By Festus Ahon, Brisbe Perez & Ochuko Akuopha
UGHELLI—THE feud between youths of Ekiugbo and Otor-Ihwreko communities, both in Ughelli North Local Government Area, Delta State over the ownership of the Ughelli Main Market degenerated, Wednesday as over 21 persons sustained gunshot injuries in renewed hostilities between the warring parties.
Commercial activities within and around the market were put on hold as youths from both communities, who had been at war over the control of the market clashed in a show of supremacy.
It was gathered that commotion started when the Ekuigbo youths confronted the Otor-Iwhreko youths, who had allegedly set out for the collection of the daily levy from the traders at the market.
Tension heightened when the opposing youths reportedly shot sporadically while the panic stricken traders and passersby ran for safety. It however, took the intervention of men of the 222 Battalion of the Nigeria Army and men of the police in the Ughelli A Division to restore normalcy to the area.
At press time, some of those who sustained wounds in the clash had been admitted at some private hospitals in the Ughelli metropolis for medical attention.
Reacting to the crisis, Youth Chairman of Ekiugbo community, Mr. Charles Ugovwarhe, said that the state Ministry of Justice had told both parties to stay away from the collection of levies from the traders pending the resolution of the matter, adding “On Tuesday in line with that directive, we announced to the traders that they should not pay the levy to anybody for the time being.
“We were therefore, surprised this morning (yesterday) to discover that Otor-Iwhreko boys were still collecting levies from the women and when we sought to know why they were doing that, they opened fire on us and some of our boys were injured.”
On his part, the Chairman of the youth body of Otor-Iwhreko community, Mr. Felix Okoro, said that the Ekiugbo community had brought the matter before the state Ministry of Justice, under the Department of People’s Rights, where he said they (Otor-Iwhreko community) tendered documentary evidence of their ownership of the area in dispute.
He said that parties were told to live in peace and that status quo should remain, adding that the Otor-Iwhreko community did not receive any letter that they should stay away from the market.
He, meanwhile, alleged that “At 5.30 a.m., over 50 boys from Ekuigbo came to attack Otor-Iwhreko youths who are workers of the National Union of Road Transport Workers and asked them to leave. Our boys immediately left and reported the matter to the community leadership. At 8 a.m., our boys returned to their place of work and when the Ekiugbo boys noticed that they were back, they mobilized and opened fire on them. As we speak, our boys are receiving treatment in the various hospitals.”
Contacted, the Divisional Police officer of the Ughelli A Division, said the situation had been brought under control, adding that his men were still in the market to ensure that there was total peace in the area.