Houses were burnt down, and no fewer than twenty people have been killed in a renewed communal clash in Benue state.
Reports reaching Goldennewsng on Monday morning revealed that there was chaos between residents of the Yache-Ijiegu community in the Yala Local Government Area of Cross River State and Tiv settlers from Benue State last night through Monday morning over lingering boundary clashes.
It was gathered that scores of people also sustained various degrees of wounds from gunshots and machete cuts. Residents who spoke to journalists said more casualties, mostly women and children, may be recorded afterwards.
Daily Post quoted a resident of Yache, Augustine Odey, as saying that the hostilities resumed on Thursday afternoon when their son, Ayeku Godwin Ochuole, went to his farm, where Tiv assailants allegedly attacked and killed him.
According to him, the incident allegedly resulted in the abduction of, at least, nine other persons who suffered various degrees of bullet wounds.
Goldennewsng understands that the violent boundary clashes started about two months ago when the Tiv settlers allegedly refused to continue the payments of royalties for their stay on Yache lands.
A Tiv leader who spoke to journalists, Jacob Uswa, who inherited his position as chief on the land from his father and has lived there for 54 years, the natives have been extorting them by force. He said that the Tiv settlers have been residing in the area for over a century, intermarrying and owning properties, and have no other place to call their own. The Yache boys have been launching surprise attacks from the bushes, resulting in the deaths of Tiv settlers, as per the allegations.
“We can’t fold our arms and watch them continue to exterminate our people. We have to defend ourselves. They usually hide in the bushes to launch attacks. This is also our land. We are also from Cross River State,” he claimed
My father and his own father lived in this community for over 100 years. And I have lived here for over 50 years.
“I am surprised to hear from Yache people that we are not from here.
“We are indigenes of Cross River State, not Benue State. Despite this, we had succumbed to obeying their demands to pay royalties on lands and houses,” he added.
According to him, it was the Yache boys who came to collect royalties that sparked the fight in July 2023, which has continued unabated despite government interventions and the presence of the military.
Also reacting to the incident, a youth leader in Yache, Augustine Odey, said that the renewed killings and insecurity in Yache could be attributed to the inactivity of both state governments. It has been alleged that, in addition to the peacekeeping soldiers, there is evidence of other armed soldiers accompanying Tiv settlers and causing chaos.
“The Cross River State and Benue State governments have continued to act like toothless bulldogs, allowing their citizens to die in a crisis they should have put an end to.
“The latest of the attacks resumed on Thursday through Sunday when the Tiv people of Benue State, accompanied by the military, successfully penetrated the Ijiegu-Yache Community and shot at Ijiegu people who went to the farm. This resulted in the gruesome killing of an indigene of Ijiegu-Yache,” Odey said.
On his part, one of the commanders of the security team, who gave his name as Lt. Alex as well as Lt. H. J. Enoibor, explained that they have tried their best to ensure peace return to Yache, but, “Yache boys constantly indulge in attacks. The Tivs have listened to us by restraining us.
“They killed one of my men yesterday, and I had to frown at it. The Yache boys would even move to the other side of Benue State, where soldiers are also keeping watch to attack.
“They have made our peace efforts difficult. We had thought we wouldn’t be here up to two weeks, but it’s going to months now. They should know that war is not good at all. Yache cannot withstand the Tivs.
“We have scheduled to hold a joint peace meeting with all stakeholders on Wednesday, hoping that it will finally bring about an amicable settlement,” he said.