Tension heightened in the Biase local government area of the deputy governor of Cross River state, Prof Ivara Esu, over ownership of land. Already, some villagers have deserted the Ehom Central village in the local government area.
Last Friday, youths numbering over 100 from five communities of Ekpri Iko, Iwuru Obio-Ntan, Ayaba, Ehom-Evia and Idoma attacked Ehom central in the Biase local government area. Though no live was lost, property worth millions of naira were destroyed.
Some of the indigenes of the area have left their houses and sort refuge in Calabar the state capital. Investigations conducted by our correspondent revealed that the crisis emanated from land dispute and some of the matters are in already in various law courts.
The property destroyed, our findings revealed, included furniture, electronic, cooking utensils, palm mills, economic trees, cash and other valuables. The youths, investigations further disclosed, were armed with dangerous weapons such as short guns, matchets, irons, knives and charms.
Speaking with Daily Times in his hide out, the village head of Ehom Central in Biase, Chief Onda I. Onda, said that the youths were from five communities and armed with guns, matchet, knives and other warring equipment and charms.
“They invaded my community and said I am their problem. As they advanced to my community, they were destroying all available economy trees (and) sign posts. They vandalized everything in my house including my saw mill.
“The issue emanated from land. A woman, bought land from Ekpri Iko people and the land extended to our land and I asked her to come for regularisation of tenancy.
“Instead of coming for regularization, she now sponsored the people against me and my community,” he alleged explaining that his community had a land dispute with Ekpri Iko community and won in Court in 2006, “they have not appeal against that judgment since then but while selling their land, they included my portion.”
Chief Onda said that though the matter was in many courts in the state but called on the Police not to take side but should look at the case on it merit noting that he has been unduly victimized by the authority that be in support of the woman. “I am sad, disappointed and discourage the way the Police handled the matter.
“I took a matter from the State Criminal and Investigations Department (CID) to Zone six; they arrested my workers when I was remanded in Prison at Afokang. They went to my farm and destroyed my property arrested my workers seven in number and detained them for six days. They were asked to write statements for no just cause.”
“When I got wind of the attack, I informed the DPO and DCO in Biase about this impending attack but nothing was done and when they eventually came, not mush was done. Fortunately, the team that eventually came met those boys who went to my mill coming out and when they saw the Police, they became more wild and destroyed the remaining property but the Police were there watching without arresting anybody.”
He noted that the attacker eventually got to my house and commenced massive destruction, they cut economy trees, flower, and water outlet, solar that powered my water installations, entered my compound and vandalized my electrical cables, furniture, DSTC Disc, kitchen utensils, coconut and paw paw trees etc.
After destroying various items in the compound, they moved to my mill, broke into it and vandalized equipment, pouring salt into diesel engine with a view to knocking the engine. So many things were destroyed, in fact, they took over the compound, he lamented.
When contacted on phone, the Commissioner of Police Hafix Inuwa, told Daily Times on Thursday, “We have sent some policemen there, the crisis in the area has been perennial, this is not the first time, and the crisis has been regular.”
The Police have not only provided security but “we go round visiting and preaching to the people to embrace peace, we played the role of Police, we played the role of traditional rulers, we played the role of peace maker, we played the role of mediator, we played the role of everything because we want peace to reign.
“We kept on telling them that it was not the use of gun that give peace or by killing someone or maiming people that peace will come, No but I don’t know.”