By Emma Ula
In 2015 and 2016, it was kidnap and robbery of the Igbo resident in Cross River State. Within that period, over fifty Igbo businessmen and professionals were kidnapped or robbed with some of them losing their lives.
It took a visit to the Obong of Calabar Edidem Ekpo Otu by the Igbo to lament their fate and his condemnation of the the dastardly acts on the Igbo to create some respite. The Obong had said that the Igbo were partners in developing the state. But shortly after another form of atrocity on them emerged. They became cannon fodders during the rampant communal conflicts in the state. It was common for two brother communities engaged in communal conflict to vend their anger on the Igbo by looting and setting their shops and businesses ablaze to cover up for the stealing.
This new form of attack which has left some of them dead and several businesses ruined. The Igbo resident in state under the leadership of Chief Emmanuel Ezenwenyi , Nna Ndi Igbo in Cross River and Dr Lawrence Chukwuemeka, President of Igbo in the state visited Uyangha, in Akamkpa Local Government Area where Igbo were attacked on the 21st of June during a communal conflict in the area had to express their displeasure.
The Igbo leaders demanded for succor for those whose businesses have been ruined and family heads brutally killed in the conflicts which they had no hand in.
Dr Lawrence Chkuwemeka while speaking at the Palace of the Clan Head of Uyanga, Ophot Felix Akposi expressed displeasure that the Igbo in the state have become scapegoats by being brutally attacked and their shops always the target of looting and arson during communal conflicts by feuding communities even when such conflicts have no relationship with them
“The Igbo are usually made the scapegoats when communities in the state are involved in any altercation even when such conflict is not related to us. Recently we read in the papers that two communities in Akamkpa,. Uyanga and Ojor were involved in communal conflict and when hostilities ended we began to hear stories that Igbo were the ones attacked and over thirty shops were looted and destroyed while some of them lost their lives and others had all they have worked for in their lives destroyed”
Dr Chukwuemeka stated that similar attacks happened during the conflict between the people of Apiapum and Ovonum, the Ukeles in Yala Local Government Area and during a similar incident in Ugep , Yakkur Local Government Area where businesses owned by Igbo were attacked and destroyed even when they had nothing to do with such conflict.
“We are seeking our daily bread in places we sojourn. We are not war mongers. So, why should we be the subject of attack in conflicts we know nothing about?. Our businesses are always looted and set ablaze, please, let this stop.
“In the North we have been given a quit notice, in Yoruba we are not liked and still here our brothers in the south south with whom we share common custom and tradition also hate us, what have we done to deserve this treatment?” he queried.
Chief Ezenwenyi, who spoke in similar vein narrated how some Igbo indigenes were killed during the crisis in Uyangha and their bodies not found, stating that the Igbo hardly leave their deceased in foreign lands and called for the return of the bodies so they could be taken home for proper burial
He called on Ophot Akposi to use his good office and take the case of those whose businesses and homes were destroyed to the Federal and State Governments to offer them assistance by rehabilitating hem because many of them have become destitutes, without any source of livelihood after their shops were set on fire.
“Many of those affected have become beggars and are begging from door to door for what to eat and have worn the same dress for the past one month and sleep outside since their homes were also set on fire.”
Ophot Akposi who said the destruction was not done by his people stated that part of his building was destroyed by those who invaded the community.
‘We were taken unawares. That is why you see the kind of destruction inflicted on Uyangha and the attack on Igbo is quite unfortunate. But it was not done by my people but those who attacked us too”. He promised to make a case for those who suffered losses to the Cross River State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA, and the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA to extend some assistance to those whose businesses and homes were razed down