AS TWO BROTHERS GO TO WAR IN BENUE…
BY PETER DURU, MAKURDI
For about 48 hours, a tussle between two siblings took its toll on the bustling communities of Ogobia and Ondo on the outskirts of Otukpo, leaving in its wake the death of a retired major and a former state Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Lawrence Ugbo; the Chief Security Officer to Otukpo local government area Chairman, Mr. Christopher Uja, and two others.
The quartet were killed by armed youths, last week, in a crisis linked to alleged tussle between two brothers belonging to different political camps.
The alleged face-off between the two brothers, said to have in the past defied attempts to resolve, reportedly suddenly escalated, leading to the razing of several houses, cars and valuables apart from the gunshot injuries many others sustained in the mindless attack on innocent persons.
Though several accounts pointed to the alleged deep rooted political rivalry between the two brothers for the crisis, Sunday Vanguard gathered that the latest mayhem erupted from alleged disagreement over the sale of land in Ogobia and Ondo where the two major actors had property.
According to a native who craved anonymity, the elder of the two brothers had allegedly laid claim to hundreds of plots of land he inherited from their parents in the Ogobia area of the community, where a plot of land sells for about three million Naira, while his junior, who was allegedly given part of Ondo land, which is less expensive, as inheritance, allegedly resisted the move.
“The development had created bad blood in the family and they had since been at each other’s throat while the development led to several bloody fights with each of them raising followership of young men who intermittently engaged in bloody clashes”, the source claimed.
“Last week, we gathered that the elder brother and his group stormed the community while his younger brother was in a meeting with his own group and started shooting sporadically which led to injury and death of two persons.
“The younger brother and his men scampered to safety only for them to stage a reprisal moments later, which led to the death of another two persons and several others badly injured.
“The angry parties also matched to the houses of persons they believed were their enemies and razed them.
“The fact is that the clashes and killing were just reprisals and restricted to blood relations who ordinarily shouldn’t be at war no matter the situation. That is what they have turned our communities into.
“The most annoying part of it is that Major Ugbo was killed and the youths bundled his remains into his car and burnt them which goes to show the depth of hatred they have for each other.
“They did not stop there. Mr. Christopher Uja was killed and his seven-year-old son shot and taken for dead but luckily he survived and is currently recuperating in hospital.”
Governor Samuel Ortom, his deputy and top government functionaries as well as security operatives visited the community for an on-the-spot assessment of the crisis.
The governor and members of his team, who ran into the burial of Ugbo, the retired military officer, fought back tears as they tried to console elderly women who wept profusely while Ugbo was being interred.
Speaking shortly after going round the community, Ortom urged security agents to ensure the arrest of the masterminds of the crisis.
He recalled that he served under Ugbo as state Secretary of the PDP at a point in his political life, adding that the deceased was a peaceful man who gave his best to ensure the unity of the country.
Ortom said, “When democracy came, Ugbo was the state Chairman of the PDP and I was Secretary. We had always been in touch as old friends.
“If he went into the military and came back alive, he shouldn’t have died in this manner. I knew he was very sick at a point but he came out of it only to be treated in the manner these people did.
“We are leaving everything to God as Christians but, as a government, we have the responsibility to protect lives and property; so we will not allow this to be swept under the carpet.
“If they had been going free in the past, I am assuring you that under my watch, they are going to be apprehended to serve as deterrent to others.
“However, I am praying that this is the last time such is happening in this community and whatever foundation that was laid for this crisis, let this be the end. I pray that Ugbo’s death should bring peace to this community.”
The governor, who directed intensive security patrol of the communities, pleaded with those who fled their homes to return without fear of being molested.
Confirming the development, Benue State Police Command Public Relations Officer, Assistant Superintendent, ASP, Moses Yamu, said four persons were killed in the crisis while four others who sustained bullet wounds had been taken for medical attention.
“The crisis was attributed to two brothers. As I speak with you, we have arrested one of the brothers while the search for the other is on-going. We have beefed up security in the community and calm has also returned to the area”, Yamu said.
On his part, the Chairman of Otukpo local government area, Mr. George Alli, who described the crisis as unfortunate, said the elder statesman was killed while he was speaking with him on phone.
Alli corroborated the claim that the crisis was sparked by a dispute over land and payment of royalties for same between the warring parties.
“The crisis had no political undertone as being speculated in several quarters. It was as a result of disagreement over sale of land and payment of royalties.”
The governor’s team also visited Saint Daniel Hospital Otukpo, where the injured victims were recuperating.
At the hospital, 13-year-old Joseph Inalegwu, who was shot on his thigh by the armed youths, pleaded with Ortom to save the community from incessant clashes, lamenting that his injury could hinder him from going back to school.
Also admitted in the hospital was the seven-year-old son of Christopher Ujah, who was recuperating from the gunshot injury he sustained in the bloody fight.
His widowed mother, Mrs. Christiana Uja, nursing a nine-month-old baby, could not respond to questions put to her. She wept uncontrollably.
A neighbour, who accompanied her to the hospital but craved anonymity, explained that her husband, a retired policeman, was killed while their son was shot and taken for dead by the attackers.
Pius Adakole, who was also admitted in the hospital but recuperating from the gunshot he sustained, said he didn’t know how he was able to run from the armed youths.
“They came in their numbers to my house, armed with rifles and started shooting. I tried to escape with my family but luckily I was the only one they shot. I thank God that I was not killed”, he said.
After the visit, Ortom, who wished the victims well, promised that the state government would ensure security of lives and property in the community, assuring that government would offset the hospital bills of the victims.