From Rose Ejembi, Makurdi
The people of Igah community in Igumale, Ado Local Government Area of Benue State on Wednesday protested over boundary dispute and encroachment on their land by Rijo community in Utonkon district of the state.
Daily Sun gathered that the Igah community had before now, allegedly leased portion of its land to the Rijo community for farming and the Rijo people were in turn paying annual dues or royalties at the end of every farming season.
It was further gathered that since 2006, the Rijo community had reneged in paying the agreed dues and instead, started laying claims to the land.
The Rijo people were also said to have been allocating and selling parts of the said land to other neighboring communities without consulting the owners of the land.
This was said to have angered the Igah community, a develoment which made the people to direct the Rijo people to vacate the land but all efforts to ensure the Rijo community leave the land failed.
It was based on this reason that the Igah community had staged a peaceful protest to draw the attention of all stakeholders to their plight and help retrieve their land from the Rijo people.
The protesters, including elderly men, women and youths who matched with placards and leaves, to the local government council secretariat at Igumale handed over protest letter to the council chairman.
Presenting the protest letter to the council chairman, the leader of the Igah community and Ole’Aje of Igumale, Chief Ogomole Obande, stated that the Rijo community had failed to keep to the agreement earlier entered with them and therefore should vacate the land to avoid unnecessary crisis.
Chief Obande further noted that the activities of the Rijo community on the land is totally against the initial understanding Igah community had with them, saying the Rijo community have embarked on illegal sales and renting of the land to other neighboring Communities without prior knowledge of Igah community.
He alleged that the Rijo community in Utonkon district were remitting certain amount of money to Igah community on the bases that they were renting the land for farming activities since time immemorial until 2006 when a person from Utonkon district became executive chairman of Ado local government council and stopped them from remitting the said amount of money.
Addressing the protesters, the Chairman of Ado LGC, James Oche thanked the Igah community for not taking laws into their hands but decided to embarked on a peaceful protest to register their grievances.
He posited that the council had decided to wade into the matter between Rijo and Igah- Igumale communities over boundary dispute and land encroachment with a view to resolving it.
He explained that to show his seriousness to amicably resolve the dispute, he has decided to constitute tripartite committee consisting of the executive, legislative and the traditional rulers to convoke public hearing on the matter to seek ways of resolving the issue that would guarantee peaceful coexistence.
The chairman disclosed that the executive committee would be headed by the supervisory councillor for education, youths and sports, Mr. Attah Ede while the legislative committee would be headed by the leader of Ado legislative council Mr. Emmanuel Ajagbo with the traditional rulers committee to be headed by the Ada’Ado, Chief Ochikor Onazi and be assisted by Olong of Ufia, Chief Mathew Egede.
He assured that the outcome of their deliberations would be communicated to the office of the state Deputy Governor, Engr. Benson Abounu where all issues concerning boundary and land disputes are being treated for immediate action.
On his part, the divisional police officer (DPO) in charge of Ado, SP Bulama said land matter is a difficult thing to deal with and therefore should be treated with caution saying he had earlier received same letter from Igah community even as he called for understanding on the part of the people to ensure amicable resolution of the matter.