By Ushang Ewa
Hostilities between Tivs in Konshisha local government area of Southern Benue state and communities in Yache, Yala local government area of northern Cross River State recently renewed with several left injured.
The communities affected include Otrukpo, Oripua, Adikpe in Gabu clans and Osina, Aliforkpa, Wonye, Uchu as well as Ijiegu; all clans in Yache.
This followed an invasion by the Tivs on Uchu community in Yache which left a resident in the Ejepe compound seriously injured and currently receiving treatment at the General Hospital in Ogoja local government area following machete and axe cuts from the invading Tivs, CrossRiverWatch gathered.
“The attack which came on Saturday, May 6, 2017 is the most recent and deadly of several waves of incursion into Yache lands,” said Onah (not actual name), a native of Alifokpa resident in Uchu 2, both in Yache told CrossRiverWatch.
“There is a forest reserve which was planted in the colonial era and nicknamed Lugard wall that is been depleted daily by the Tivs mostly and a few Yache people with the Tivs often crossing it and claiming lands in Yache, especially in the Gabu clan of Yache,” Onah added.
A former Chairman of Yala local government council, Gabe Ugor took to Facebook to vent his frustrations and outlined steps he had taken as Chairman and promised to write to the current administration on the issue.
“Back then, I was always encouraging our people to create settlements at the Lugard Wall that rightly belong to Cross River State with the view to stopping the incursions of Tivs into our land. It is worth mentioning here that the journalist, Mr. Matthias Oko that reported this unfortunate and unwarranted invasion, assault and maiming of lives and destruction of the homes of Yache people of CRS was always representing the neighboring Gabu Community each time the peace meetings were called.
“I also wrote to the immediate past Governor of CRS to urge the Forestry Commission to reintroduce the planting of economic trees as replacement for this famous Lugard Wall that fell owed to the indiscriminate sawing and logging of our economic trees by the Tivs,” he wrote.
However, he listed 3 steps to be taken. They include an afforestation program to remind the Tivs that the land belongs to Cross River State and that the reserve still serves as the geographical boundary between the two States and most importantly, the demarcation between the Southern and Northern Nigeria.
He called on the Cross River State Forestry Commission to reintroduce the Forest Rangers to save the reserve since the commission’s office established by the then Southern Eastern Region is still located at at Alifokpa as it will help curb incursion and a peace meeting consisting of the chairmen of Yala and Konshisha Local Government Councils or their representatives, traditional rulers, elders and youths of both states to improve relationships.
In a similar vein, Augustine Odey in a post on Facebook called for urgent intervention on the issue which has spanned several decades and renewed following a breakdown in the agreements reached years ago by leaders of both communities.
“The incessant encroachment and attacks on Yala Communities in Cross River State by their Tiv neighbors may degenerate to communal clashes if urgent steps are not taken to nip the crisis in the bud as the affected communities in Yala LGA are poised for reprisal attacks,” Augustine said and gave a brief narrative to the land under contention.
“The boundary lines between the two states have beacon stones erected along all the boundary communities by the colonial administration led by Lord Lugard.
“These beacon stones, which can be visibly seen through the length and breadth of the boundary line stretch for about 80kms from end of Oju through Otrukpo, Adikpe, Gabu, Yache to Gakem and Obudu areas and serve as a boundary demarcation between Northern and Southern Nigeria.
“The area was further mapped out at the Southern fringes of the boundary as South Eastern State forest reserve in the early 1950’s.
“This forest reserve was nurtured by the Eastern regional government under the late Dr. Mike Okpara, then premier of the region. Even after the creation of South Eastern State and Cross River State respectively, the forest reserve remained property of Cross River State and the boundary demarcation between the South and Northern Nigeria. This has remained so till date.
“For a long time, the neighboring boundary communities across the two states had lived as peaceful neighbors until about 1985 when the Tiv people of Konshisha LGA of Benue State stirred the hornet’s nest, by gradually encroaching and invading, not only the Cross River State- owned forest reserve on that flank, but farmland far beyond the forest reserve on Cross River land, taking possession of the entire area.
“Perpetrators of these heinous crimes, are mostly Tiv people from Agara, Govv, Akputu, Wuese, Mbaavwarr etc in Konshisha LGA of Benue while the communities’ worst hit in Yala Local Government Area include Otrukpo, Oripua and Adikpe in Gabu, Osina-Mbuo, Aliforkpa, Uchu, Wonye and and Ijiegu Yache communities respectively,” Augustine wrote.
He alleged that the Lugard wall which spans about 80 kilometers is been depleted in conjunction wth forestry officials in the Yache axis as they lease and sell land to people from both sides and called on the state to find a lasting solution to the problem.
The Police could not be reached for comment as at press time.