Issues in The Adadama/Amagu Boundary Dispute by Daniel Ese Etuki

In Breaking News, Columnists, National News, Opinion, Reports

adadama crises pixBy Daniel Ese Etuki

culled from Daily Independent

Daniel Ese Etuki, an Abuja based public policy analyst offers an explanation into the prolonged boundary dispute between Adadama community in Abi Local Government Area of Cross River State and Amagu Community in Ikwo Local Government Area of Ebonyi State and proffers solution…

Before Nigeria became a country, that is, prior to the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates in 1914 by Sir Fredrick Lugard, a British imperialist military officer, the people of Ikwo in the present Ebonyi State and the people of Agbo in the present Abi Local Government Area of Cross River State, had lived together for several generations. Administratively, the Ikwo Clan and Agbo Clan were part of the old Ogoja Province and the old Afikpo County Council. While the people of Ikwo speak a variant of Ibo dialect known as ‘crude’ Wawa or Nteke, the Agbo people on their part speak a variant of Ekoi dialect known as Legbo.

The Amagu people have their kinsmen comprising of the Okpitumo, the Alike, the Ohozara, the Onicha in the present Ebonyi State. The Adadama also have their kinsmen comprising of the Ekureku, the Itigidi and the Igbo Imabana, all in the present Abi Local Government Area of Cross River State.

In the politics of pre-independence Eastern Nigeria, the Ikwo and Agbo people who are now in two different states were part of the old Ogaja Province; and they were represented in the Eastern House of Assembly by the Late Dr. Samuel Efem Imoke in 1953. Imoke became Minister of Labor, Eastern Region of Nigeria, 1955-1961; Minister of Finance, 1956-1961. At a point, Imoke was Minister of Education before he became Leader, Eastern House of Assembly and House of Chiefs. At the dawn of independence in 1960, Imoke became a cabinet Minister representing the defunct National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) and Member of Parliament (1961-1966). His people of Agbo Clan and the Ikwo people were living together peacefully; had a lot of cultural affinities, inter-married and shared a common economic bond.

Before 1920, the Adadama people had common boundary with the Okpitumo people, not the Amagu. According to oral history, the Amagu were refugees who were driven from Ezza during some of the numerous inter-tribal wars. They now settled in part of Okpitumo land to farm for the Adadama as petty laborers to earn a living. This was how they became neighbors to Adadama. In 1920, following skirmishes of disputes on farmland between Amagu and Adadama natives, the District Officer of the then Afikpo District, Mr. G.G. Shute had to use concrete pillars to demarcate the boundary between Agbo and Ikwo people. This was sequel to an agreement endorsed by the Chiefs and Elders of both clans (Agbo in present Abi Local Government Area of Cross River State and Ikwo in present Ikwo Local Government Area of Ebonyi State). Documentary evidence in the National Archives shows that the boundary traverses the Okpitumo and Amagu Communities of Ebonyi State.

As with the case of people with limited space as a result of their historical antecedents, the Amagu people started having problem of expansion during farming seasons. At first, they started fighting their Okpitumo brothers even while they were still paying royalties to Adadama for farmlands. In the 1980s, determined to confront their neighbors, the Amagu people suddenly stopped paying royalties to Adadama but started destroying the Shute Boundary Pillars and encroached on Adadama farmland at the border area.

The aftermath of this was the protracted dispute and commencement of boundary crises which necessitated several dispute resolution meetings held at various times in Abuja, Calabar and Abakaliki at the instance of the National Boundary Commission (NBC).

It is therefore sheer propaganda stunt for officials of the Ebonyi State government to claim that the Deputy Governor of Cross River State was adamant to the calls for peace meetings. It is even this penchant for lying that exposes their complicity in the dispute. At the local government level, several meetings were held between Abi Local Government Council (Cross River State) and Ikwo Local Government Council (Ebonyi State).

Both Local Government Authorities even set up a Peace Committee called Adadama-Amagu Development Committee (ADAMADA) in 2001 to maintain peace between the two neighbors. The ADAMADA peace committee under the leadership of the Vice Chairmen of the two local governments supervised the return and re-erection of Boundary Pillars previously exhumed or destroyed by the Amagu people. Minutes of those meetings are with the NBC.

There is no tangible evidence presented by the Amagu people to justify their encroachment on Adadama land in any of the boundary dispute resolution meetings at the Federal, State, Local Government and even community levels. All they could say was a baseless, fabricated, self-made history of imaginary boundary. They always insisted on hosting officials of the National Boundary Commission to enable them indulge in manipulation and compromise.

