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Fight over oil: Ibaji community count losses

Presently, the communities are as quiet as a graveyard with their indigenes counting their losses after an alleged bloody invasion of their land by the…

Presently, the communities are as quiet as a graveyard with their indigenes counting their losses after an alleged bloody invasion of their land by the people of Anambra State over boundary dispute caused by the discovery of oil in the area. 
As at today, no fewer than 40 persons have so far been killed and their farmlands as well as valuable property by some people suspected to have come in from Anambra State, who were said to have encroached into the two communities due to the oil dispute.
According to Weekly Trust investigations, the hostility started in the area when crude oil was discovered in commercial quantity and the subsequent declaration of Anambra State as  oil producing state, thereby leaving out Kogi State whose land the oil was found.
Those mostly killed and injured were said to be indigenes of Kogi State. Witness said that household items, food stuff, building as well as economic trees belonging to Ibaji people were destroyed in the mayhem.
According to the spokesperson of Echeno community, Mr. Arome Joseph, the problem started when members of the Omakogolo family went to their fishing pond to catch fish, but    were driven  back by some Anambra people, who warned them not to return  to the pond as it belongs to Anambra.
His words: “Our people went to Anaida fishing pond again to fish and a group of Anambra people came to the pond and gave them three days ultimatum to leave. They    warned Ibaji people never to step there again as the land belongs to Anambra. But   the pond belongs to us, so our people continued fishing there without any premonition of an attack, however, on the third day of the ultimatum, the Anambra group carried out their threat,   came with guns and other dangerous weapons.”
He said their people who were not prepared for a fight ran away, while two of them, Ojogbane Iwogba and Ikwoilor Odefi are missing till date.
According to him, the Anambra people went to the area and burnt all their property there, adding that the Igbos also went to a farm camp belonging to Iyagbe community at Echeno, scared their indigenes by shooting sporadically.
“Some of them were not so lucky to escape alive and when the rest returned, they found their houses including a primary school in the settlement destroyed alongside food items worth millions of naira.
He further said   the Anambra group came to Igbogba Lake and killed some of their community members who were fishing there.
Mr. Arome who narrated their ordeals at the Onu’s (Chief) palace said after series of threats from the Anambra group, they made a written complaints to the state government, and copied the area commander, State Security Service (SSS) and Kogi State Commissioner of Police over the attack on them.
The complaint letters dated February 20 and March 26 were written to the mentioned government functionaries. Weekly Trust were shown the letters.
It was further learnt that the Anambra group attacked Echeno and Odeke communities killing some people and setting their farmlands and houses ablaze.
What has so far worsened their worries and fear was the soldiers who came to the community after the killings and destructions.
Arome said   the soldiers deployed to the village had equally not helped matters as they also make people live in fear.
“We are calling on the Federal   and the state governments to come to our aid so that we would not be chased out of our father land. Fifteen of our kinsmen had so far been killed in the crisis, while 25 were injured,” he said.
Echeno community is not the only one that has been deserted, a s Odeke community also played host to the   arsonists and is almost a ghost town now.
The spokesperson of Odeke community, Ojadeh Johnson, said the community has no boundary with Anambra State but with Enugu State, adding that Enugu people too harass  and manhandle   their indigenes going to Onitsha market for business.   Johnson, however, said the rift between them and their Enugu adversaries has been settled amicably before the oil wells controversy started.
“We don’t share boundary with Anambra, so our problem started when oil was discovered in our land and since then the group has been harassing us, but we maintain peace,” he said.
He said the recent crisis started when some Anambra people went to meet Odeke farmers on their farm settlements, manhandled and sent them back to the village with a warning never to return to the area, while also threatening war,” he said.
“The soldiers who are guiding the oil wells and refinery in the area allow the Anambra group access to the places, but prevent Kogi people from going to their farms on the excuse that the disputed area belongs to Anambra people.
He called on the Federal Government to call the soldiers to order because they are not meant to protect only Anambra people.
Although there is the presence of security men in the area, residents say it is not enough to douse the tension that has enveloped the area, adding that the spot which security agents are stationed is over four or five kilometres to the area recently alleged to have been burnt by the Anambra group.
Few days ago, six people of Echeno community in Ibaji local government council of Kogi State were allegedly injured in a renewed hostility between Kogi and Anambra state over the disputed oil field.
It was revealed that the Ibaji people were working in their farms when people of Izago community in Anambra State allegedly attacked them at different locations, injuring six farmers
A resident of the area, Benjamin Adiku, said they were attacked by Anambra people inside their farms on a Monday afternoon.
According to him, the people on getting to the area where the Ibaji people were working on their farms opened fire sporadically, six persons were injured while they succeeded in repealing the attackers back to their place.
He said Anambra community has been threatening to attack them again, saying they actually carried out their threat on Monday by attacking farmers.
“We are all living in fear and tension in Kogi as the Anambra group is still threatening us with more attacks on the Ibaji people. We are being conscious now and we are ready to protect our people and land,” he said.
Adiku while calling on the state government for protection, however, called on the Federal Government to quickly intervene to avert war.
Kogi State Police Command Police Public Relations Officer, (PPRO), Romanus Nwaneri, who could not immediately confirm the incident, however said the JTF has enough men on ground to deal with any situation.
He, however, said   he would contact his detachment on ground in Ibaje to ascertain the true position of things.

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