30 Feared Killed in Communal Clashes in Nasarawa, Abia, Cross River

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Emmanuel Ugwu in Umuahia and Emmanuel Ukumba in Lafia
A total of 30 persons were on Tuesday feared killed in communal clashes in Nasarawa, Abia and Cross River States.

In Nasarawa State, about 20 persons were confirmed killed in Ugya, a settlement in Toto Local Government Area during a communal clash between the Ebira and Bassa ethnic nationalities.

A vigilante group member in the area, Yahaya Toto, said the Bassa people were seen moving out of Ugya village in large numbers last Monday without disclosing the impending attack to their Ebira neighbours.

He said: “On seeing that Bassa people were leaving the town, some of our people (Ebira) also started to move out in panic but we prevailed on them not to move because no reason was offered by the Bassa people to warrant them deserting their ancestral home.”

Another vigilante leader in the same locality, who craved for anonymity, alleged that the Bassa people had engaged the services of mercenaries who had attacked the Ebira people in the early hours of yesterday killing many and burning down houses.
He claimed that the mercenaries, claded in red, stormed the rural town on over 50 motorcycles and started shooting sporadically forcing residents to flee to the bush as the Ebira were chased after and hacked to death.

“As soon as soldiers arrived the town, the mercenaries deserted the area, although one has been captured, the vigilante member claimed.
However, the state police command Police Public Relations Officer, Kennedy Idirisu, told THISDAY in Lafia that the skirmish was a spill-over of the attacks in Kogi State.
Idirisu continued that although the police could not ascertain any casualty figures at the time of filing this report, the state command was doing its best to contain the situation and avert bloodletting.

On the crisis between the two communities at Abia and Cross River States’ border, 10 persons were reportedly killed and several houses razed.
As tensions were still running high, the state governments and security agencies have moved to control the situation.

The clashes erupted between the people of the Isu clan in Arochukwu Local Government Area of Abia State and their border neighbour, Utuma in Biase Local Government Area of Cross River State.
It was gathered that the bone of contention is limestone deposits discovered in Isu with the Utuma people claiming that the area where the mineral deposit is located belongs to them.
With the high casualty figure recorded in the border clash, the people of Isu clan have sent an SOS message to the Abia State Government to come to their aid in order to save them from being wiped out by their neighbours.

The Abia State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Anthony Ogbizi, confirmed the incident to journalists in Umuahia, saying the situation has been brought under control by the police.
While he denied the casualty figures, the CP said any community that recorded casualties should compile the names of the victims and submit them to the police for necessary action.
Ogbizi explained that the warring communities had taken hostages and were prevailed to release the captives but the people of Utuma claimed that their people were tortured by Isu people hence they invaded the Abia community and burnt their houses.

It was learnt that the clashes between the two border communities broke out penultimate Wednesday and lingered for days before it was brought to the attention of the government.
An aide to the Abia State Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu, Nicholas Igwe Kalu, who is from the affected community, confirmed that no fewer than 10 persons from Isu died in the clashes while several houses were razed.
According to him, the community has been deserted as men, women and children have fled the area for their safety and “tension is still very high” contrary to the police claim that they have brought the situation under control.

On the cause of the border clashes, Kalu traced it to an ongoing road project being done by Ibeto Group preparatory to the exploitation of the limestone discovered in Isu.
He stated that the Utuma people had indeed intensified their attacks on Isu people following the discovery of the limestone and the publicity it has attracted since Ibeto Group expressed interest in exploiting the precious mineral.

Kalu alleged that the Utuma people were the first to take hostages when emissaries from Isu were sent to go and appeal to their Cross River State neighbours not to disrupt the road project by Ibeto.
He alleged that in reaction, Isu people also abducted some Utuma people but both sides eventually released their captives following the intervention of the military.

The governor’s aide insisted that “it is a bloody lie” for anybody to claim that there were no casualties in the border clash because after the exchange of hostages “they (Utuma people) went and reinforced and launched an unprovoked attack with sophisticated weapons, killing and destroying houses.”
Kalu lamented that the displaced persons from Isu clan were now languishing in camps in Aro where they are taking refuge and need medical and food supplies to stay healthy pending when their home would be safe for their return.

 “If the government fails to intervene immediately, our clan may be wiped out,” he said, adding that he had brought the attention of the Abia State Deputy Governor, Sir Ude Oko Chukwu, (presently acting governor) to the security issue in the border community.
“We want the government to bring the National Boundary Commission (NBC) to, as a matter of urgency, come and demarcate our boundary with Cross River State as the best permanent solution to constant clashes between us and  the Cross River State people,” Kalu said.