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Izzi, Ikwo communities battle elusive peace in Ebonyi

The peace that travelled out in Izzi and Ikwo communities of Ebonyi State has not returned following killings, maiming and burning of properties by warlords in the renewed hostilities between the two brothers, UCHENNA INYA reports from Abakaliki

Izzi and Ikwo are closely related that one hardly knows the difference between the two clans. They are very united. They intermarry and share many other things in common. They are the second and third largest clans in the state after Ezza. Now, they have taken arms against each other following a protracted land dispute between two neighbouring communities in the clan; Enyigba in Abakaliki local government area of the state and Enyibichiri Echialike. Enyigba is Izzi clan while Enyibichiri is Ikwo clan. The two neighbouring communities have been at war for years with any killed and properties destroyed over land matters.

On 28th February 2018, 10 persons of Ikwo clan were allegedly killed when suspected warlords invaded Ndioduma Echi-alike. In April 6, 2019, eight family members of Ikwo clan were roasted alive by a suspected warlord when they were returning from the matriculation ceremony of the first son of the family who was offered admission to Ebonyi State University (EBSU).

The incident occurred along Nkwegu-FUNAI road. The state government had to resolve the crisis by demarcating the disputed land. But on 2nd June 2021, a 4 year-old Edem Miracle of Ikwo clan was snatched from his parents by suspected warlords. The incident occurred at Onu- Ebonyi and Jezco filling station. The mother of the child was beaten to near-death by the warlords. Last two weeks, seven children from Izzi clan were abducted by suspected warlords and have not been seen till today. Governor Dave Umahi who was visibly angry over the abduction, gave the abductors seven days ultimatum to release the children.

The seven days ultimatum ends this week while unconfirmed reports said the children may have been killed by their abductors. Umahi in a statement signed by the state Commissioner for Information and State Orientation, Uchenna Orji pleaded with the people of Izzi clan to remain calm and prevent their children from taking laws into their hands while promising them that within 7 days, the matter about the abduction of their children would be amicably resolved.

“The Governor is very hopeful that with his government, religious leaders and good stakeholders of Ebonyi State, these children will be returned to the people of Izzi without any harm. The Governor, therefore, pleads with abductors to kindly release the children to the government within the next 7days from this 6th of June, 2021 with the promise of total amnesty to them.

“Government is not willing to release any of the leaders of Enyibichiri that are in detention to underscore the value of the lives of those abducted. The Governor believes that every life is sacred, and the life of those abducted matters so much to the government. Government, therefore, warns the abductors of the consequences of not providing these children in the next seven (7) days, as government shall have no option other than to move into Enyibichiri to make a massive arrest to get back the children.

“The Governor is aware that the only land dispute between the neighbouring communities has been finally settled by the government with the assistance of the Christian Association of Nigeria CAN and the Bishops in Ebonyi State, which took the state over three years to find lasting peace in the area. It is to be noted that Ebonyi State government through CAN went as far as hiring heavy-duty equipment working on the disputed land for three months and a final demarcation was successfully done and same accepted by both parties. “Government, therefore, wonders why the abduction of innocent children of Enyigba Izzi, should be hatched and executed by just a few miscreants of Enyibichiri Ikwo. The Governor assures the entire Izzi clan that the entire Enyibichiri and Ikwo people at large totally condemn this act as evil,” the statement said.

The Governor in an enlarged Security Council meeting disclosed that the Enyigba and Enyibichiri communal clashes in the state has claimed the life of Ebube Agu Security personnel. He said that he got most of the stakeholders detained and would affect massive arrest in the area if the whereabouts of the abducted people are not known by the Sunday deadline I give them. Since the abduction of the children, there has been tension in Abakaliki capital city following persistent attack on Ikwo people in the capital by their Izzi counterparts which has forced many Ikwo people to relocate from the capital city.

