Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha
Again, blood flowed recently in two communities in Anambra State. A renewed communal clash between two neighbouring agrarian communities, Omor and Umumbo, in Ayamelum Local Government Area of the state, has led to the killing of one person, destruction of property, abduction of some persons, while others sustained various injuries.
It was gathered that the renewed clash, which started during the dry season last year, was as a result of a lingering land tussle between the two communities.
The reporter gathered that the crisis was allegedly triggered by suspected farmers who instigated others to seek vengeance over what happened last year, which led to the attack, destruction of houses, vehicles and other valuables in both communities.
A community source said the recent incident was due to a breach of agreement reached between the two monarchs of the communities sometime last year.
The source said: “Following a distress call from the traditional ruler of Omor, Igwe Chris Chidume, some persons were apprehended. Many houses, shops and rice mills belonging to the communities were torched in the heat of the clash in Omor and environs.
“People ran away from their houses for fear of being killed, as both communities pushed toward each other in severe confrontational manner.”
It took the intervention of the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon. Uche Okafor, who hails from a nearby community, Ifitte-Ogwari, in the same local government area, to calm the raging storm. The Speaker it was who came to the scene of the war along with heavily-armed military personnel as well as mobile policemen.
Meanwhile, the Anambra State Police Command said that the situation had been brought under control, as policemen and other security agents were drafted to the communities to maintain law and order.
The Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Haruna Mohammed, said one person lost his life in the clash, while four persons sustained injuries. He said eight suspects have so far been arrested.
“One person was confirmed dead and four persons sustained various degrees of injuries and are presently receiving treatment at the hospital. A peace meeting was held today at the local government secretariat, Anaku, in Anyamelum Local Government Area.
“The meeting had in attendance the Speaker of the Anambra State House of Assembly, Hon. Uche Okafor, transition committee chairman, Mr. Benjamin Onyeabo, representative of the Commissioner of Police, Chris Owolabi, a deputy commissioner of police, chairman Anyamelum Tradional Rulers Council and Igwe of Omasi, Igwe Benjamin Okejie, Igwe of Omor, Chris Chidume, Igwe of Umumbo, Simeon Chidubem, and Igwe of Ifite Ogwari, A.I. Ofuebe.
“Other stakeholders at the peace meeting include Rev. Professor Benjamin Eboh, Chief Paul Odembo (secretary, SEMA), president-generals of Omo and Umumbu communities, representatives of the Army, Department of State Services (DSS), the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and the Divisional Police Officer of Anaku Division, Mr. Victor Osuasa,” Mohammed said.
He noted that joint security teams were on the scene patrolling the communities in order to ensure that no further breakdown of law and order was experienced while investigation was on-going to ascertain circumstances surrounding the incident with a view to finding lasting solution to the lingering dispute.
The state government has also directed the security agencies and the Anambra Vigilante Group (AVG) to arrest everyone involved in the conflict and bring him or her to justice.
The Commissioner of Information and Public Enlightenment, Mr. C. Don Adinuba, in a statement, said that those involved in the crisis would be arrested and subsequently prosecuted court, regardless of their status.
He said: “The Anambra State government notes with profound sadness the conflict between the people of Umumbo and their neighbours in Omor community, Ayamelum Local Government Area, over land ownership, which has in the last two days resulted in one confirmed fatality and the destruction of valuable assets in both places. Security agents drawn from the Nigeria Police Force, the Nigerian Army and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps have since been drafted to the scene to stabilise the situation and maintain law and order.
“This conflict is a negation of the strenuous effort the government and people of Anambra State have been making in the past six years to make Anambra not only the safest and most secure state in the federation but also the most socially harmonious.
“Given that the state government considers the safety of the life and property of every Anambra person an article of faith, those responsible for the violence between the Omor and Umumbo communities will be made to feel the full weight of the law accordingly.
“The security agencies, including the Anambra Vigilante Group, are hereby directed to arrest everyone involved in the conflict and bring him or her to justice.
“The arrest and prosecution of those connected with the Umumbo-Omor crisis will serve as a lesson to other people who may wish to fan the embers of disunity and crisis in any other part of the state. The utterances and actions of these elements are inimical to the state government’s drive towards the rapid economic and social development of the state.
“The Anambra State government assures Anambra people of its unwavering resolve to make our state the most peaceful in Nigeria and beyond. Though the Umumbo-Omor conflict is an isolated incident, it will attract a robust response from the government. No person can shed the blood of any Anambra person and expect to go scot-free because life is sacred.”
Also, the senator representing Anambra North senatorial zone of Anambra State, Princess Stella Adaeze Oduah, has condemned the killing, destruction of houses and vehicles over land dispute between people of Omor and Umumbo communities.
Oduah, in a statement, said it was in the best interest of all the warring parties to desist from these wanton killings and destruction of property. In her words, ut would not solve the problem but exacerbate it.
Said she: “My attention has been drawn to a most unfortunate communal clash between members of Omor and Umumbo communities in Ayamelum Local Government Area that has reportedly led to the death of one person, injuring of many as well as the alleged destruction of property owing to a lingering boundary dispute.
“I have been in contact with the police and must thank Mr. John Abang, the commissioner of police, for the proactive steps being taken to restore law and order.
“At a time our shared humanity is constantly being reinforced by the COVID-19 situation, it breaks my heart to see my brothers attacking one another over such mundane things that can easily be resolved through mediation, and I am calling on all sides to sheathe their swords in the interest of peace while allowing the relevant authorities to get to the root of the matter.
“I also call on traditional rulers, leaders of thought and stakeholders on both sides to realise that they have an urgent responsible role to play in dousing tension in their various spheres of influence. Let me emphasize that human life is one sacred currency that no one has a right to take.
“My heart goes out to all those who have lost loved ones and property to this avoidable calamity and I pray that going forward, all parties will learn to give peace a chance. Nothing good, beyond enshrining a cycle of violence, can come out of toeing the current despicable path.”