Judex Okoro, Calabar
Worried by the spate of communal clashes in Cross River State, the Catholic Diocese of Ogoja and some community leaders have organised a peace meeting with warring communities within the central and northern senatorial zones.
The separate meetings held at Ogoja and Boki were attended by border communities from Yala, Ogoja, Obudu, Obanliku, Bekwarra and Boki. They were aimed at seeking lasting resolution and coexistence among the people.
Cross River, for many decades, been faced with inter and intra-communal boundary disputes with neighbouring states of Ebonyi and Benue as well as with brother communities, especially in the central and northern senatorial districts.
Speaking at the event held in Ogoja, Governor Ben Ayade called on the boundary communities of Cross River to coexist and live more harmoniously to attract development to their people.
Ayade, who was represented by the State Security Adviser, Dr. Alfred Mboto, stressed the importance of peace and the need for leaders of the communities to expose those who caused trouble rather than allow the entire people to suffer the effects of war for the crime of a few.
Ayade also appealed to the communities and their leaders to cooperate with the efforts of the Catholic fathers and leadership of the Catholic Church from Ogoja Diocese to bring lasting peace and unity among the people.
He expressed optimism that, with the involvement of the church in the settlement of the dispute, the protracted crises would be finally resolved.
The immediate past Special Adviser to the Governor of Cross River State on Religious matters, Reverend Father Bob Etta, maintained that it was satisfying that the Diocese of Ogoja has stepped into the boundary matter, and assured the people that the Church would do everything to ensure that peace comes to all the communities involved in clashes
Fr. Etta cmended the state government for showing interest in ensuring that peace returns to the warring communities in the state.
Speaking on behalf of the community leaders, Chief Anthony Agba, commended the Catholic Church for embarking on such a proactive step aimed at restoring peace in the affected communities, adding that the meeting had revealed some of remote causes of the clashes.
Agba said the community leaders would work with the church to see how the problems could be resolved once and for all, calling on youths to always show restraint in the midst of provocation, as war does not in any way bring development to any community, but destruction and waste of lives.
At the central senatorial zone meeting held at Boje in Boki, the warring communities of Boje and Iso Bendeghe have resolved to lay down their arms.
The two communities have been engaged in a protracted conflict since the administration of former Governor Donald Duke.
The peace initiative was brokered by Mr. John Ewa, immediate past chairman of Boki Peace Reconciliation Committee and chairman Security Committee, following directives from the state government.
At the historical meeting, both communities also resolved, among others, that the boundary should be at Akim-Akim or Ejoryejor stream into the reserve forest to Afi River.
Reacting, Ewa enjoined the communities to ensure that the resolution agreed upon were adhered to as that was the only way to prove they had embraced peace.
Ewa said it would be an act of sabotage for anybody to leave the meeting venue to go engage in anything that would obstruct the relative peace achieved so far.
Commending the efforts of all stakeholders, the youth leaders of Iso Bemdeghe and Boje, Joseph Obi and Wilfred Bechua respectively, acknowledged that history has been made and they would ensure implementation of all resolutions.
Those who attended the meeting included the clan head of Iso Bedeghe, Chief Ogar, Sampson Omang,Timothy Nyiam, Ransome Bekom and technical committee members from Boje, led by Chief Leonard Akam (clan head), Chief Wilfred Achu, Charles Mba and Albert Ebu.