George Okoh in Makurdi
Hundreds of houses have been burnt and thousands of persons displaced in Makurdi Local Government Area of Benue State as a result of communal clash.
According to an eye witness, who pleaded anonymity, the unfortunate incident was caused by a lingering crisis, adding that it’s usually over tussle for land.
The source said it’s a struggle over ownership of land between the indigenes, Iharev and the settlers Iparev.
Speaking with newsmen after undertaking an assessment tour of the destroyed area, Benue State Secretary to the Government, Prof. Anthony Ijohor, frowned at the magnitude of destruction, noting that it’s “unexpected” and “embarrassing” to the state.
“The level of destruction is massive. Imagine brothers who have lived together for over 60 years engaging in this kind of destruction. Though there was no loss of life, we will bring the full might of the state and security apparatus to ensure that the culprits are brought to book.
“The crisis has to do basically with land. When you talk about land, you also, talk of urbanisation. It is an issue of indigene/settlers. I came here to have firsthand information about the crisis, so that we would know what action to take as a government. I want to urge the people to exercise restraint and not to embark on any reprisal attack,” he said.
District Head of Mbawur/Mbayongo in Makurdi Local Government Area, Chief Peter Tor Abaka, said all efforts made to ensure the dispute did not degenerate to this level failed even as he described the level of destruction as “unacceptable.”
He also out rightly denied any involvement of traditional chiefs in the crisis.
Member of Benue State House of Assembly, representing Makurdi South, Terwase Aondoaka, blamed the crisis on non-remittance of funds from block moulding at the Riverside to the former district head.
“I gathered that a peace agreement was signed that people should stop moulding blocks at the Riverside, but some persons violated that peace pact and that is why the problem started,” he said.