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5 dead, 300 houses razed, 5,000 displaced in Cross River

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Cross River State annually  experiences  natural disaster portfolios such as flood, wind storm, acid rain and hail stones which cause devastation. But what wreaks  more  havoc now  are conflicts among communities in the state.

One can, on  the fingers of one hand, count the number of communities in the state that have not engaged in one form of intra or inter-communal conflict at one time of the other with  consequent loss of lives  and  destruction of property.

These  conflicts are sparked  by trivial misunderstanding or squabble for land for agricultural activity  particularly  during the planting season, January to June.

Though the state is  blessed with, large expanse of fertile land, this is hardly considered  enough as communities  seek to acquire more by encroaching on that of  neighbours and this often  leads to  confrontation and then   “war”.

To stem the high frequency of conflicts, Governor  Liyel Imoke sometimes  wields the big stick against traditional rulers and political leaders by sanctioning or suspending them from office.

One of the razed houses

In one of such recurring conflicts  in the Central Senatorial District of the state, on Sunday, 2 June,  five persons were reportedly  killed, 300  homes set ablaze and  about 5,000  people rendered homeless.

The attack was  said  to have been masterminded by aggrieved youth from  Adun  village who alleged that a man, Akani Azugo,  from  Inyima  community,  stole cassava tubers from a farm belonging to an Adun  man and   was  arrested by the police, but the youth were not satisfied and felt that the Inyima people had undermined their “superiority” and dared them by stealing their cassava..

The attack left  Inyima, located about 200km from Calabar, in ruins   as virtually every  building was either burnt or demolished.

The assailants did not  spare the  newly constructed and fully equipped primary health centre built by the Cross River State Government in the community as it was destroyed along with its  facilities including beds, drugs and  solar panel.

House hold property was burnt and domestic animals such as goats, fowls, dogs were killed. The animals carcasses littered the village.

Public institutions like schools and churches in neighbouring villages have been turned into refugee camps with majority of them at Assiga Old and New Towns, Igbo-Imabana, Nko and Assiga Beach. The  atmosphere in the village was one of gloom. A few  men were seen  in the village  when Sunday Vanguard visitedwhile women and children trickled-in to salvage whatever property was left which they could take to the refugee  camps.

The Cross River Deputy Governor, Efiok Cobham,  who visited  Inyima  two days after the conflict to  see things for himself described the destruction  as barbaric and a slap on civilization. “It is pathetic that the state government’s lofty programmes of providing social amenities such as roads, hospitals and schools are  being derailed by  dastardly behavior such as this”, Efiok lamented.

He promised that the matter would be investigated and  culprits brought to book and urged the victims to volunteer information to enable the authorities apprehend the assailants.

The Director-General Cross River State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA, Mr. Vincent Aquah, who also visited the displaced people in their  camps, assured  them of government help.

A victim, Mr David Agbo (51), told Sunday Vanguard that  the villagers were roused from their sleep that Sunday morning by the attackers who invaded the village in “large numbers  armed with sophisticated weapons and shooting sporadically, burning and demolishing  houses with explosives”.

He said the attack came as a surprise and caused so much panic that the villagers fled  in different directions mostly through bush paths to neighbouring communities.

Agbo narrated that some  days before the attack, an Inyima man, believed to be insane, was alleged to have been spotted harvesting cassava belonging to an Adun person and was arrested and detained by the police.

He said that, on Friday, which was their market day, women, who went to their farm to harvest cassava for sale in the local market, came running back to complain that the Adun people armed with dangerous weapons drove them from their farms and that they were matching towards the village.

Another victim, Mrs.  Caroline Solomon (38), who sat mournfully by her demolished building, said  she was in the company of other women in the farm when suddenly the assailants came  from the bush and drove them away.

“I saw one of our boys who was with us in the bush caught up and surrounded by the assailants attacking him with machetes. He  must have been killed”, she stated.

Meanwhile, Honourable Moses Abeng Onor, the leader of the Cross River State House of Assembly and member representing Obubra 2 in the Assembly, along with four other Adun community leaders were  arrested and detained by the police at the police headquarters in Diamond Hill allegedly in connection with the incident.

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