As aftermath of the gruesome killing of four Edda natives in Ekoli Edda last Monday, the chairman of the Edda (Afikpo South) Council of Ebonyi State, Dr. Eni Chima has called on the National Boundary Commission (NBC) to act fast and save the people from further loss of lives.
Chima made the call while speaking with the ACE Magazine as we called to find out the current situation after the attacks he described as unprovoked.
The council chairman said his side of the disputing parties has kept the peace terms stipulated by the Edda People’s Assembly (EPA) that asked all parties to stay off the disputed palm plantation until the issues are resolved.
Confirming this, the leader of the EPA, Dr. Michael Okoro (Vote for Jesus) told us that he found out the people Ekoli have observed the peace rules as they have continued with their meetings with the Biase LGA of Cross River State over the land issue.
Okoro also noted that: “This shocking attack came unannounced when our efforts are on top gear to resolve the matter and make sure there is peace until the final resolution by the NBC. We have met about five times, three in Edda and twice at the Biase axis. Even that Monday this attack happened, we were to hold another meeting at their end.”
Re-echoing this, the council boss, Dr. Chima said the Ali Ugwelu, a core part of the Ugwelu village of Ekoli Edda where the killing happened is far away from the palm plantation that is disputed. “These victims didn’t encroach on the disputed area or went in there to justify this act, if anything justifies killing and callously boiling the meat of the victims and eating as these people did. We got these feedback of the shocking incident from the only survivor of the five they abducted.”
He lamented that the Biase area is so much at home with wars over land disputes with 24 such cases among 12 towns in the area, that is among themselves and seem to spill over this style into their neighbours’ lives.
“In the earlier years of this problem which is over the ownership of the oil palm plantation developed by the Eastern Region government, we have endured so much provocation. But we found out that since the same problem existed between the area and Ohafia in Abia State, our neighbours next door, it was resolved finally after the Boundary Commission demarcated the land and gave each part what belongs to them.
“That is why we want this crises to end because we place value on lives. When the boundary commission visited, we supplied documents from early 1960s signed by our ancestors when the lands were ceded to the government for public good. The government that developed the plantation didn’t do that to elicit war but to encourage economic development in the region. Unfortunately, after the creation of new states from the former region, these issues arose.
“As these things happen, we have not failed at any point to inform the government of our state and the police. At this last onslaught, I personally called the Commissioner of Police and was surprised that the Ebonyi police public relations office told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that it is not aware from what I read.
Immediately the killing was reported, I personally called my counterpart in the Biase LGA who promised to call back, but has not till now I am talking to you. My call on behalf of our LGA I supervise is that the police, the NBC and our people, including the Biase council should intervene for peace to return. My people who were killed did not go to the disputed plantation because I warned them never to. They were killed in their farms away from the palm plantation and we want justice and in the immediate, every effort to stop further waste of lives.”
He recalled that in the past, the governments of the two states have met many times and a team constituted led by the deputy governors. He urged the Biase area to stop provoking violence as that would never solve the problem.
“If we kill ourselves forever, solution to the ownership of the property can never come through that. It is my wish and call the Biase Council chairman and the state government should call their people to order just as I am coaxing our people not to take to retaliation and reprisal. All we need is peace for our people until the final resolution of the matter.”
Further speaking, Dr. Okoro lamented that: “What I saw this week was not anticipated from a civilized people. We lately had two meetings at Afikpo and Owutu Edda, and the Biase towns wrote the EPA in appreciation and invited us to a meeting that held at Ebunwana Edda, a venue they chose, another at Ibene in Erei. We also later met three other villages from where we found out that while only Ekoli Edda, just a town among many in Edda, is facing this threat, the entire people and clan from the Cross River side is involved in the assaults.
Last Monday they wrote to tell us that they won’t attend the meeting for that day. It was that same day that the last attack happened. I wept like a child because I have invested money and time expecting success. I have singled out some respected elders and Christian clerics in the area for personal engagement to ensure lasting peace.
Frankly, the Ekoli people have been well behaved and kept to the terms of the settlement for peace since I became privy to this matter. They refused to step into the land and avoided every condition to escalate crises.”
Asked what hope the peace moves have after the last incident, Okoro said: “We don’t plan to give up on our peace moves until a solution comes.
The killing was at the cassava farms and not the palm plantations where restrictions apply and the farms are towards the Ekoli end. I have known from experience that although we need the NBC to act, but the best and most effective solution is making and sustaining peace among the disputant communities and clans. We will keep doing our best towards that.”