…many injured, scores flee, houses burnt
Gunmen yesterday morning invaded Edikwu community in Ugbokpo in Apa Local Government Area of Benue State and killed at least 13 people.
The crisis was said to be fallout of a dispute over chieftaincy stool. New Telegraph learnt that the attackers, who made incursion into the community about 4:30a.m., also left scores of others injured. Scores of people were rendered homeless as the assailants set several houses ablaze.
Sources from the area told the New Telegraph that the dispute over the stool of Alegwu of Edikwu, which was traced back to 1994, led to persistent killings in the community by armed gangs allegedly hired by an aggrieved contender to the stool.
They said the contender had been on selfexile since the beginning of the crisis. The aggrieved contender was said to have disagreed with the choice of the kingmakers of the community who elected the late Chief Imoni Otokpa as Alegwu of Edikwu. Otokpa died in 2018.
The latest attack on the community came just three months after the state Deputy Governor, Mr. Benson Abounu, on behalf of Governor Samuel Ortom, presided over a peace meeting of stakeholders of the community. At May meeting, it was agreed that feuding parties should sheathe their swords and embrace peace.
The Acting Chief of Alegwu of Edikwu, Chief Otokpa David Imoni, said the aggrieved contender had declared war on his people with the active support of some local politicians and had overtime sent armed militia to attack his people to compel them to accept him as the traditional ruler, even after taking the matter to court.
He said: “The present one took place this morning (yesterday) when gunmen invaded Ukpogo community about 4:30a.m., and began to shoot anything that showed sign of life. “Thirteen bodies were found after their departure about 6a.m.” It was learnt that the joint military operation in the state, code-named Operation Whirl Stroke, had mobilised and taken over the immediate area to forestall further attacks. When contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer, Deputy Superintendent, DSP Catherine Anene, confirmed the attack and 13 deaths.
She said: “Edikwu District, Ukpogbo in Apa Local Government Area of Benue State was experiencing incessant crises over chieftaincy affairs till 25/05/2020 when the Benue State government convened a peace meeting that was headed by the Deputy Governor, Benson Abounu, to put an end to the rancour.
“Peace was restored to the area on till August 10, 2020 about 4a.m., when information was received that about 20 armed men invaded the community and shot sporadically at members of the community.
“Police officers were deployed to the scene where 13 corpses were recovered. Investigation is still in progress. Further development will be communicated to you.”