EXASPERATED by the mindless killings and wanton destruction of property over a boundary dispute between two communities in Cross River and Ebonyi State governor, Dave Umahi recently likened the prevalent scenario to a full-scale war. According to the governor, all efforts initiated so far, some of which predate the current administration in the two states, have come to naught. He said: “If nothing is done, it has gotten to a period that it could be seen as a war between Ebonyi and Cross River states. God forbid; but I am telling you the truth as the chief security officer of Ebonyi State. Several of our people have been slaughtered in the area, thousands of houses have been razed down.” Umahi even asserted that the recurring bloodbath has stretched the resources of his government almost beyond limit and asked for “more soldiers to enforce peace between Ebonyi and Cross River states.”
Though the police and the camps of the warring communities have continued to dispute the casualty figures, the fact remains that scores of lives are being lost to the protracted conflict. In June this year alone, two of such attacks claimed about 25 lives, with scores of houses destroyed and thousands displaced from their places of abode. Some of the victims are seeking refuge in a community school in the area with the police stationed in the troubled boundary to forestall further breakdown of law and order.
In one instance, 20 people were feared killed in the dispute over ownership of farmlands between the Ofonekom community in Obubra Local Government Area of Cross River State and their neighbours in Izzi Local Government Area of Ebonyi State. Reports said lots of people were killed and invaluable property destroyed, especially at the Amagu–Ikwo Local Government Area, Ebonyi/Adadama-Abi Local Government Area of Cross River axis and the NgboOhaukwu Local Government Area/Agila Local Government Area axis.
It is curious that the hostilities have remained unabated despite further security buildup in the area, just as the belligerent forces have blatantly refused to respect a 2015 accord signed by the governments of both states on new terms designed to accelerate the process. The accord was also meant to pave the way for the National Boundary Commission (NBC) to resume the delineation of the Ebonyi/Cross River interstate boundary.
Regrettably, the problem of boundary dispute is prevalent in almost all the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja. There are boundary issues between Mokwa and Katcha, Tafa in Niger State with the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, as well as the one between Bida and Kontagora Emirate Councils. Brass and Nembe in Bayelsa and Rivers; Anambra and Kogi, which is impacting negatively on the location of a petroleum refinery.
Arbitrariness and highhandedness in the creation of states which did not factor in ethnic homogeneity, cultural affinity and etymological consideration is the causative reason for the current bigotry and suspicion. The disdain for the collective wish of the people by the nation’s political and economic elite sow the seed of the whirlwind blowing in the land.
While the boundary commission and other relevant authorities step up efforts at restoring normalcy, the warring communities in Cross River and Ebonyi states should, however, sheathe their swords in the interest of peace and security and economic development of the communities. No doubt, the latest outcry by Umahi is a proof that the situation on ground in the troubled areas is beyond the capacity of the security personnel already stationed there to maintain law and order.
The outcry confirms the situation on ground is beyond the capacity of the security personnel to curtail and maintain order following recurring hostilities in the area. His demand for more security deployment should not be discountenanced, as the breakdown of law and order in the troubled boundary has already created a refugee problem.
We, consequently, plead that the governments of Ebonyi and Cross River should further collaborate and give peace a chance as the boundary commission finds an amicable solution to the crisis.