EBONYI/ CROSS RIVER DISPUTE

… Amachi Youths Appeal For Govt Intervention

… Victims Call for Help  

A large number of young men comprising those who are at home and the ones in Diaspora under the auspices of Ndiegu Amachi Youth for Peace (NAYFP) have requested for government mediation over the conflict involving the people of Amachi Autonomous Community and Osopong Community of Cross River State.

The clarion call was made on Friday 9th April 2021 at Obegu-Ibom Amachi Market Square in Abakaliki LGA during the unions on-the-spot visit to the area.

Addressing the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP), one of the victims and stakeholder of the community, Mr. Dennis Agbaeze described the situation as terrible following the fact that over 80% of the inhabitants were chased away from their respective homes by some persons suspected to be the warlords of Osopong Community of Cross River State.  

“Before now, we were living peacefully without being apprehensive of any misfortune but suddenly around September 2020, some warriors from Osopong Community in Cross River State who were fully armed with many sophisticated weapons stormed our homes and began to slaughter our people as animals. 

“The same people, who seemed to have prepared over the attack for decades, did not only stop at the killings but also went further and destroyed our houses and crops and thereby rendered us homeless”.

The stakeholder in a sober disclosed that the warriors equally harvested the victims’ crops after chasing them away from the community and as a result subjected the displaced people to untold hardship.

“This is the situation that we have found ourselves into since last year and I am calling on both government and good spirited individuals to assist us. 

“I can recall that in the time past, our dear governor, Engr. David Umahi out of magnanimity had taken large quantity of relief materials to some northerners who had encountered similar situation over Boko Haram insurgency. 

“Presently, we are in dire need of help from any quarter,” he said.

The Coordinator of NAYFP, Comrade Jeremiah Okpebe Ibom, requested that the two states should establish a bilateral agreement through which lasting peace would be made between the warring communities.

“Before now, the entire Amachi Community was known for peace across the state but surprisingly fate brought this situation upon us.

“Thus, we are expecting the government at all levels to carry out their primary responsibility by cushioning the effect of the crisis in the lives of the victims” he said. 

Mr. Okpebe Ibom further appealed that the measure used in quelling Ezillo and Ezza-Ezzillo crisis should be adopted in their situation by establishing a mini military barracks between the warring communities which would likely serve as eternal solution to the problem.

He also appreciated government effort through Governor Umahi on how many internal crises recently found in some parts of the state are being handled impressively. 

A victim, Barrister Solomon Nwogbaga told Citizens’ Advocate that all the modern structures which comprised upstairs and bungalows were utterly destroyed by the people of Osopong without any justifiable reason adding that the problem which started since 2018 and had been running intermittently had equally claimed many lives.

“As I am talking now, our community had been leveled down by Osopong people, so, we are calling on government officials to come to our aid. 

“We want peace to be restored because before now, we were living harmoniously, there was no problem until the people began to attack us, we are also desiring for government intervention to enable us go back to our homes.

“And I believe strongly that with the establishment of military barracks in the area, the problem will be quelled permanently, we also want government to calm the people down so that we can have a round table discussion instead of war.

“We were born and brought up in this place and based on this reason, we have no other place to call home except Amachi, and we are appealing for government intervention through the deployment of more military personnel who will complement the effort of police men who are already present in the area.

“I most sincerely appreciate the people-oriented governor, Engr David NwezeUmahi over his magnanimity towards us by sending police officers to our place,” he said.

Another victim, Mrs. Veronica Nwoba, on her part, said that the community has lost a great number of men, women and children and as a result turned some of them into widows, widowers and orphans.

“The attack has subjected us to untold hardship, you can see that we have unconsciously taken over some market squares, school premises and under trees as our homes due to the fact that our individual buildings have been damaged by Osopong people,  

“Even after the people had harvested all our crops, they also denied us having access to the farms as they do lay siege with their weapons within the areas,” she explained.

The woman commended government effort for providing them with security through the police officers and also appealed for the construction of Army barracks to complement the personnel’s service.

She further appealed for relief materials from State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) and National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to ameliorate their sufferings. 

The village head of NdieguAmachi, Mr. Jeremiah Mbam Iyeji told us that his people have not encountered a similar problem either from Osopong people or other neighbouring communities since time immemorial until two years ago when the crisis broke out. 

“From the period of my forefather down to my grandfather and father, we have not heard of a similar incident until recently that I have assumed the position of the village head.  

“I have also tried my utmost alongside other stakeholders but all to no avail, the warriors have destroyed our schools, other amenities and subjected us to severe suffering, our children do not go to schools any longer and even their feeding is at the mercy of God. 

“Therefore, we are appealing for government intervention as we are ready to engage the people in dialogue” he narrated. 

Chief Sylvanus Chigozie Ebekpo, a member of NAYFP whose uncle’s building, Chief Simeon Azi was damaged told us that besides the destruction of the structure that a member of the man’s family was inflicted with bullet wounds.

He added that the suspected warriors burnt his uncle’s vehicles and carted away all the livestock in the same compound after harvesting the victims’ crops.

“On the fateful day, our people did not envisage any calamity from any corner but suddenly Osopong people invaded the community and began to shoot sporadically and based on that, everyone began to scamper for safety.

“Even as I am talking now, we have not been able to ascertain the reason behind the attackers’ annoyance,” he said.

Another victim and member of the association, Mr. Friday Igboke disclosed that he never anticipated any form of attack until the particular day that he received a distress call stating that his building had been damaged by Cross River people.

The Akwa Ibom State based business man said that he had not returned home because of fear of being attacked and shock associated with the misfortune until the day that the union members came back in group.

The mansions of Mr. Ugochukwu Patrick and Mr. John Nwojiji Agbaeze were not left out in the mayhem as the warriors did not only set the houses ablaze but also pulled down the walls with a suspected improvised explosive Device (IED).

The victim said that it only took divine intervention before he alongside his wife, mother and children escaped the attack.

“Apart from the clothes which we were wearing during the attack, we did not move out of the home with any other thing, presently, the same warriors had harvested all our crops, evacuated our animals and other belongings.

“To be candid, we are confused over this situation; that is why, we are calling on the government for assistance” he said.

Another stakeholder, Chief Clement Ebekpotod us that since the outbreak of the war that over sixty indigenes of Amachi Community had been killed gruesomely by the warriors and thereby requested for relief materials for the survivors and mediation from the government.

The priest of St. Dominic Catholic Church, Onyikwa, Amachi, Rev. Fr. Anselm Oyon appealed for assistance to the victims and also advised that military barracks should be sited in the areas as it would go a long way in quelling the crisis permanently. 

“Both my parishioners and other members of the community had exhaustively contributed towards the upkeep of the security personnel who are being deployed to the community, therefore, I am calling on government assistance so that the officers will not grow weary,” he advised.

We observed that the entire nine most hit villages of the community which include: Obegu-Ibom, Ndiofutu-Ibom, Ijaga-Ibom, Ndiobvu, Onyikwa, Ohabele and others still remain deserted as at the period of the visit. 

Also learnt, the victims have not been provided with relief materials or other similar assistance from both government and good spirited individuals while the people are collectively yearning for establishment of Army barracks and mediators.

At Ohabele Ijaga, the home town of Chief Clement Abong who is also a member of NAYFP, it was gathered that a great number of buildings and other valuables that worth millions of naira were equally damaged by Osopong warlords.

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