By Ike Uchechukwu
Cross River state governor, Prof. Ben Ayade has inaugurated a Peace, Reconciliation, and Rehabilitation Committee to resolve age-long land disputes between Ebom/Ebijeakara and Ediba/Usumutong communities in Abi local government area of the state.
The five-man committee is headed by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and former Senate Majority Leader, Sen. Victor Ndoma Egba.
Speaking on Tuesday while inaugurating the Committee at the Executive Chamber of the Governor’s Office, Calabar, Ayade frowned at the destruction and loss of lives in the four communities arising from the land dispute.
Ayade charged the committee to come up with recommendations that would bring lasting peace and hope to the affected communities.
Speaking further, Gov Ayade said he personally selected members of the committee based on their track record and expressed confidence in their ability to deliver.
“Your choice as Chairman is based on your antecedents as a SAN, you have reached the pinnacle of your profession, the profession of dispensing justice and fairness.
“As a SAN you know you have a deep experience of Cross River State. Your history is as old as the new renaissance of Cross River.
” You know all the key players by name, your image and towering influence should be able to calm the nerves and sit everyone down on a negotiating table and agree.
“You have a duty to ensure that your committee performs her duty with dispatch. We are saddling you with a responsibility that is the biggest ever because you have a role to get all the four communities to sit together,” he stated.
He also disclosed that rehabilitation of the warring communities would be conditioned by the Committee’s final report.
On his part, Sen.Ndoma Egba assured the governor his committee would bring peace to the four communities stressing they will put their lives, bodies, blood, and souls into the assignment given to them.
“Your Excellency as you know I have carried out assignments locally, nationally, and internationally, but I want to say on behalf of the members of my committee that this is the assignment of our lives, this is our most important assignment.
“So I want to assure you sir that we will put our all in this assignment. It is not in anyway a political assignment because peace has nothing to do with politics”, Ndoma-Egba said.
He lauded the governor for setting up the committee, saying Ayade was indeed seeking a permanent solution to the recurring crisis.
“I believe that since this is coming from government and the Governor himself, and going by the way the Governor spoke during the inauguration with a lot of passion, a lot of emotion, I believe the Governor is sincere, ” he said.
On logistics to carry out the assignment, Ndoma Egba said the Governor had already approved an estimated budget for the assignment and that the committee was waiting for release of funds, which he said, could come in few day’s time.
“The truth is that peace and development go together. We cannot have development without first pursuing and maintaining peace. Violence is an argument of a person who has run out of logic,” he stated.
“It is surprising that this crisis has remained this long. The very first murder case I handled as a young lawyer was from that community and it was as a result of communal crisis. It was in 1979.
“It has been the same story for years, but the good news is that they, on their own, initiated the peace process. They have sought and pursued peace.
“What we are doing now is to find a strategy to sustain the peace process and I believe the first step is to rehabilitate the Ebijakara people who were displaced.
“Let them return to their land, and then give them necessary infrastructure to support them economically,” he stated.
He disclosed further that considering the 30 days time frame given to the committee for the assignment, the job could be intense but that the committee was determined to deliver.