Saturday, 8 June 2013

Brothers’ fight over cassava claims four lives, 70 houses

Houses affected
While Christians were worshipping in various churches on June 2, 2013, the people of Inyima community in Yakurr Local Government Area of Cross River State had a different story as their churches, houses and livestock were destroyed by their neighbouring Oyadama village in Adun community of Obubra LGA.
The destruction, which was as a result of communal clash, left not less than four people dead, while 70 houses were raised with over 700 being displaced.
An earlier conflict on April 11 between the people of Nko in Yakurr LGA and neighbouring Oyadama in Obubra LGA after a similar fight claimed several lives and destruction of property worth millions. This followed a previous one which claimed several lives two years ago.
These occurrences prompted Imoke to suspend the 10 traditional rulers for failing to contain the perennial communal clashes.
Their suspension, however, did not deter the fresh conflict as mobs from Oyadama razed structures in Inyima village.
The build-up to the latest incident started on May 30 when some youths from Oyadama village in Adun clan of Obubra LGA apprehended an Inyima youth allegedly stealing cassava in a farm on the border of both communities. The youth was eventually handed over to the police.

It was gathered that the Adun community had always laid claim to the Inyima land as theirs.
According to the acting village head of Inyima, Benedict Egbe, the following day, which was a Friday, some women who had gone to the farm to harvest cassava had to run back home on the claims that they saw some armed Oyadama youths parading the area.
Egbe said he sent some youths to the farm to confirm the claim. When he realised it was true, they mobilised some youths in the community to check their entry into the village on Friday and Saturday.
Inyima people also contacted the police who sent in some policemen to douse the tension in the area.
A resident of the community, Mr. David Egbe, said the presence of policemen in the area made them lower their guard. On Sunday, at about 11am hundreds of Adun youths armed with sophisticated weapons invaded their community, allegedly killing and destroying everything in their path.
Not minding the presence of police, the Onyadama people allegedly burnt over 70 houses including schools and churches, he said.
Irked by the destruction of their homes, Inyima people mounted road blocks along the Calabar-Ikom highway and destroyed many vehicles passing along that route on Sunday and Monday.
It was learnt that a 30-year old man, Enang Joseph Oden, was shot right in front of his house. Another unidentified man was beheaded and burnt along the street. An unidentified aged man was killed and burnt right inside his house, while the corpse of another gunshot victim has been deposited at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital Mortuary.
Widow of one of the dead men, Rachel, said when they heard gunshots of the invading Adun people, she, her husband and theur children fled to another neighbouring community. But he was shot in front of their house when he returned to get some of their things.
“They destroyed everything we have. They even destroyed the small things I was selling. Now I’m left with nothing. How do I take care of our five children?” she cried.
Another side to the story as narrated by an eyewitness, who craved anonymity, had it that the conflict started when the Onyadama people noticed that some people had been harvesting cassava from their farms for some time. He stated that all efforts to stop them did not yield any positive result.
“Worried by this development, the Onyadama people set up a surveillance team to find out who was harvesting their cassava. On Sunday afternoon, the team apprehended one Akani Azugo from Inyima village and took him to the Obubra police station where he was detained,” the source said.
Saturday PUNCH learnt that when Inyima people got wind of the arrest of Azugo, they went to the police station to effect his release. This was resisted by Onyadama people and skirmishes broke out, with some houses destroyed in Onyadama.
After the skirmishes, which led to the killing of an Onyadama indigene, both communities were said to have gone back to mobilise in readiness for a full-scale war.
But on Monday, the state police command invited the chairmen of Obubra and Ikom LGAs, Mr. Chris Obasse and Mr. Ubi Eta respectively, to its headquarters in Calabar to brief security agencies on the actual cause of the conflict and the role they played in bringing the youths under control.
It was, however, not clear what their responses were, but the chairmen were quizzed for over eight hours by security agents before they were eventually released.
Cross River State Security Adviser, Mr. Rekpene Bassey, told Saturday PUNCH that there was a series of meetings involving the chairmen of Obubra and Yakurr councils and community leaders where the stakeholders were told to stop their youths from engaging in further violence.
“I can assure you that calm has returned to the area,” he said.
To stem the violent tide, the governor suspended 10 traditional rulers in the two local government areas. They were accused of failing to contain perennial communal clashes in their villages.
Imoke had noted that the traditional rulers were incapable of controlling their subjects, adding that they could not help his government to achieve a lasting reconciliation in the lingering violence between the people of Nko and Onyadama.
In addition to suspending them indefinitely, Imoke has ordered that their certificates of recognition be withdrawn immediately.
In a statement signed by his Special Adviser to the Governor on Chieftaincy Affairs, Mr. John Eyikwaje, the governor did not only condemn the incessant killings and violence but frowned on the attitude of the traditional rulers.
He stressed that they ought to have consolidated on government efforts to pacify their people.
The affected traditional rulers from Nko community in Yakurr LGA are Richard Ubi Uket of Mkpollo/Ukpewen clan; Ogar Omini (Ikirele clan); Orem Akpama Mbang (Etombe Eglige clan); Akpama Egbe Isokon (Okuri clan); and Philipi Effiong Effiom (Kedengha clan).
Other traditional rulers suspended and decertified from Onyadama in Obubra LGA are Eta Efoli Eke of Ebanakpai clan; James Obono Leko (Ekpawen clan); the Obol Lopon of Nko, Effiom Ayomobi; and the village head of Okorokpong.
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