Chijioke Agwu, Abakaliki
Stephen Nwode and Mrs. Victoria Oke, from Ofenekpe in Inyimagu, Ikwo Local Government Area of Ebonyi State are victims of protracted inter-communal clashes over boundary between Ikwo people and their Adadama and Nsubo neighbours of Cross River State.
Aside from being displaced from their communities after losing their properties, including farms and cash crops, Nwode also lost his brother, while Oke was made a widow following the killing of her husband in one of the attacks. Nwode lamented that life has been difficult for him and members of his community, especially those living close to the boundary area: “Many years ago, our community gave a portion of land to the Nsubo people to settle, but later they started to claim that the land belonged to them. That was the genesis of the dispute. But our people said no, that the land originally belonged to us. That was how the war started. They attacked us and destroyed our farmlands and houses.
“One of my brothers was killed during the war. I survived because my house was very far from the boundary area but many of my family members had their homes razed. As I am talking to you now, more than 12 families are living with me and my family in my compound and catering for them has been difficult.”
Oke also told her story: “The war claimed my husband. He was sick when the war started and he was unable to walk. As the Nsubo people were approaching, he told me to leave him and run away so that two of us would not be killed.
“So, I ran away with my children, and when the attackers came, they killed him and destroyed our house and farms. Since then life has been difficult for us. My children have not been going to school as there is nobody to assist with their fees.”
However, fortune smiled on them and many other internally displaced persons in Ikwo last week when the Federal Government, through the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), distributed relief materials worth millions of naira to individuals, families and communities there.
The materials, attracted by the member representing Ikwo/Ezza South Federal Constituency in the National Assembly, Chinedu Ogah, were released to NEMA by the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.
The items distributed included 503 bags of 12.5 kilogrammes of parboiled rice, 503 bags of 12.5kg of garri, 403 25kg bags of beans, 61bags of iodized salt, 125 bags of granulated sugar, 50 kegs of vegetable oil, 147,41 cartons of tomato paste and cartons of seasoning.
Non-food materials distributed included 1,500 pieces of blankets, 1,500 pieces of mosquito nets, 1,000 pieces of foam mattresses, 1,200 pieces of ceiling boards, 1,200 bags of cement, 100 bags of three-inch nails and 200 packets of zinc nails.
War-ravaged communities of Ochuenyim, Ofenekpe, Agubia and some parts of Alike community, all in Ikwo, also benefitted from the relief materials. The distribution, at the premises of Blessed Martins International Institute of Science and Technology, Ohatekwe Amagu, Ikwo, was supervised by director-general, NEMA, Air Vice Marshal Muhammadu Muhammad (rtd).
Represented by the South East coordinator of NEMA, Mr. Fred Anoziem, the DG said government was committed to providing succour and relief to all the troubled communities in the country. He said NEMA was aware of the various communal clashes in all parts of Ikwo which arose mainly from boundary disputes, internal political manoeuvrings and chieftaincy tussles:
“Conflicts such as communal ones do not emanate from nothing. They are usually due to human actions. The agency is aware of the border dispute that erupted between Ikwo and Cross River communities in April 2013. In June 2016, another report of crisis from the area reached us while the third was reported in January this year.
“Communities involved have been completely displaced and their farmlands declared buffer zones. It is therefore sad to lose lives, property and those affected go through the trauma of displacement over crises of great dimension.”
He decried the spate of communal conflicts in Ikwo and Ebonyi State and called for self-appraisal and attitudinal re-orientation of the people to help reduce the spate of conflicts in the state. He regretted that the youths no longer have regards for the sanctity of human lives; respect for traditions or constituted authorities:
“The ugly development is the reason youths are always ready to go to war at every provocation. Ebonyi, which was hitherto known for peace, unity and love for community development is gradually turning into a theatre of hostilities. The number of crises recorded in Ikwo and by extension, the state in the past few years is evident that the age-long cordial relationships have turned soar while manpower and resources meant for development have been lost.”
Ebonyi State Governor, Chief David Umahi, said his government has been in the forefront of the fight to ensure the restoration of peace in all the warring communities in the state.
Executive Secretary, Ebonyi State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Pastor Ken Eze, who stood in for him said: “The governor, as a man who loves peace so much has not relented in his commitment to the restoration of peace in all the warring communities in the state. He has visited the communities where there are conflicts and provided relief materials to them. I want to assure NEMA that the state government will continue to partner with them in providing help to our people.”
Ogah reiterated his commitment towards improving the living standards of his constituents. He claimed to have secured employments in federal parastatals for over 150 of his constituents, distributed more than 450 motorcycles and 150 tricycles in his less than 12 months’ stay in the National Assembly.
The legislator urged the beneficiaries to make judicious use of the items. He further supported the benefitting communities with N50,000 each to enable them transport their materials to their various locations and destinations.