But Adadama had always presented documented evidences in support of the existence of the boundary. Also, landmark evidences abound to substantiate their claims. Unfortunately, due to the alleged compromise, the NBC in 2006 proposed ceding part of the Adadama farmland to Amagu (Ebonyi State) on baseless grounds other than what was termed “give –and-take principle.” This was vehemently rejected by Adadama people and the Cross River State Government.

The present unprovoked attack started in the morning of Sunday 13 January, 2013 when an Adadama man, Mr. James Edu was attacked in the bush by unknown assailants. He returned to the Community bleeding profusely out of severe machete cuts. On the following day, Monday 14 January, 2013, a group of Amagu people chased Adadama women from their farms and abducted some of them who are still missing till date. By the afternoon of the same day, 14 January, 2013, Amagu people armed with machine guns and other dangerous weapons invaded, destroyed and attempted to set ablaze a Police Station at Adadama newly constructed by the Cross River State Government (awaiting commissioning) and located about 2 kilometers from the interstate boundary.

From the Police Station site, the Amagu people started firing and advancing towards the settlements of Adadama. Many Adadama people were shot dead, some were kidnapped and others sustained bullet wounds. In fact, many people were confirmed dead apart from several that were declared missing.

On 14 January, 2013, the Chairmen of Abi and Ikwo LGAs held a Peace talk at Ikwo Local Government Area Headquarters (Ebonyi State). The same day, the Governor of Ebonyi State, His Excellency, Chief Martin Elechi who also hails from Ikwo LGA visited the Amagu Community, and by the evening he came up with media propaganda against Adadama instead of condemning the barbaric act of his people.

A follow-up meeting between the two LGAs presided over by their Chairmen was held on 16 January, 2013 at Abaomege (Ebonyi State) with representatives from both Adadama and Amagu. The meeting resolved that peace should return and anybody found with weapons should be apprehended and prosecuted by the Divisional Police Officers (DPOs) of the two Local Government Areas who also attended the meeting. It was also resolved that on Tuesday 22 January, 2013 the Authorities of the two LGAs would visit and assess sites of destruction claimed by both Communities.

Surprisingly, while the Adadama people observed the restoration of peace, and the refugees returned to their homes to continue their normal livelihoods, the Amagu people launched a devastating attack on Adadama in the early hours of Saturday, 19 January, 2013 (which was three days ahead of the Tuesday, 22 January, 2013 proposed visitation to assess sites of destruction). Thus, the peace talk to 16 January, 2013 at Abaomege initiated by the Chairman of Ikwo Local Government Area was a ploy to undermine the security-consciousness of Adadama.

The unprecedented and devastating attack on Adadama on the morning of Saturday 19 January, 2013 was well coordinated. It would be recalled that Gov Elechi had addressed his people on 14 January while advising mobile policemen stationed by him at the border area to maintain peace. The question now is: how come Adadama was invaded again on 19 January? Where were the security operatives?

Armed men (some in military uniforms) conveyed in three hilux pick-up vans (without registration numbers) were dropped at Adadama-Agbo Central road which is the main exit and entry into Adadama and the people thought they were a Peace-keeping force. The men set roadblocks on Adadama road. Suddenly firing into Adadama commenced simultaneously from three axes: from the two extremes and the Central axes of Adadama by three different groups of the Ebonyi people.

They advanced into the Community and the operation lasted for about three hours. Many people were massacred (some had their heads beheaded and taken away leaving their headless bodies), some were abducted, others had bullet wounds and homes were burnt and riddled with sophisticated bullets. It was resistance from few available Adadama youths and warning shots from Government intervention force which later arrived that saved Adadama from extermination.

A dedicated military squad should be stationed at the Adadama-Ikwo border area.

The damaged Police Station in Adadama be rehabilitated, the mini barracks be expanded to accommodate more personnel.

The proposed construction of the road linking Adadama and the border by the Police Station should be implemented.

An investigation should be carried out to determine the alleged roles of the Mr. Chinedu Ogar and Barr. Celestine Igbele in the attack and massacre of Adadama people.

The Cross River State Government should seek legal interpretation of the documents and other evidences and the National Boundary Commission (NBC) be requested to retrace the shute boundary. This would be a lasting solution to the intermittent boundary clashes between Adadama and Amagu.

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