The communal clash between the people of Ukele in Yala local government area of Cross River and Izzi in Ebonyi State has reportedly claimed over 20 lives.
The Community Relations Officer to the Governor of Cross River, Mr Vincent Egbe alleged that the clash started on Friday when some Izzi residents invaded the venue of a peace meeting convened by the Divisional Police Officer for the Area and his Ebonyi State counterpart to find a peaceful resolution of the matter.
“We were already in the meeting venue waiting for the arrival of the DPOs from Yala and Izzi Local Government Areas when some youths invaded the venue of the meeting and shot into the crowd and wounded many people,” he alleged.
He said the Ukele youths mobilised and managed to repel the attackers and it was in the ensuing battle that the villages of Nkaleke and Nduabonyi were hit and many people also lost their lives.
“They are the aggressors and all our people have been trying to do is to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict yet they keep launching attacks on us,” he said.
A resident in the area, Patrick Ege, said that perennial land conflict started on Wednesday following a gun attack on an Ukele villager.
He alleged that the shooting occurred at Ijibolo village when the villagers were returning from a meeting on Wednesday evening, leaving many people with gun wounds.
“There was a serious attack on my village, Ijibolo when the Izzi people waylaid villagers who were returning from a meeting and many people sustained gunshot wounds,” he stated.
He said a woman was shot on Monday while she was in the farm and was in a critical state at the Lutheran Hospital Yahe where she was rushed to for medical attention.
Hon. Jarigbe Agom, the member representing Ogoja/Yala Federal Constituency said there should be increased security presence in the area to forestall further loss of lives in the area.
When we contacted the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Mohammed Inuwa Hafiz on phone on Monday, he said “As far as I am concerned, I will only talk of what my men on the ground told me.
“First of all, this problem started around Thursday when a woman from Cross River was shot on the leg by suspected Izzi people, that was what infuriated the Cross Riverians to go for reprisal.
“When they went for reprisal, we quickly moved in because the people from Ebonyi too were ready for showdown, but our prompt intervention that day saved the situation, otherwise by now, you could have been hearing of so many casualties.”
“I appeal to the deceased family and Cross Riverians to calm frayed nerves; the traditional rulers and other stakeholders in the area should not escalate the situation by making sure that they partake in the peace process. The proliferation of small arms and light weapons are not going to do anybody any good.
“Politicians and stakeholders should stop fanning the embers of enmity within Ebonyi and people of Cross River State; they have been living for years, so they should explore way of resolving conflict rather than bringing more problems,” he stated.