By Peter Okutu
ABAKALIKI-THE lingering crisis between the people of Enyigba in Abakaliki Local Government Area and Ndiegu Enyibichiri in Ikwo Local Government Area of the state had raised lots of concerns in different quarters as the crux of the matter which hitherto bordered on land dispute, recently degenerated into communal clashes.
This development led to loss of innocent lives and destruction of property as some members of both communities have been rendered homeless, childless and hopeless despite government’s repeated appeals for both sides to sheath their sword.
Governor David Umahi in a bid to find lasting solution to the crisis, last week undertook an on-the-spot assessment of the development with stakeholders and security agents in the state to ascertain the level of destruction as a result of the clashes.
Umahi expressed worry that the clashes had continued in the area despite government’s intervention even as he blamed stakeholders in the affected communities for not doing enough to stop the crisis even after the present administration had taken over the disputed land.
Recall that the incessant clashes in the areas had claimed many lives including that of a Vice-Principal recently abducted and slaughtered.
At a special stakeholders’ meeting over communal clashes in Ikwo Local Government Area and Abakaliki Local Government Area at Government House Abakaliki, Umahi emphasized that the state government would make concerted efforts to stop further clashes and killings in the affected areas.
It was attended by some political office holders, security chiefs, and leaders of faith-based organisations and traditional rulers of both Enyigba in Abakaliki Local Government Area and Ndiegu Enyibichiri in Ikwo Local Government Area as the governor stressed the need for the two warring sides to live together and forgive each other so that peace can be fully restored in the affected communities.
He said: “I asked the spirit of God to guide me during this meeting. God told me even before the same spirit told Fr. Nwali that without people in this room, what is happening will not happen. The spirit of God told me that we will enter into a covenant with you, everybody will confess with his mouth.
“Anybody that has hand both from Ikwo and Izzi will confess with his mouth that it will follow his family. If one big man has been killed, the problem would have stopped. But we are joking with fire. If the crisis is not stopped, the Izzi people in the town will start seeing the Ikwo people as their enemy and vice versa. And that is where the killing of the big men will start.
“But today, we are all pretending and an elder like Martin Elechi is saying that it was politically motivated. A former governor who could not solve a problem in his community until he left office, now has the audacity to talk about the problem. I do not know why God is so merciful to wicked people.
“It is terrible that a former governor could not solve a problem that happened in his community. And now, the problem is growing. No office is worth the lives of people. Is it not a human being that will be president? Do you know what that child they killed would have become in life?
“When we came into office, the land was cursed because of the amount of blood that was shed on it. The human blood that spilled on the land cry out – the young lady that I saw that died, the vice-principal that was slaughtered; a man and woman and their children taken and slaughtered for what?
“We are no longer grazing the land because the government has taken over the land. Land is no longer the issue. This killing did not happen on the land. Nobody from Ikwo or Abakaliki told me that anybody has entered the land. I do not want to bring curse on the land.
“The other day, I was in Abuja, I spoke for over 10 minutes before the President. I warned that Ebonyi will go to war with Cross River if the President did not call for a meeting between us to stop the killing of our people. And the President was moved and said we will meet in May.
“I know the amount of resources I am putting in Ikwo, Abakaliki and Izzi. One slot takes N10 million to the soldiers and one slot takes N10 million to the police. If the Izzi and Ikwo people agree to live together, that is when we will have peace.
“We have gone there three times and set up a committee, but when it was delaying, we did a proclamation and took over the land. The provocation is so terrible. One party went to the other party and killed. There is no way the amount of killings on both sides can be equal but forgiveness of brothers and sisters is what should rule over our lives. Human lives no longer have worth. I see the hand of the devil in this country.
“I see the devil doing everything to destroy this country otherwise there is no reason for an Ikwo man to kill an Izzi man. And we have war with Cross River. Is Ikwo saying that if Cross River comes to wipe out Abakaliki people, they will fold their arms and vice versa?”
He pointed out that the state government had spent millions of naira to restore peace and security to crisis-prone areas, noting that he was moved to complain to President Buhari over incessant attacks on Ebonyi communities living along boundary lines with Cross River State.
He said that he told President Buhari that Ebonyi people will go to war with Cross River if he does not call him and his Cross River State counterpart to know how to stop the killings.
Before the meeting went into closed door session, Governor Umahi directed stakeholders from the two communities to open up on their level of involvement in the crisis, so as to enable government chart a new course towards its resolution.
Meanwhile, following Umahi’s experience and record of ensuring peace in troubled communities in the state, such as resolution of the Ezza/Ezilo crisis, many stakeholders are optimistic that the Governor’s ingenuity would go a long way towards ensuring that peace returns in Enyigba and Ndiegu Enyibichiri of Abakaliki and Ikwo Local Government Areas respectively.