Residents of Abaomege and Ishinkwo, communities under Onicha Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, have appealed to the state governor, Engr David Nweze Umahi, for urgent intervention in stopping a two-year communal war that has been claiming lives and property of residents.
In separate interviews with reporters, residents of the communities said over 200 lives and properties worth billions of Naira have been lost by sides of the communities since the war started in 2020 over ownership of a piece of land.
In an interview, an Abuja based Nollywood actor and car dealer, Mr Delaw Eze, who hails from Abaomege, lamented loss of lives and property in Ebonyi state, as a result of communal clashes, alleging that the state governor, Engr. David Nweze Umahi, is playing politics with lives of residents and not interested in curbing the menace.
Mr Eze said communal clashes in the state involving Abaomege and Ishinkwo communities, over a piece of land, have led to the loss of over 230 people in the two communities, while their representatives in government keep silent.
He said: “June 2022 will make it two years that Abaomege and Ishinkwo communities started fighting themselves over a piece of land. The two communities no longer go to farm nor stay home alone as no one knows what will happen next. All the indigenes living close to the boundary have vacated their homes, while their homes are being used as the battle field.
“All the houses around their boundary have all been razed down, including the schools in both communities. Churches don’t hold services without local security watching and no occasion takes place without security in place. The people have been living in complete fear as those who cannot afford security have fled the village for the city. The youths of the two communities have been militarised and the indigenes wearied by heavy taxation.
“I’ve been in the inbox of Governor Dave Umahi to intervene, but he has always played down my requests and sometimes insult me. I have proofs of our numerous chat. He once directed his deputy to convene a stakeholders meeting outside the two communities, after my fighting with him on WhatsApp. After the meeting, they came up with four-point agenda, which was announced by the PRO of Onicha LGA. However, up till today, none of those four points has been implemented.
“Last year, members of the two communities approached the government to come and demarcate the land so that they will have a clear boundary for everyone to know and stay clear of it. The government promised to come with bulldozers to make a wide and clear boundary since they already have a boundary, as agreed in court. However, the government failed to do so and gave excuse of rainy season for their inability to come with the bulldozers and promised dry season.”
He added: “As a result of the hesitation on the part of government, the communal war between Abaomege and Ishinkwo communities continued. More people were killed and more houses burnt. It raged on until this year’s dry season. Again, we started agitating for the boundary demarcation and all we hear is excuses upon excuses.
“Dave Umahi has abandoned the people of Abaomege and Ishinkwo to continue killing themselves in a war that has solution. The Chairman of Onicha local government area, Felix Igboke, who doubles as in-law to Abaomege, is silent. Rt. Hon. Odefa Obasi Odefa, House of Assembly member representing Onicha East state constituency, under which Abaomege and Ishinkwo communities exist, has not done anything on the matter.
“Also, Rt. Hon. Livinus Makwe, member representing Onicha/Ohaozara and Ivo Federal Constituency, which include Abaomege and Ishinkwo, and the Senator representing Ebonyi South, Senator Michael Nnachi, are completely silent on the matter.
“Bullets are flying everywhere in the two communities. People are dying, properties are being destroyed and nobody cares. I am crying out to the whole world to help us as our leaders have failed us. We want peace, but we want the government to come and demarcate the land. All they do is to play politics with the lives of the citizens, which is unfortunate.”
Also speaking in a phone interview, the traditional ruler of Ishinkwo, HRH Eze Ikegwu, said that the communal war between Ishinkwo and Abaomege has eaten deep into the two communities and he is personally tired of seeing his subjects die or killed.
He said: “I stand for peace and will do anything for peace to return to our communities. It is simple for peace to return to our communities. The clergymen, led by the Bishop of Anglican Communion, Diocese of Abakaliki, Bishop Monday C. Nkeegu, have tried to solve the problem and Ishinkwo and Abaomege communities have agreed to make peace.
“The solution to the problem lies with government. There is need for the presence of security men to end the Ishinkwo and Abaomege communal wars. Government should either build a security unit in that place or do anything that will bring Government presence in the place,” he said.
In June 2020, when the war freshly broke out, the Ebonyi state governor, David Umahi, had visited the warring communities and ordered them to seize fire, while assuring them that the state government will do all it could to ensure that peace returns.
The governor had ordered the Nigeria Army, Police and other security agencies to take over the two communities to avert further killings and destruction of lives and property, also ordering the State Ministry of Lands to take over the disputed land. However, the communal war has persisted as residents get killed every now and then.
The Director, Legal services, Ishinkwo Autonomous Community, Barrister Innocent Elum, said in a statement in January that Umahi is on top of the situation.
He said: “The dispute started in 1902 and has defied all approaches to make peace between the communities. Several lives and property worth several millions of naira have been claimed by the intermittent bloody hostilities that characterised the disagreement.
“It should be noted that Ishinkwo community was carved out of Ukawu and both communities have remained in a harmonious and cordial relationship that has celebrated many inter- community marriages and political cooperation. As a matter of fact, both communities still share a political Ward named Ishinkwo-Ukawu Ward.”
He stressed that the Ebonyi State government of Dave Umahi is currently on top of the situation, raising hopes that the matter may soon end. He, however, urged Governor Umahi to kindly speed up the process of demarcating the disputed pieces of land to bring lasting peace between the warring communities.
However, when contacted on Thursday, the Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the Ebonyi State Governor, Mr Francis Nwaze, refused to take his calls and also refused to react on the allegations by the residents in a WhatsApp message on the subject matter.