Obinna Odogwu, Awka
Bereaved families and victims of a communal crisis which broke out between Omor and Umumbo communities in Ayamelum Local Government Area of Anambra State are now counting their losses.
Many of the natives of the two warring communities were killed while houses numbering over 50 and other property worth millions of naira were destroyed in the clash, which started in the evening of May 5, but escalated on the next day.
At the time of filing this report, though there were no clear figures on the number of casualties, but many families are in emotional pains.
The crisis, Sunday Sun gathered, was as a result of a misunderstanding between some farmers over the ownership of land allocations located at a cluster of Lower Anambra Irrigation Project [LAIP] said to have been divided into E71, E72, E8, E9, and E10.
That contentious parcel of land was reportedly acquired by the Federal Government some years ago for irrigation farming which was aimed at promoting all year round farming that would aid its efforts at promoting food sufficiency in the country.
When our correspondent visited the communities with the member representing Oyi/Ayamelum Federal Constituency in the National Assembly, Hon. Vincent Ofumelu, who took a message of peace to the warring parties, the villagers especially the bereaved ones and other victims were still in deep pain.
At Umumbo, many houses, including churches and the residential homes of some Anglican priests and their families were set ablaze. Villagers lamented also that some of their loved ones were killed.
Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Niger West, Rt. Rev. Dr Johnson Ekwe, who confirmed this to Sunday Sun lamented that no single pin came out of the priests’ houses that were burnt by the attackers.
“It was so devastating. The crisis led to the burning of our churches, St. Andrew’s Anglican Church, Umumbo and other unit churches under it; the personage housing a very senior Anglican clergyman, a Reverend Canon, was razed down.
“In fact, he managed to escape with his family members, but no single pin was taken out from the building. They burnt their agricultural produce and rice seedlings, school property and equipment; they burnt the hospital equipment that were kept there and of course, the women’s store put up there.
“It was so devastating that one is wondering what happened. What concerns the church with the dispute and they burnt the house of a clergyman from here that works in this diocese in the person of Reverend Ndinyelu.
“It was so devastating and the church was badly affected. The church has been maintaining cordiality with all the towns in Ayamelum. So, this actually was an unwarranted attack. This thing was actually uncalled for and I totally condemn it”, the prelate lamented.
One of the victims from Umumbo, Mr Chukwuma Ekene, lamented that his house was burnt when the attackers stormed their community at about 6:00a.m on the 6th day of May.
“My house was burnt. Everything in my house, including my tank of 1,000 gallons was destroyed. Even my farm implements, herbicides, insecticides and other chemicals I use for farming were burnt.
“It was in the morning around 6:00a.m. After brushing my teeth, I was about to take my bath when I started hearing the sound of their invasion into our community. I immediately ran away. If not that I ran away, they would have killed me”, he narrated.
On how he was able to save his wife and children, Ekene said that two days before the clash, he had taken his family to safer place when he heard feelers about the impending battle.
“Two days before the invasion, they stormed Omekannia’s residence and burnt his car, a house and killed one person, Ikegbune. Ikegbune was the leader of our age grade, Ugomba Age Grade. I am his second in command.
“Many houses were burnt. The one called Ododimma is 12 in number, but block and cement house is 45. About two persons were killed”, Ekene further narrated.
Another victim, Mr Chieme Jonas, a native of Umumbo who said he built a house in Omor lamented that his one storey building and other property in Omor were destroyed. He said that he managed to escape from being killed.
“I live in Omor, so also many others. They destroyed our shops; our goods. Where we were tenants, they brought out our property and destroyed everything. They destroyed my building, a storey building. About six or eight buildings in Omor owned by Umumbo people were destroyed.
“They killed one of our own in that Omor. Others managed to escape. At Omor, it started raging in the evening of 5th May. We had to call our people on phone to alert them about what was going on.
“Our wives and children had to escape in the early morning of the following day. Some ran to Anaku community, some ran to Igbakwu community because they had already blocked the road that leads to Umumbo”, he narrated.
In Omor, some families are bereaved just as it is in Umumbo because their loved ones were equally caught up in the inter-communal bloody clash.
Mrs Stellar Ananti from Omor lamented that her son, Onyebuchi Ananti, who was about 30 years old was caught up in the crisis. The bereaved mother could not give further details on the incident as she was deeply distraught.
“My son, Onyebuchi Ananti, was a victim in the crisis between Umumbo and Omor. He was about 30 years”, she managed to tell Sunday Sun even as she appealed to the government to assist her family and as well ensure that lasting peace was restored to the area.
A bereaved father from Omor, Mr Emeka Nwabunwanne, broke down in tears when the team led by the lawmaker, Ofumelu, stormed his residence to console the bereaved family.
Pulling himself together, he managed to narrate how his 26-year-old son whose name he gave as Nnamdi was caught up in the inter-communal bloody crisis.
“My son, Nnamdi, went to work as a mason in a construction site. That’s his work. They had dug a soak away pit. That fateful day, he and his colleagues went to cover it not knowing that crisis has started.
“They killed him. It was like a dream or something. It didn’t look real, but eventually it was a reality”, he lamented.
Reacting to the development, Hon. Ofumelu, condemned the wanton killings and destruction of property in the two agrarian communities.
“What I am seeing is condemnable; both the one that happened in Umumbo and the one that happened in Omor. I condemn it in its entirety. This is because the particular land that caused these damage, if you are to hire it, it doesn’t worth this building (pointing at the one at the scene of the interview).
“Now, a widow is the owner of this one. How do you think she can raise money to build it again? If you get to Omor, a lot of people have lost their lives. How do you revive someone who is dead?
“People will die, but the land will remain. It doesn’t worth it. From my own inspection, I must advise my people to stay away from crisis. War is never good.
“When there is war, you don’t consider who is right or wrong because already, the damage have been done. I appeal that this should not happen again”, Ofumelu stated.