By Aplefe Ojong and Jonathan Ugbal
Cross River State Governor, Senator Ben Ayade has applauded the prompt response of the federal government on the north Ukelle crisis which left over 14,000 people displaced and over 20 dead.
Ayade made the commendation on Monday when he received the Minister of Interior, Lt. Gen. Abdulrahman Bello Dambazzau, during a courtesy visit on him at the state executive chambers, Calabardays after he sought for the construction of the Ukelle – Oju roadto boost economic activities between neighboring communities in Cross River and Benue States.
“I thank you for making out time to pay this visit and for the choice to make the visit at such an early time from when the incident occurred, so that you can see the situations for yourself, “Ayade said, adding that “this is one of the swiftest responses I have seen.”
He wondered why Cross Riverians once revered for their peacefulness turned against each other with emphasis on the Wanihem and Wanikade people whom he said had lived together for years but had been tricked by the devil into fighting.
“We have always had these communal clashes occasioned by the normal nature that people seek farmlands, and if we check the background causes of all these clashes, it originates from poverty, hardship and an in-egalitarian distribution of resources and opportunities,” Ayade said.
Also, he sought for respite for the Bakassi IDPs. He said: “The people have been so dislocated that today, they live on canoes, canoes directly on top of water with a hut over the canoe and even the canoe is torn apart,” adding that: “Your coming is like a balm on a people who feel so pained, so beyond your physical visit to the location, you have come to tranquilize and reduce the hurt that we have as a people.”
Earlier, Dambazzau had told Ayade he led a fact finding delegation to the state over the north Ukelle crisis and pointed out that from Government House Calabar, “we will go to the local government area to see things for ourselves so that we can go back, write a report with far reaching recommendations to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.”
Dambazzau who said “The Federal Government is very much concerned about the clashes especially where it involves lives and property as well as displacement of citizens, “also commended the state for its quick intervention and announced the federal government’s resolve to collaborate with the state to stop similar issues that threaten lives and properties.
In a related development, Governor Ayade has appealed to the federal government to construct the road and the bridge linking Yala Local government Area to Oju Local Government Area of Benue state through the Wanihem, Wanikade axis to boast the economic activities of the people of the two states living in that area.
Ayade made the appeal on Saturday while on a fact-finding tour of the camp for the Internally
Displaced Persons (IDPs) at Adum-Owo, Igede, Oju Local Government Area of Benue state, housing IDPs who are victims of the recent communal conflict between Wanihem and Wanikade communities of Northern Ukelle, Yala.
Represented by the Deputy Governor, Professor Ivara Esu, Ayade reasoned that the construction of the road and the bridge will help open up the area, provide jobs for the youths, thereby turning way their attention from things that are unproductive and inimical to themselves and explained that the situation in the area has been officially reported to the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo who has directed that the Minister for Interior to visit the affected areas for fact-finding to ascertain what can be done to assuage the people’s plights as a result of the conflict.
The Governor expressed profound gratitude to the Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom for extending a hand of fellowship and help to the IDPs from Cross River by providing places of refuge as well as provision such as food, drugs, shelter and insecticide mosquitoes treated nets for the people, stressing that it was a clear demonstration of the fact that the government and people of Benue state are their brother’s keepers.
He also lauded the Chairman of Oju Local Government Area of Benue, Mr. Austin Okwoche and the District Head of Adum-Owo, Chief Ihuma Ede for contacting the authorities in Cross River and Benue promptly leading to the swift response and show of love by the Benue government as well as the government of Cross River to bring the carnage under control by sending security personnel to the area.
He advised the people of Cross River to live in peace with one another, and avoid anything that will lead to the destruction of lives and property, stressing that nobody profit from war and that the only profit of war is tears and sorrow as being presently experienced by the people of Wanihem and Wanikade.
In his speech, the Chairman of Oju Local Government Area of Benue State, Hon. Austin Okwoche, disclosed that as soon as he was aware of the conflict, coupled with the thousands of IDPs who were trooping in from Wanihem and Wanikade in three days, he alerted both state governments and reiterated Ayade’s call for the construction of the road.
On his part, the District Head of Adum-Owo, Chief Ihuma Ede who said that it was unreasonable for two brothers to fight over land described the war as unfortunate and pointed our that they the people of Igede in Benue state have a long standing relationship with Yala people of Cross River because according to him, “they are our brothers and we attend the same market and inter-marry and do things in common.”
In the same vein, the camp leader, Mr. Celestine Ogar thanked both Benue and Cross River Governments for coming to their rescue and providing them with the necessary relief such as food, clothes and medical including insecticide mosquitoes treated nets, and called on government to build the bridge and the road connecting them with their neighbors in Oju and the entire Benue state and the provision of
Some of the IDPs who spoke to newsmen narrated their sad tales.
Rose Ebiala said that her house was burnt and she lost her brother in the war and called for peace so that she can return home while Mrs.Elizabeth Lukpata said that two of her brothers have been killed and all her property burnt and now she has been rendered homeless.
Also, Mr. Julius Ogana lamented that his filling station and his house has been destroyed during the war, and appealed to corporate organizations and individuals to come to their assistance to rebuild
their lives with Mrs. Catherine Igbang said that her home and her farmland have been completely destroyed and there was nothing left for her to feed on while calling on the Cross River Government to ensure that permanent peace return to the affected areas.
High points of the visit to the IDP camp was the distribution of food, nets and other items to the IDPs by the Deputy Governor, Professor Ivara Esu who represented Governor Ayade and the Chairman of Oju Local government Area of Benue, Hon. Austin Okwoche.