Displaced Ilaje Residents Urge A’Ibom  to Intervene in Communal Crisis

Okon Bassey

The people of Ilaje of Yoruba ethnic group has urged the Akwa Ibom State Government to wade into the lingering communal conflict with the host community.

The people of Ilaje were displaced during a communal wrangling with  their host, Mkpanak in Ibeno local government area of the of the State.

The call on the State Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel  to facilitate their resettlement followed  strident conditions  given by the host community before they would be allowed to the community.

The communal clash broke out between the two communities on April 19,2022 leading  to the displacement of over 10,000 Ilaje residents most of whom are still hanging around church premises and filling stations in Eket Local Government Area.

The terms and conditions  issued by the host community for the reintegration of the Ilaje people contained in a document and domiciled in the Ibeno LGA ,it was learnt, is the “ instill  mutual respect between the two communities and prevent further disagreement and rancour.”

The two- page document included boat management and landing fees, fishing expedition and community responsibilities.

It stated that “no visitors, non-indigenes of Ibeno will buy directly from any fishing boat at the beach and anyone liable will pay a fine of  20,000 only.

“All catches including cray fish and other fishes up to five basins shall be sold at the ratio of 2:3 to Mkpanak and Ilaje women.

“Catches from Tilapia draw nets will be bought by Ibeno LG women at the ratio aforementioned. Ibeno indigenes will have the first right of refusal of buying from any boats at any location. 

“All gray fish and other fishes measured in basins or in whole will attract compulsory sale tax of N300 only payable to Ibeno women association with receipt,” among others.

The conditions, which also include boat management and landing fees, fishing expedition and community responsibilities, were handed over to the representatives of Ilaje people in the last meeting with the Deputy Governor, Mr. Moses Ekpo and the representatives of Ibeno community in government house, Uyo.

However, not satisfied with all the terms and conditions, a representative of the Ilaje,  Mr. James Ajele, who spoke with journalists after the meeting, said Ilaje people are prepared to abide by the conditions as stipulated in the documents  but complained of some items which he said do not go down well with their collective interests.

He appealed to state government and Ibeno local government to intervene while urging the Ibeno community to temper justice with mercy by totally reviewing the said sections.

Efforts to speak with the Paramount ruler, HRM Ovong Effiong Achianga was not successful as at the time of filing this report

The spokesperson of the Ilaje community, Mr. Golden Ogungbemi, also called on the state governor to intervene  and facilitate their return, adding that state government was yet to fulfill it’s promise to come to their rescue.

“We have not seen what is on the ground by the government. All the government did was to provide relief materials.

“At a point the government proposed a memorandum of understanding between the Ilaje people and the Ibeno people who are our host but so far nothing has been done.

“Our condition is just the same as when the incident happened. And it is really unfortunate that we are witnessing this in our own country.

“The constitution of this country provides that as a Nigerian you can live anywhere you choose to lawfully and it includes the right to own property.

“But it is so unfortunate that for the past 35 years or more that we have been living in Ibeno terminal specifically, what we notice is that on that fateful day irate youths took over the Yoruba community.

“All the wealth and property that we acquired over the years were taken away within a twinkle of an eye and since then we have been suffering from the pangs of hunger.

“You can see hunger on the faces of our people yet government hasn’t done anything to alleviate our sufferings.

“What we are saying is that the amiable governor of Akwa Ibom State should intervene. We want the governor to put us back in our businesses. What is so important to an Ilaje person is the source of his livelihood which is the outboard engines.

“At the time of the incident Ibeno youths targeted our outboard engines, over 500; burnt some and took some away especially the ones that were newly bought.

“We are told that th

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