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