Horror in Ebonyi over land dispute: 8 persons abducted, 45 houses torched
By PETER OKUTU, Abakaliki
THE recent outbreak of crisis between the people of Adadama Community in Abi Local government area of Cross River State and Ndiagu Amagu Community in Ikwo LGA of Ebonyi State over unclear issues relating to land acquisition and usage, weekend, took another dimension as eight persons were reportedly abducted while 45 houses belonging to Amegu community were allegedly destroyed by hoodlums from Adadama community.
Vanguard Metro learnt that the two communities in Ebonyi and Cross River states have been embroiled in a land dispute for more than 100 years. Since the recent hostilities in the area broke out, lives have been lost while several properties worth billions of Naira.
Addressing newsmen at the government house, Abakaliki, the Deputy Governor of Ebonyi State and Chairman, Interstate Boundary Committee, Mr. Dave Umahi, an Engineer, alleged that eight persons from Ndiagu Amegu Ikwo in Ikwo LGA of Ebonyi State have been abducted between January, 2013 and now.
“I have continued to make reports to the Deputy Governor of Cross River State. The corpse of one of the abducted persons Mr. Omoti Ogbonnaya was found recently. His body is still in the mortuary, while no trace of the remaining seven persons have been made even as I speak to you.
At the moment, a total of 45 houses belonging to Amegu people were razed down by the people of Adadama,” he claimed. The Deputy governor urged the people of Amegu Ikwo to remain calm and law abiding as the state government had taken necessary steps to ensure peaceful resolution of the crisis.
“The security agencies have been mandated to deal severely with anybody who attempts to breach the peace in any part of the state. We assure Amegu people that the state government will not abandon them as long as they do not take laws into their own hands. The State Emergency Management Agency is further directed to step up its relief efforts to the displaced persons in the affected communities of Ebonyi state,” he said.
When Vanguard Metro visited the troubled area, it was gathered that women, children, youths and elderly persons from both communities had deserted their homes. Youths from the area were seen keeping watch to avoid further attacks. Similarly, security operatives sent to protect lives and properties in the area were seen several kilometres away from the buffer zone, instead of pitching their tenths in the heart of the area to forestall further crisis.
Recounting their ordeals, Mrs. Caroline Uguru, 67 and Mr. Ukwa Nwankwo, the Chairman Ndiche Umuomara community described the incident as unfortunate.
“It is unfortunate that this is happening; we have been living with the Adadama people for more than 100 years now. Though there have been skirmishes between the two communities, it has never taken this dimension. Our children are being abducted every year and killed and houses burnt.
Our youths could no longer fold their hands and watch while their parents, relations and siblings are abducted and never seen again. We no longer sleep with our two eyes closed. The same thing applies to the people of Adadama because the communities are suspicious of each other.
The question on the lips of many people today is “will this war ever end? We can no longer fish in our ponds. Our women can no longer go to the farm without being abducted and our youths who are supposed to be useful now keep vigil at the border area for fear of being attacked by Adadama people.”
Continuing, the duo said: “They claimed we killed their people; let them show pictures of those that were killed. They claimed we attacked them; it is unfortunate that the people who have chased us out of our land and occupied it would turn around to accuse us. Why are they crying more than the bereaved? All we are asking is that they should stop abducting and killing our people, we are peace loving people and we want peace”.
Ebonyi accuses C-River
Meanwhile, the Ebonyi State Deputy Governor has accused Cross River State of showing lackadaisical attitude toward the resolution of the crisis. . He called on the National Boundary Commission, NBC, to urgently initiate a meeting of the two states, so that the issue could be holistically discussed and solution quickly reached to avoid escalation of the dispute. According to Umahi: “It is necessary to point out that Ebonyi state and Cross River State are not at war.
Rather, there has been a long standing land dispute between Amegu Ikwo in Ebonyi state and Adadama in cross river which dates back to 1927. While the Amegu people insist that Adadama people are the aggressors as they have consistently encroached on Amegu land well outside the boundary mutually fixed by the two sides as late as 1912 which is the “Ugoli. We are however told that Adadama people are claiming a different boundary location far from the Ugoli, which was established by the two communities.
“However, I wish to categorically state that Ebonyi state government has continued to make concerted efforts toward a peaceful resolution of the land dispute in spite of the provocations, attacks, harassment,
abductions and killing of Ebonyi people by hoodlums from Adadama. It is regrettable however that in spite the numerous letters I have written to the Deputy Governor of Cross River for the two states to meet and discuss the issues affecting their border communities, there has been no response from them.
Apart from the letter of 11th December, 2011 to the National Boundary Commission to constitute a joint team of officials of both states and NBC to do ethnographic study of both states to avoid mistrust and hostilities, we have done several reports on the problem without results.
“It would seem that the NBC has abandoned its earlier attempt to do ethnographic study of the area following threats from Cross River state indigenes to the Commission not to step feet into the disputed area. We hereby call on the National Boundary Commission to expedite action to permanently resolve the boundary dispute. Given the current situation, we urge the National Boundary Commission to urgently call a meeting of the two states so that the issues can be discussed.
It’s unfortunate —C-River
Reacting, the Cross River State government said it was unfortunate that Ebonyi State was joining issues instead of proffering solution to the crisis affected both communities.“It is unfortunate that Ebonyi state government should be joining issues on this matter. As it stands, who are the people that have been displaced as a result of the crisis? The Hon. Member representing that area in Cross River state was on a peace mission when they were ambushed.