Sylvester Idowu in Warri
It was a war-like scene on Tuesday as Ogbe-Ijoh in Warri Southwest council area of Delta State engaged their neighbour community, Aladja in Udu Local Government Area in a fierce gun battle that lasted for more than four hours.
At the end of the crisis, one person was reportedly killed and 18 others sustained gunshot injuries with most of the victims rushed to Warri Central hospital for treatment.
THISDAY gathered that mobile policemen stationed at a buffer zone to make peace in the two communities that have been in an age-long communal crisis over ownership of a parcel of land, fled the scene as a result of heavy weapons, including AK 47 rifles, deployed by the combatants.
One of the injured was said to be a Senior Secondary School 1 student who was caught in the cross fire between the armed youths from both communities. The clash was reportedly occasioned by the lingering boundary dispute between both communities.
The incident, THISDAY learnt, led to panic in both communities as residents scampered for safety during the exchange of gunfire which lasted for over four hours before security operatives were brought in to put the situation under control.
Although it was not clear what led to the yesterdayâ€™s attack, both communities were also engaged in verbal attacks as Aladja claimed that Ogbe-Ijoh first launched on her community with sophisticated and dangerous weapons, including traditional charms.
Ogbe-Ijoh, on the other hand, claimed that Aladja youths were first to invade their community with shootings which left three persons, including an SS1 student identified as Prosper Derin, severely injured following the report that council workers were about to resume works months after the crisis started in the area.
Aladja Community Youth Leader, Wisdom Onatomre, alleged that youths from Ogbe-Ijoh launched the attack on his community at about 7:30a.m., adding that one Reuben Ilolo was killed in the process.
Onatomre added that they were woken up from sleep by gunshots from the Ogbe-Ijoh end of the community, saying before they could repel them, one person had been killed and 15 others critically injured.
According to him, â€œOne person has been killed as we speak. His name is Reuben Ilolo, and over 15 persons have been injured with gunshot wounds. The armed Ogbe-Ijoh youths entered Aladja with sophisticated and dangerous weapons through the Ogbe-Ijoh end of the Aladja.
â€œThey also planted some charms on the ground, and started the attack as we were caught unawares.â€
But Ogbe-Ijoh Community Youth Leader, Friday Deinghan, faulted Aladja communityâ€™s claims, saying Aladja, an Urhobo community of Udu, was first to attack their community which led to three persons being injured.
â€œSince the last time Aladja community held a press briefing calling on the federal and state governments to relocate the headquarters of Warri South West from Ogbe-Ijoh, Aladja people do not want council workers to resume work.
â€œThey started shooting into our community since last week Friday all through Sunday upon hearing that workers wanted to resume work. They have been shooting since 7:30a.m. into Ogbe-Ijoh just to scare workers.
â€œThree people have been injured, including One Prosper Derin, an SS1 student, who was hit by a stray bullet on his way to school. He is currently receiving treatment at a clinic after reporting the matter to the Police at the Warri Area Commanderâ€™s office. As we speak, they are still exchanging gunshots.
The state Police Public Relations Officer, Andrew Aniamaka, a Deputy Superintendent, confirmed the resumption of hostility, but promised that security operatives have been deployed in the area to calm the situation.
â€œThere is inter-communal conflict between Ogbe-Ijoh and Aladja, and our men are doing their best to end the conflict,â€ he added.