- •As 40 suspected thugs destroy over 2,000 palm trees, raffia palm on disputed terrain
- •Livelihood of over 200 families under threat
- •Clan head calls on Gov Ayade, Police, others to intervene
By IKE UCHECHUKWU
ETAP AYIP—THE land dispute between the people of Etap Ayip, Kasuk Qua Clan II and Ikot Ansa, both in Calabar Municipal Local Government Area, Cross River State, has exacerbated with the latest incursion and destruction of over 2,000 palm trees, raffia palms and other economic trees on the contentious swampy acreage by attackers numbering over 40, supposedly from the latter community.
Clan head of Kasuk II, Ntoe Edem Ayito, who spoke to NDV, said: “The people of Ikot Ansa are our neighbours, but they have made life difficult by disobeying a court order restraining them from entering the swamp. For flouting an order restraining them from entering the swamp which was giving in a suit No: HC/242/2017, our people sued them for contempt which they have also disobeyed.
“They have gone back to the place without minding that there was a matter instituted against them for contempt, now they have destroyed another 2000 economic trees, I am a law-abiding citizen, my subjects are responsible people, but I do not know how long I and my council of chiefs can stop our people from reacting.
“A number of arrests were made and the people who were arrested named their sponsor, who is also facing a contempt charge as we speak. We hope that their action will not cause a breach of peace in Calabar Municipal Local Government because what they are doing to us through that swamp is a threat to our very existence,” he asserted.
That swamp is our oil well
The clan head disclosed: “More than 200 families, among them palm wine tappers and palm oil millers, depend on that swamp; a lot of people pay their children’s school fees from the proceeds from that swamp. That swamp is our own oil well, a lot of economic activities have been halted because of the constant destruction of the source of livelihood in my domain and we just do not know how long we can bear such.”
Ayade, security agencies should intercede
“A lot of my people are afraid, the damages from the first destruction was valued at N140 million but they still went back to the said swamp land to cause more destruction. We want to believe that the authorities are watching, they are aware because we reported the matter appropriately and two people were also arrested before the matter was later transferred to Police headquarters.
“We are calling on Governor Ben Ayade, Commissioner of Police and heads of other security agencies to look into this matter before it degenerates into a communal clash that could lead to breach of peace, loss of lives and property if not properly managed,” he said.
Crisis might explode- Umoh
Counsel to Kasuk II Qua Clan, Orchardson Umoh Esq. said: “They went in there (swamp land) with nothing less than 40 thugs recently, cutting down about 2,000 palm trees, including raffia. What do you expect my clients to do, wait till they die of starvation?
The people of Ikot Ansa without waiting for judgment have shown no regard for the law and the court with their actions, which is a complete disregard for the law; they are directly compelling my clients (Kasuk II Qua Clan) to take up arms to defend their property,” he noted.
“For now, we have shown that we are law-abiding, but their action is literally forcing us to take up arms and we can have an explosion of communal war. For now also, we have relied on the police and court. We have refused to use violence to protect the property. They are human, you may be able to restrain some members of the community but you cannot restrain all. Some individuals might decide to take arms to defend their property, even without the knowledge of their leaders,” he said.
Umoh told NDV: “We want the police and the courts to take note because by the time they decide to take up arms, you can imagine the lives and property that will be lost and affected, and we pray that government will intervene to avert this problem from degenerating into a communal war.
“Supposing the court decides the place belongs to the people of Kasuk II Qua clan with this kind of destruction, how will they now enjoy the judgment which they might eventually get? This is why all parties need to apply caution and wisdom to avert an impending danger,” he added.
Ikot Ansa refutes attack
An Ikot Ansa leader contacted by NDV said the community had no knowledge of the alleged destruction by the people of Etan Ayip.
Police will arraign culprits in court— Inuwa
Cross River State Commissioner of Police, Hafiz Inuwa, who also spoke with our reporter, asserted: “If it has been verified that there is a case of contempt already in court, all those arrested in that land should be charged to court as soon as possible as the police will not tolerate any form of breach of the peace that can lead to loss of lives and property.”