By Victoria Ojeme and Fortune Eromosele
Stakeholders in Ebonyi and Cross River states on Wednesday, recommended ways that would assist the federal government in curbing land disputes spanning a century and embrace peace in working towards finding sustainable solutions.
They made the recommendation in a communique issued after the end of a Two-day Roundtable Discussion on Sustainable Solutions to the Cross River/Ebonyi States Boundary Dispute and Communal Conflicts, organized by the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution, IPCR, Abuja with the theme, ‘Finding Solution to the Border Conflict Between Communities in Cross River and Ebonyi States’.
Various speakers at the roundtable described the dispute as a major challenge in the country and solicited for bringing peace to the area in subsequently creating an environment for the National Boundaries Commission to demarcate the boundaries between the warring communities.
At the round table were representatives from the warring communities in Abi, Obubra, Yala local government areas of Cross River State, and Abakaliki, Uzzi and Ikwo local government areas of Ebonyi State, with the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, National Orientation Agency, National Emergency Management Agency, National Boundaries Commission and the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution represented.
Also at the round table were representatives from both Ebonyi and Cross River state governments, federal lawmakers representing the areas in dispute.
Some of the burdening issues in the communique pointed out that the National Boundary Commission, NBC and IPCR should collaborate to do an ethnographic study of the disputing communities.
Also, that there is an urgent need for the National Boundaries Commission to conduct checks and verifications in the boundary communities to establish and demarcate the boundary between Ukele and Izzi, which equally defines the Cross River and Ebonyi State boundary.
According to the communique “The Nigerian Police should establish a permanent presence in the boundary communities to provide security for lives, property and ensure free movement of persons for adequate engagement in farming and other socio-economic activities.
“The National Orientation Agency should be more involved in peace enlightenment and awareness Campaigns that target all the stakeholders in the boundary communities.
“NEMA/Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management be urged to intervene in the area of disaster risk reduction and provision of necessary relief materials to the affected communities.
“IPCR, NEMA, NOA and other relevant government agencies should collaborate with IPCR and NBC to administer relief materials to the affected communities.
“Federal and state governments should make conscious efforts towards provision of social amenities for the border communities as well as renovation of dilapidated schools and hospitals. Youths are encouraged to be engaged in Peace building activities such as CRS/Ebonyi Youth Peace Development Movement”.
The communique further noted that the Governors of Cross Rivers State and Ebonyi States be recommended for their laudable decisions reached at the Port Harcourt summit of the 7 August 2018 on the resolution of the crises and were urged to implement the cross border projects.
It added that the state governments, with federal government support, should put in place measures to disarm and rehabilitate the youths from the warring boundary communities, to promote economic activity and targeted livelihood support.
Meanwhile, on recommendations between warring communities, the communique reads, “Henceforth the members of the communities with disputed boundaries should desist from encroaching on disputed lands and from conducting cross-border criminal activities, The making of inflammatory statements and threats must not be used whenever disputes occur between community members.
“Youths that perpetrate cross border attacks and criminal activities must be identified by community members, so that the community as a whole is not blamed for the actions of one individual.
“Community members must desist from actions that lead to tit-for-tat attacks and reprisal actions should be strongly discouraged.
“All those that seek refuge within a community after engaging in criminal acts in neighboring communities should not be given refuge but exposed and handed over to the appropriate authorities.
“Sanctions shall be imposed on all those members of the community who disobey. The communities and local government areas of the two states must imbibe the spirit of give and take (compromise) to attain lasting peace.
“The communities must be enlightened on the essence of boundaries and the need to allow peace to reign amongst them. Rehabilitation, reintegration and re-instatement of IDPs to their original communities and ensure qualitative education for the youths”.
The communique also pointed out that youths that engage in peace building, such as, the Cross River and Ebonyi Youths for Peace Development Movement, must be supported and encouraged by the federal and state governments.
It added that “Youths that engage in guerrilla war in the boundary communities must be engaged and included in peacebuilding processes going forward.
“IPCR should build and strengthen the capacity of the youths in the states through the Cross River and Ebonyi Youth Peace Development Movements to ensure the sustainability of peace in the states.”
According to the communique, women and girls are encouraged to participate in the peace and security processes of their communities.