By Peter Duru, Makurdi
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state has directed the immediate suspension of the two contenders to the stool of Alegwu of Edikwu which sparked the crisis of last Monday that claimed the lives of 13 persons at Ukpogo community Edikwu, in Apa Local Government Area of the state.
Governor Ortom who made the disclosure yesterday while speaking on the gruesome attack on the community by armed militia gang said the government had also directed that security be beefed up in the area.
Meanwhile, the two contenders to the throne, the acting Alegwu, Chief Otokpa Imoni, and his rival Ada Ochekwu have pointed accusing fingers on each other over the lingering crisis and the last attack which also claimed the life of a 100-year-old man.
Chief Imoni on Wednesday fingered Ochekwu as the mastermind of the attacks that date back to 1994.
However, when contacted on phone, Ochekwu said, “It’s not true, he (Chief Imoni) is the one responsible.” He however refused to speak further.
But Chief Imoni, in a statement made available to newsmen in Makurdi alleged that Mr. Ochekwu resorted to violence after his efforts to clinch the stool failed both in court and before the kingmakers.
He traced Mr. Ochekwu’s alleged violent escapades to 2014 when six people, including two officers of Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps, NSCDC, were killed by the militia gangs he allegedly hired in his bid to make Ijaha, his mother’s clan, which is said to be non-indigenous an autonomous entity by enthroning a rival clan head in Edikwu community.
“Thereupon, irate youths went after the hired militiamen who had run out of ammunition and three were killed while the others escaped. The mob proceeded into Ijaha community and burnt down more than one-third of the village as residents had already fled the community upon hearing about the advancing mob.
“Only a few people of Ijaha who were evidently not involved with Mr. Ochekwu now live in the Edikwu village known as Ikaduna-Olijamu as the majority fled for fear of reprisals and are still yet to return to Edikwu,” Chief Imoni said.
He said Mr. Ochekwu also left Edikwu Community on self-imposed exile since the incident took place in 2014 but allegedly masterminding all the attacks on the community since then.