By ANDY NWOGHA, Abakaliki
A group, Ezza Ezekuna Benue Development Association has on Tuesday raised alarm over incessant attacks and killing of Ezza people living in Benue State by Ufiom warlords.
The group also debunked the allegations that they were responsible for the attack against Ufiom people in Akparata.
Recal that the Effium Indigenous Vanguard had over the week issued a press statement faulting the former, but in a reaction the Ezza Ezekuna Benue Development Association through the President General, Perpetual Nkechi Okafor, Chairman, BOT, Me. Nweke Linus Chinedu, representative of Patrons, Chief Anthony Nwafor and Publicity Secretary, Me. Cletus Igwe described as unfounding the allegations by the Ufiomites against them.
According to them; “Following several attacks, killings and burning of houses of the Ezza Ezekuna people living in Benue State by Ufiom warlords and hired mercenaries, it has become compelling on us to address the press on the developments which if left unchecked would lead to escalation of the already tensed situation.
“First, we wish to thank the Benue State government under the leadership of His Excellency, Chief Samuel Ortom, the Executive Chairman of Ado Local Government Area, Rt. Hon. James O. Oche, the honourable member representing Ado State Assembly, Chief Mrs. Agnes Uloko, the member representing Ado/Okpaga and Ogbadigbo federal constituency, Hon. Dr. Otta Agbo, the senator representing Benue South Senatorial Zone, Senator P. Aba Moro and the traditional ruler of Ulayi Community, Ogaba Idu Ocheje Abo Ominyi, that of Agila Community, Ogaba Idu Moses Obande, and the Chief of Ijigbam District, Chief Christopher Onumah for the several efforts they have made and are still making to forestall escalation of the unfortunate war that broke out in Ohaukwu Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, between our people and Uffiom people, into Benue State.
“Ado Local Government Area of Benue State shares boundaries with Ohaukwu Local Government Area of Ebonyi State. Both Ezza people and Ufiom people of Effium Community in Ebonyi State also migrated to Benue and are living in different parts of Agila and Ulayi Communities of the State long before the outbreak of the war which began on 22 January, 2021.
“Indeed, we once again condemn the current war between our people, Ezza and Ufiom people in Ebonyi State, particularly in Effium Community.
“However, this press conference was mainly necessitated by several attacks and killing of our people in Benue State after the authorities in the place had called both our people, Ezza and Ufiom people not to extend the war to Benue land which was sealed by oath sworn by both parties (Ezza and Ufiom people) in the presence of chiefs and elders of Ulayi and Agila Communities of Benue State.
“It was on January 22, 2021 which the unfortunate and needless war broke out in Effium Community of Ebonyi State that the first attack was launched by the Ufiomites at Odum Ulayi of Benue State where three Ezza men were abducted. On January 23, 2021, two Ezza people were again abducted in the same Odum village by the Ufiomites. These people have been missing till date.
“It was when serious alarm was raised to Benue State government authorities and the traditional institutions that the traditional rulers of Agila and Ulayi called our people, Ezza and Ufiom people and caused them to swear an oath that they wouldn’t cross the Ebonyi boundaries to start war in Benue land, as they would not allow such, because they (Benue people) are not part of the crisis in Ebonyi community. This ritual was sealed and our people who are always peaceful decided to obey and never violated the order of our landlords.
“However, it is very disheartening to state that the Ufiom people have not respected the oath taken and/or obeyed it, rather, they have continued to attack and kill our people in Benue State, especially in Ulayi Community.
“Apart from the two incidence of 22 and 23 January, 2021, which happened before the oath was taken, several other attacks and abductions of our people have continued unabated and we have severally reported them to the Benue State authorities.
“On January 31, 2021,Ufiom hired mercenaries launched deadly attack at Osukputu village of Ulayi Community and killed four Ezza people, namely; Sunday Nwakpa Nwafor, Emeka Nwakpa Nwafor, Sunday Okpuku and Emeka Nweke Nwali.
“Reports of this ugly development was sent to authorities in Benue State which necessitated a peace meeting called by the Chairman of Ado Local Government Area, Hon. James Oche who warned that Ado was not part of the crisis area and added that any of the groups, either Ezza or Ufiom, who breached the peace accord would attract joint attacks by their hosts and other residents. Izzi people living in Benue were present and can attest to this.
“Again, on March 3, 2021, Mr. Clement Akpoko, an Ufiomite who relocated from the village to Akparata in Ebonyi State which is today the war barrack of the Ufiomites led the Ufiom warriors and their hired assailants to Odum village square where our people gathered to settle minor squabbes and kidnapped four people. The people include, Chief Bartholomew Nwode, our village head, Chief Alphonsus Nwali, Mr. Hycint Nwigubala, Mr. Simon Nwonu and Mr. Friday Ogali.
“Again, we sent reports to Benue State authorities, including the LG Chairman and the Deputy Governor of Benue State who hinted us that he had called Ebonyi State Deputy Governor, Kelechi Igwe to facilitate the release of those people, but to no avail.
“Police authorities in Benue State through the DCO of Igumale Divisional Headquarters who was making frantic efforts for them to gain freedom told us that the Ufiom warlords called him on phone after he led a team that visited the area for the victims to be released and told him that he and his men would be carried dead home if they visit Akparata again. The traditional ruler of Ulayi community received also received similar phone call when he mounted pressure on them to release our brothers.
“In a nutshell, several efforts have been made by the Benue State government for the victims to be released, but up to this time, our people are still in the custody of the Ufiomites in Akparata. Whether they are still alive or dead is best known to Ufiom people.
“In view of this, we, hereby, once again, draw the attention of the Benue State government to the fact that the Ufiomites have blatantly breached the peace agreement we entered into; that war happening in Ebonyi should not be extended to Benue land.
“The attention of the traditional rulers of Ulayi and Agila Communities are also drawn to the fact that the Ufiomites in their usual nature have vowed to extend the killings and property destruction going on in Effium Community of Ebonyi State to Agila and Ulayi Communities.
“The Benue and Ebonyi State governors, Samuel Ortom and David Umahi, respectively, should quickly do something in this regard to avert the current situation that is capable of leading to interstate war. We are aware of some pockets of interstate war between Benue and Ebonyi, especially that of Agila and Ngbo, therefore, allowing the current situation to deteriorate would, no doubt, result to a horrific debacle and blood bloodshed that might leave grave consequences on the two states, especially Ebonyi.
“We therefore, call upon relevant authorities to prevail on the Ufiomites to release our recently kidnapped Chiefs within 72 hours alive; not as if we are careless about the earlier victims, but we have chosen, all along, to exercise possible restraint, believing that the authorities would do the needful, and the time is now.
“We want to warn that we may not continue to fold our arms and watch our people kidnapped and slaughtered like straying chickens on daily basis, because, nobody has the monopoly of violence.
“Enough is enough!”, they concluded.