BY VINCENT UJUMADU
AWKA — NO fewer than 17 persons were seriously injured and a Mitsubishi bus burnt when youths of Onitsha and their neighbouring Obosi community in Idemili North Local Government Area clashed, yesterday.
Vanguard learnt that two communities are feuding over ownership of a large parcel of land behind the Federal Government-owned Nigerian Meteorological Institute along the Onitsha-Owerri expressway.
The disputed land, known as Ogwodogwo, is currently being farmed by Obosi people.
The clash resulted in a traffic gridlock on the expressway as the youths brandished dangerous weapons and barricaded the highway while chasing one another.
The prompt intervention of security operatives, however, saved the situation from escalating.
Both sides recorded casualties and the wounded are receiving treatment in hospitals in Onitsha and Obosi.
Vanguard recalls that Onitsha and Obosi communities have been claiming ownership of the long stretch of land along the Onitsha-Owerri road for many decades such that those who purchased land in the area for industrial and other commercial ventures were forced to pay to both communities.
An eye witness who was travelling from Onitsha to Owerri at the time of the clash said: “I was in a bus traveling to Owerri. When we got to Metallurgical Institute gate, some youths who were armed with cutlasses and other dangerous weapons, came out of the bush with palm fronds tied around their heads.
Shortly after their appearance, another bus fully loaded with youths and also armed, ran into them and suddenly fighting ensued. The bus belonging to one of the parties was set ablaze by the other group and we began to run for our dear lives.
“Up till the time a team of policemen arrived, some of us were yet to recover from the shock and we didn’t know who the boys were and what they were fighting for. It was after the police dispersed them with teargas that we continued our journey.”
The Onitsha Area Commander, Mr. Benjamin Wordu who led team of policemen to the scene said the two communities have been having cold war over the ownership of land, adding that the police was able to pull all the youths out of the land to ensure that peace reigned in the area.
He said that there was no record of death, even as he confirmed that a bus belonging to Onitsha youths was burnt by angry Obosi youths.
He said that leaders of the two communities have been directed to call their youths to order to maintain peace and stop further breakdown of law and order.
While the palace secretary to Obi of Onitsha, Chief P. Agusiobo said he was not aware of the incident at press time, the special assistant to the traditional ruler of Obosi, Mr. Okwudili Oguegbo said the land in question belongs to Obosi, adding that they were surprised that Onitsha people came to the area to fight his people.