Kogi assailants launched surprise attack – Aguleri
‘Anambra people are the aggressors’
By Vincent Ujumadu, Awka & Boluwaji Obahopo, Lokoja
ON August 30, 2012, President Goodluck Jonathan inaugurated the first oil refinery at Aguleri –Otu in Anambra State, thus raising the hope that the state would soon join the elite club of oil –producing states. However, barely 24 hours after the epoch –making ceremony, some communities in Kogi State started laying claim to the oil wells serving the Orient Petroleum Refinery in Anambra.
Though Jonathan declared Anambra as an oil producing state the day he inaugurated the facility, the state is yet to be formally admitted as a member of oil –producing states.
While the situation hangs, a statement credited to Governor Idris Wada indicated that Kogi State would do everything humanly possible to reclaim the oil wells. The statement was followed by attacks in the area such that hundreds of people have lost their lives and property worth millions of naira destroyed as the border communities in Anambra and Kogi states battle for the land that bears the crude oil.
The latest attack was carried out on Monday during which four persons from Aguleri were reportedly killed and seven others seriously injured. Two persons were said to have died on the Kogi side. The injured ones on the side of Anambra were sent to a private hospital in Onitsha, but after visiting them in the hospital, Governor Willie Obiano directed that they be transferred to St. Charles Borromew Specialist Hospital, also in Onitsha, for adequate treatment. He promised that government would settle their medical bills.
When Sunday Vanguard visited the hospital, some of the injured victims were receiving blood transfusion following enormous loss of blood from bullet wounds during the attack. Their relations, including women and youths, besieged the hospital sobbing and cursing those who perpetrated the act.
One of the victims who managed to speak said: “We were working in our farms and some were fishing in their ponds when suddenly we saw a large number of people with guns running in our direction. We thought they were soldiers guarding Orient Petroleum because of the sophisticated nature of their weapons, or the policemen manning the buffer zone created in the area which we had always avoided, even though the buffer zone is our land.
“The next thing we saw was that they started firing at us and we all started running. Some fell down when they were hit by bullets and others continued to run even with bullet wounds. They captured many of our people and took them away and those ones are still missing.
“This is what we have been experiencing since Orient Petroleum Refinery was commissioned and what surprises us is that our people have been farming and fishing there for many years without disturbance from our neighbours in Odeke and other communities in Ibaji local government area of Kogi State because they know that the land belongs to us.
“Since they started attacking us, we decided to be going to farm in groups and we usually flee anytime we got information that they were coming to attack us. This last attack was as if somebody informed them that we were in the farm because it started barely two hours after we arrived and were busy working.
“Apart from chasing us with guns, they have been setting our farms ablaze and destroying our crops, but we have resisted the temptation to retaliate because that is what they want. Besides, there was no way we could have retaliated since we were not armed.”
A relation of one of the victims, who simply called himself Iveka, regretted that the latest incident took place in the presence of security operatives guarding the buffer zone created by the National Boundary Commission to forestall clashes between the warring communities.
He said: “Our people suspect that one of the mobile policemen guarding the buffer zone informed Kogi people that we were at the disputed area. We are beginning to believe that some of the security, agents are spying for Kogi people, which is very dangerous.”
Before Monday’s attack the peace committee set up by the warring communities of Aguleri on the Anambra side and Odeke/ Ochene on the Kogi side had been meeting on regular basis to resolve the crisis amicably. In fact, the last meeting was held between the communities last week at Idah in Kogi State and the people of Aguleri said they were hoping that peace was at long last returning to the area. But as their delegation was returning from the meeting, the clash took place.
Following the frequent clashes in the area, the National Boundary Commission had met with the deputy governors of the two states on many occasions for the purpose of finding a lasting solution to the border problem. Similar meetings chaired by the Director General of the National Boundary Commission with the deputy governors of the two states and the surveyor general of the federation were also held. But from all indications, the road to peace is still bumpy.
For instance, as efforts were being made to resolve the boundary dispute, some representatives of the two states took the battle to the National Assembly. Recently, there was a shouting match at the National Assembly where a member of the House of Representatives from Anambra State, Mrs. Uche Ekwunife and her counterpart from Kogi State, Mr. Ismail Husain exchanged hot words over the controversial oil deposits in the area. The issue also created a hot debate at the National Conference between Dr, Dozie Ikedife from Anambra State and Dr. Ahmadu Ali from Kogi State when the issue of listing Anambra among the oil producing states came up.
Obiano, Wada, move to end clashes
As part of efforts to end the incessant border skirmishes and ensure enduring peace in the area, the Anambra State Governor Obiano has reached out to his Kogi counterpart, Wada.
The governor said: “We are working out a comprehensive strategy and modalities to entrench lasting peace and check excesses of the miscreants. The attack has nothing to do with the oil producing area as some people claim, but an aggression by some misguided persons.”
While enjoining Aguleri people to remain calm and not to take the law into their hands as the two governments are already on top of the situation, the governor said Kogi State government has apologized for the attack and promised that such a thing would not repeat.
Meanwhile, the Odeke and Ocheno communities in Ibaji local government area of Kogi State are calling on the Federal Government to save them from being killed by Anambra people due to the boundary dispute emanating from the oil wells.
The residents said the call became imperative following the Monday clash which, according to them, left two persons dead from the Odeke community and others seriously injured.
One of the residents, Benjamin Adiku, who spoke with Sunday Vanguard, said the renewed hostility happened when the Aguleri people, armed with dangerous weapons, attacked their people in their farm settlement, killing two and injuring five others. He identified those killed as Ode Inoh and Alfred Ijoba while those injured were named as Ojone Edinor, Alfred Ijoba, Lawrence Ojoma, Endurance Ajode and Ojunugwa Oboiyi.
“Our people were only doing their legitimate work when Aguleri people stormed our farms and ordered them to move out of the area, saying the land belongs to them. Before our people, who were not armed, could respond, they opened fire on them, thereby killing two and injuring five others who escaped with various degrees of injuries, “ he said.
“We are calling on the state and federal governments to prevail on the Anambra people so that peace can reign in the area. Government should stop them from attacking and killing our people. These oil wells in dispute belong to us.”Speaking on the incident, the chairman of Ibaji LGA, Mr. Dave Ogu, said there was no need to engage in blame game and sued for peace between both communities. He said making statement or attributing blames when lives had been lost was not good.