Dozens reportedly killed and many injured as a result of violence that broke out in four communities of Biase Local Government, Cross River State on today Monday.
Hundreds of women and children said to have displaced in Urugbam, Egbor, Ipene, and Abanwan. The 4 out of 10 Communities that make up Erei clan, which predominantly occupies the South-Western tip of Cross River near the border with Abia.
However, an indigene traced the violence to the sale of a parcel of land, used to cultivate palm fruits since 1973. According to the report, the land belongs to Urugbam and Egbor communities. It was leased out by the Egbor community to African Stone Works Ltd. Allegedly, this was done without the consent of the Urugbam and other communities that have been a part of the cultivation for decades.
Concerning the killings, the Security Agencies were accused of poor response to the violence, which they said was still ongoing as of 9:00 a.m this morning.
Regrettably, the 14 Brigade Nigerian Army is located a few minutes away across the Abia State border in Ohafia. Residents said soldiers there must have heard gunshots ringing amongst Erei people.
The Cross River Police Commissioner, Hafiz Inuwa, over the telephone said: “We have sent our men from area commands to the communities”. Yet to have a detailed report on casualty figures because he had been in Calabar. He insisted that the crisis has been controlled and no report of escalation from his Officers on the ground.
The manager of African Stone Works Ltd, Chima Ezeamama, when contacted, told premium times his company concluded the purchase of the palm plantation a few months ago, and some elements in the communities have ever since causing trouble.
“The troubles are being caused by one or two criminally-minded elements,” Mr Ezeamama stated but refusing to mention names.
He stood firm that the land was “bought legally” and with “due process” followed. Mr Ezeamama said: shortly after the purchase was concluded, violence began brewing. His company Immediately drew the attention of State authorities to it.
According to Chima, ”the state government set up a Judicial panel of enquiry headed by Justice Eyo Ita and his report was delivered last week Thursday”.
Senator Sunday Ugbuoji, from Ebonyi State, who was Identified as a major investor in African Stone Works Ltd., and is said to have a lingering interest in the disputed plantation. However, when called, refused to answer calls on the issue.