its ugly head with the continued invasion of Ebonyi by Cross River militia.
Recounting his ordeal, a 32-year-old farmer, Mr. Nwaelem Chibueze, who hails from Oferekpe Enyigba said he lost his father Nwaelem Ijebe (65), brother, Innocent Nwaelem, sister Odinakachukwu who was abducted and still missing. Nwaelem also lost all his properties to the crisis.
According to him; “I was going to farm at about 12pm on that faithful day to harvest yam for my family to eat when a group of persons numbering about 15, led by one Friday Nwode, Sunday Nwite Nkashi and Ifeanyi Egede swooped on us but fortunately I was able to escaped. When I got to the farm, I decided to carry firewood first to the house before harvesting the yam. As I was returning, I sighted a group of youths with guns, cutlasses and other dangerous weapons. When they saw me because I was far from them, they started shooting and running to where I was. I escaped and headed to our house.
“As I was approaching our house, I saw them dragging my father. My father refused to follow them and they shot him. They also shot my brother Innocent. They carried my sister and used hands to cover her mouth, they took her to unknown destination and till today, we have not seen her. The following day, my father’s corpse was discovered with his head shattered with bullets and police said his remains were so bad that it cannot be deposited in the mortuary and asked us to bury him and he was buried.”
Another victim, Uguru Celestine of Uwalake Enyigba told our correspondent that Mr. Innocent Nwaelem who was killed was married to his sister, Njideka Uguru and that the woman gave birth last two weeks and has not been informed of the killing of her husband. “We have lost all our properties and many people have been displaced. Houses and other properties in the five villages in our communities were completely razed down during the unfortunate incident.”
In the crisis involving Azuoffia Edda, Enyigba Community in Abakaliki local government area of the state and Ogurude in Obubra local government area of Cross River State, a community leader, Chief Sunday Nwideogu said soldiers stationed to maintain peace following the boundary crisis between the community and their neighboring Ogurude during the incident arrested about 14 persons in connection with the crisis. Nwideogu disclosed that the 14 suspects including some people from Cross River State were arrested with guns, charms and other dangerous items.
The recent reported case of the killing of no fewer than nine persons including a pregnant woman of Ofioji people in Izzi local government area of Ebonyi state and their neighbours in Ijutun-Idoru of Obubura council area of Cross River State was a renewal of the hostilities over disputed boundary lands.
Our correspondent gathered that the people of Ijutun-Odoru in Cross River allegedly invaded Ofioji Izzi community at the wee hours of the faithful day, shooting sporadically and killing about nine persons and burnt about 56 houses.
The incident caused serious tension and panic in the area as people fled the area for fear of being killed by the surging Cross River State fighters. The recent attack necessitated the accusation that Cross River state government was not inclined to resolving the communal crisis amicably.
It is the belief of the Ebonyi State governor, David Umahi that if his Cross River counterpart, Ben Ayade has shown good commitment towards ending the crisis, there would have been a relative peace in the war areas and the killings stopped. Indeed Umahi revealed recently that Governor Ayade has been rebuffing all peace efforts made by him and people of Ebonyi state towards resolving the persistent crisis resulting from the boundary dispute between Cross River and Ebonyi people.
Speaking through his chief press secretary, Emmanuel Uzor, Governor Umahi said that all his efforts to speak with Governor Ayade over the recent outbreak of violence between the two communities has failed even as he noted that Ebonyi people were being killed in their numbers by Cross River state militias. Mr. Uzor disclosed that Governor Umahi has made several efforts to speak with Cross River state governor based on the recent outbreak of communal violence but all the efforts failed.
“Before this last onslaught that left nine persons dead, including a pregnant woman, His Excellency the governor of Ebonyi state had made frantic efforts to speak with his brother governor from Cross River state but all the efforts were rebuffed.
“His Excellency as a peace-loving governor had before now initiated various peace moves including a peace committee headed by the deputy governor of the state, Dr. Eric Kelechi Igwe, they have met severally with the people of Cross River state but it does appear they are not interested in peace.”
Chief Uzor appealed to Governor Ayade to explore any avenue suitable for him to reach governor Umahi to enable the two work out modalities of ending the killings before it escalates to a full blown war.
Ebonyi state’s deputy governor and acting governor, Kelechi Igwe on his part also has accused the Cross River State government of not being responsive and committed towards ending the killings of Ebonyi citizens in the continued communal clash between the people of Azuoffia Edda in Abakaliki local government area and their Cross River neighbours. The acting governor, who made the disclosure during the distribution of shelter materials to displaced person said that while the state government has called for and ensured the deployment of both soldier and police to the disputed area, its Cross River counterpart left their own area porous, allowing the people to invade and kill innocent Ebonyi people.
Dr Igwe noted that only an equal commitment from Cross River would bring the killings to a stop. He said that the distribution of the items would go a long way in reintegrating and rehabilitating of the victims and IDPs of the people of Azuoffia Edda.