By Emma Una
CALABAR—THREE days of communal clashes among four communities in Biase Local Government Area of Cross River State have claimed many lives following attacks and counter-attacks by youths in the warring communities.
Vanguard gathered that the conflict started between the communities of Abanwan and Orugbam on Sunday when people were killed as the indigenes of Abanwan reportedly launched an attack on their Orugbam neighours.
The conflict later spread to nearby communities resulting in loss of lives, injuries, and displacement of villagers.
Specifically, hundreds of women and children were displaced by the violence which started in Urugbam, Egbor, Ipene, and Abanwan.
They are four of the 10 communities that make up Erei clan, which predominantly occupies the southwestern tip of Cross River near the border with Abia State.
An indigene, who pleaded anonymity, traced the violence to the sale of a parcel of land, used to cultivate oil palm since 1973.
The land reportedly belonged to Urugbam and Egbor communities but was leased out by the Egbor community to African Stone Works Ltd, allegedly without the consent of Urugbam and other communities that have been a part of its cultivation for over 45 years.
Also, narrating the reason for the conflict, a legal practitioner from the area, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Vanguard that the crisis was as a result of the “decision by Orugbam people to annex some parcels of land in other communities.”
He recalled that a few months back, “Orugbam invaded Ipene community and destroyed houses, making the Police to arrest five of the ringleaders to calm the situation.
He said: “While Ibini supports Abanwan, Afono is supporting Orugbam and when there is a problem between Abanwan and Orugbam, Ibini will take sides with the former while Afono takes side with the latter.”
However, residents of affected communities accused security agencies of not immediately responding to the violence, which was still ongoing at press time.
The 14 Brigade, Nigerian Army, is located a few minutes away across the Abia State border in Ohafia, and residents said soldiers there must have heard as heavy gunshots rang out among Erei people.
Meanwhile, the Police Public Relations Officer, in the state, DSP Irene Ugbo while confirming that there was a crisis, said nobody died.
She said: “Yes, there is a problem in those areas but what I can tell you now is that many people have been seriously injured but nobody died. Our people are on the ground to contain the situation”
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed concern over reports of violence in the communities, calling for calm and restoration of law and order.
“Our communities must be ready to live together in peace since no development can take place in an atmosphere of recurring violence,” he said.
President Buhari, who commended the state government for the steps taken so far towards bringing peace to the areas, also lauded the state police command for mobilising its personnel to the affected communities.
He urged all stakeholders to cooperate and ensure that lasting peace returned to the affected areas.