By Emma Una
CALABAR—SIXTEEN Community leaders in Obubra Local Government Area of Cross River State are being interrogated by the state Police Commissioner, Mr Henry Fadairo, over their role in the communal conflict that rocked the area, weekend.
The leaders who comprise chiefs, village heads and opinion leaders, were invited by Fadairo to the police command headquarters in Calabar, to explain the circumstances that led to the conflict which resulted in the pulling down of houses and destruction of property in the face-off between youths of Owakande and Obubra Urban on Saturday, following disagreement between the two communities over a parcel of land.
According to Chief Ekong James, a community leader in the area privy to the police invitation, there had been a lingering disagreement between Owakande and Obubra Urban communities over which community was the first to settle in the area and who has the right to sell or give out land in the area.
He said: “The two communities live in close proximity to each other and the Obubra Urban community is laying claim to the land as the first settlers in the area but this is disputed by the Owakande people and recently an Owakande man sold a plot of land which belongs to him to another person but the Obubra Urban people insisted that the land belongs to them and that triggered the conflict.”
Ekong said that the man who sold the land, Mr Philips Okpechi, claimed he bought the land from government to build a house but changed his mind and decided to sell it, but when the new owner went to begin construction on the site, Obubra youths stopped the work and chased the workers away.
“There have been committees set up by the Cross River State Government to see to the amicable settlement of the dispute and the last one was that of 1992 and the two sides were stopped from building on the disputed land but the agreement has largely not been kept by both sides,” he said.
He said that though no life was lost, property worth millions of naira was destroyed which prompted the member representing the area in Cross River State House of Assembly, Mr Friday Okpechi, to report the matter to the police which led to the deployment of mobile policemen to the area and the subsequent invitation of the leaders for interrogation.