The Izzi people had issued all the Ikwo people in the capital city quit notice before the ongoing attacks on them on daily basis in the city. Abakaliki capital city is located in Izzi land and the people of the clan allegedly ordered every Ikwo person in the city to vacate the land. In the attacks, the residential building of Cornelius Igwe of Nsuba Ettam Okpuitumo situated at Iboko, Izzi local government area of the state was set ablaze by suspected irate Izzi youths. Another victim of the attack, Amaga Nkechi, said, “I am from Ikwo living at Onuebonyi junction in Solomon Ali’s yard, I am here to let government and other individuals know how Izzi people have looted all my properties, this is the items or properties, Chairs, television, DVD, ceiling fan and standing fan, star time, big foam, gas cooker, pots, small generator, rappers, clothes, shoes and money N50,000.”

In Amike-aba, outskirt of Abakaliki metropolis the Proprietor of Treasure Academy along with Simon Onuoha Street at Amike Aba narrowly escaped death when a group of 6 Izzi boys came after him in his school and destroyed all the documents in his school.

The irate youths also destroyed the doors of the classrooms and attempted to burn down the school but for the intervention of the Landlord Mr Nwofoke Onuoba. Another victim said “my name is Matthew Ora from Ikwo, I am living at Onuebonyi junction in Solomon Ali’s yard, I am here to let the government and other individuals know how Izzi people have looted all my properties. These are the items or properties; 2 freezers big and small, Yamaha mate 90 motorcycle, Panasonic big television, family foam 12inches, 2starblizer3000v and queolinck1500v, family bed, 2standing fan Afric, 2carbord, big standing mirror, all my wife’s clothes shoes and bags, all the children’s things, my own clothes and shoes, 5 big bibles mine and my wife’s own, stirring box 911, 2 Brazilian spring 911.”

On Sunday morning 13th June 2021 the school of Igwe Cornelius Nwanchor of Nsuba Ettam Okpuitumo Ikwo was burnt down, an indication that there is no end in sight in the ongoing war between the two clans. In an open letter to Ikwo and Izzi youths, one of the stakeholders of Izzi clan, Chief Onyekachi Nwebonyi, called for an end to the hostilities.

He said, “The people of Ikwo and Izzi are brothers who share the same heritage and ancestry. Alongside others like the Ezza, Mgbo, and Agba people, Izzi and Ikwo share a common progenitor. That there are very slight dialectical and customary variations among the people border on history and cross-cultural influences. “It is then ludicrous that such people who are blood brothers will lock themselves in such an uncouth animosity as obtains between the Ikwo and Izzi people at present. The killings are senseless, the carnage is wanton. “What can come between us as brothers to warrant this? Is it wealth which is ephemeral, is it a power which is fleeting, or is it land which has been there ever before we come and will be there till we are all gone? Nay, it is none of these. Rather, it is the poverty of the mind, which is a dearth of reason and rationality.

“Our forefathers lived together as brothers and left for us the bequeathals and heritage with which we pride ourselves today as unwu Ekumenyi. Out of sheer poverty of the mind, we are destroying the legacies which made us an incredible and unique people. Love has fled and unity has become strange among us. “I want to ask again, how did we come this low? My own is a message of peace; we are better together. Let us remember, as it is said, that title and ancestry render a good man more illustrious, but an ill one more contemptible. Vice is infamous and virtue honourable.

Why can’t we as a people imbibe the ethos of tolerance as a virtue and unifying chord? “Among my retinue of aides are people from different clans, and Ikwo people are a substantial part of them. No matter the provocations we have nobler options to express our grievances.

Dialogue is mightier than arms, no matter how you look at it. Why not embrace dialogue? “No parcel of land is worth the life of a fellow man. People who revel in such atrocities as killing and destruction under whatever guise are sub-humans. I do not believe war can settle disputes, only dialogue can do. It goes to say that those who fan the embers of hatred and instigate war will have their generations accursed forever. And so, anyone who would act or do anything that renews hostility between Izzi and Ikwo people will be cursed and his generation cursed too.”

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