Published On: Tue, Jun 19th, 2018

Bishop donates to victims of Abia/Cross River states border clashes



Temporary relieve has eventually come the  way of Iheosu-Isu people in Arochukwu Local Government Area of Abia state, as the Catholic Diocese of Umuahia donated items to cushion their suffering. This followed the invasion of the community by their neighbouring community of Utuma  in Cross River state. But permanent relief will only come when the affected displaced persons are assisted to return to their original homes and farmlands.

Courtesy ThisDay

The people of Iheosu,a food producing community, fled their ancestral homes about two months ago and are now refugees, being harboured in parts of Ututu, Arochukwu and Ihechiowa clans, respectively; while those, who could, have escaped to Umuahia, Aba and other major towns in the state for safety, pending when normalcy  would prevail and the people  assisted to go back to their traditional homes.

Meanwhile, schools, church, farming and commercial activities have come to abrupt end in the troubled locations, while no agency of government has yet accessed the areas to ascertain extent of damage.

Worried by the pains, agony and inconveniences associated with the fate of displaced persons, the Catholic Bishop of Umuahia Diocese, Most Rev. Dr. Lucius Ugorji on Monday, June11, 2018 led a team of Catholic faithful on a solidarity visit to the   community to see the situation by himself.

But because soldiers deployed to open a corridor to the troubled community have not succeeded in their bid, the Iheosu people were assembled at St. Paul’s Catholic   Church, Ututu, where the Bishop addressed them and presented gift- items estimated at millions  of Naira to the victims.

Speaking to the people, Bishop Ugorji prayed for them and called on God to intervene into the pitiable situation of the people. He also called on the governments to live up to their constitutional responsibility of protecting the lives of her citizens and their properties.

Said he: ”Government should help the people to go back to their homes where they have been living over the years and continue their farm work. No matter the cause of the recent crisis, government should speedily enthrone peace and ensure brotherly co-existence amongst the communities”.

Narrating their ordeals earlier, Elder Nwachinemere Kalu (the Traditional Prime Minister of Iheosu Community), Mr. Odinaka Orji, Mr. Daniel Abah and the Chairman of Arochukwu Local Government  Area Traditional Rulers Council, Eze, Sir Linus  Mba, respectively told the Bishop of how the Utuma people of Cross River blocked their only farm road and prevented them from going to their farms to harvest their crops or work there.

They alleged that their valuable properties were looted before their houses were set ablaze by their Utuma border neighbours. After that they started harvesting their crops and economic trees communally. All of them, in their personal submissions sent passionate appeals to governments to allow peace to prevail.

They said that most of them invested much in agricultural cultivations this farming year, stressing that they should be assisted to return to their homeland and attend to their farms.

”We thank the Catholic Church for remembering our plight and thought it wise to come to our aid. We are grateful. We are also calling on Abia state Government to urgently come and help us get back to our homes. The security operatives should create an open corridor and station men to monitor re-settlements and human activities there.  Majority of us could turn to beggars or take to mean lives if our present harsh conditions continue.”

Indeed, the problem of Iheosu and Utuma started on 18th April, 2018, the day Utuma people blocked the road leading to Iheosu community. Utuma in Cross Rivers State is situated between Iheosu and Aba-Isu in Abia state. These three border communities have lived peacefully and harmoniously over the years.

Since the clash, business and commercial activities in these communities have come to a lull. No genuine human activities are said to be going on in these communities. According to sources, it is being claimed that about 10 people, including a seven- month old child, have been killed during the misunderstanding.

Among those killed, two of them were allegedly beheaded. One of them, Rev. Okereke Nchege, a Pastor in-charge of one of the denominations in Iheosu, whose headless body was later carried away by the Utuma people, as alleged. Rev. Nchege met his untimely dead while harvesting his crops in his farm.

In all, the people want an immediate end to the hostility; a corridor created so that they can access their burnt homes and farms. There are glaring evidences of the existence of abundant limestone deposits in this location. I

t will be recalled that this particular basin was the food-basket of the defunct Republic of Biafra during the 30-months Nigeria/Biafra civil war. Government’s quick intervention will do a world of good to the community, economy of these states and the country at large.

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