How they killed our husbands, wives, children, by victims
In Ochienyim Amagu, and Enyibichiri Echi-Alike, Ikwo, in local government areas of Ebonyi State, it is tales of sorrow, hunger and hardship following the protracted boundary war between the communities and neighbouring Adadama, Abi Local Government Area of Cross River State and Abakaliki Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, which left many of them as widows, widowers, orphans and refugees. Uchenna Inya reports
It is almost ten years the people of Ochienyim Amagu in Ikwo local government area of Ebonyi state and their neighbouring Adadama, Abi local government area of Cross River state engaged in war over land matters. The two neighbouring communities have been intermarrying and doing so many things in common.
Most of them are almost speaking same language. They have been living in peace until they took up arms against each other in a bid to claim a fertile land that demarcated them. Efforts were put in place to end bloodletting among them including several peace talks and beefing up of security by both two states and federal government but killing, maiming, burning of houses, abduction and forceful harvesting of crops remained unabated while hunger and hardship became what they have continued to suffer like sickness.
Even the relief materials which included foods of all kinds distributed to them by National Emergency Management Agency(NEMA) attracted by Chief Chinedu Ogah, member representing Ezza South/Ikwo federal constituency in the House of Representatives is like putting salt in an ocean because of the enormous damage the war did to the people of Ochienyim, Ikwo local government area of Ebonyi state who are badly hit by the protracted war. Most of them are currently sleeping in open places in the area including trees, markets, schools and churches following the burning down of their houses by warlords.
How warlords killed our husbands, wives, children, burnt our houses-victims Ifeoma Ochiede, one of them told New Telegraph that she lost her husband who was the main breadwinner to the war. Ochiede, nursing a 21-day-old baby when she lost her husband, said she immediately went into menial jobs to carter for the two children she currently has. However, the young nursing mother said she is tired and that she would wish to remarry to possibly ameliorate her sufferings. In Ochienyim community, any woman whose husband was killed in any form of war cannot remarry.
She rather must remain in her husband’s home whether things are good or hard for such woman. Because of this, Ochiede is handicapped. Narrating her ordeal since she lost her husband to the war, the dejected woman said “nobody is helping me since they killed my husband in this war.
My father in-law said he is tired and can no longer assist me. My parents have advised me to leave my husband’s community but their people refused to allow me go. They said any woman whose husband was killed in a war can’t leave the husband’s place.
“I have two children from my husband and I want to remarry but the community said I shouldn’t try it, that their tradition forbids it. They said a woman that lost her husband to war can’t remarry and must stay in her husband’s place. It has been my greatest problem because nobody is assisting me and things are very hard for me.
I want to go into business but no money to do that. “My husband was among those selected by the community to ensure that Cross River people do not occupy our land. It is from there that he was killed. They didn’t even release the corpse; nobody knows what they did with his corpse.
That time the killed my husband, I was nursing a new born baby who was three weeks old then. Since then, I have been suffering. I carry the baby to go to jobs for people in order to feed. I feed on menial jobs. It is as result of all these sufferings that I have been going through that made me to decide to remarry but the community is insisting that I can’t try it.” Chief James Nweke also from Ochenyim community, has suddenly became a bachelor which he quitted many years ago. His only wife was beheaded last year.
Nweke’s late wife and five other women in the community who were also beheaded, were on their way to work for someone who hired them for menial jobs before they were beheaded by warlords. Since then, Nweke has not been himself. He has not seen some of his children while some of those he has seen are in their maternal home where they are currently taking refuge. “My wife was killed by warlords and my children are scattered. I have not seen some of them. Some of them are currently at their grandmother’s place at Item Amagu.
I am sleeping in our community because soldiers are living very close to us. “I am now a bachelor when I shouldn’t be so. Each time I am eating and I remember my wife, I will drop the food because she was everything to me; a friend, mother and wife. I am the one cooking for myself now, nobody is by myself as a wife and my children are not with me.
“My wife was killed in 2019. She was waylaid on her way to work for somebody. She was among the six women that were going to work and were abducted and beheaded. They were beheaded in Agaofu, the land in dispute and that land belongs to us.
We want the Cross River people to vacate the land, because it is our own,” he said. Also, Chief Nwazunku Nwekoyo of Ochienyim who said he was born in 1960, lost his 15 years old son, Chukwuemeka Nwekoyo to the war. The boy had finished writing his West African Examination Council(WAEC) and came out with flying colours and was warming up for his university education when he was killed by warlords. His family was taking refuge under the tree and he was asked to go to their house and carry some foods they will prepare and eat when he was waylaid by warlords.
His father narrated the whole thing to New Telegraph that: “my 15-year-old son Chukwuemeka Nwekoyo was killed in the war between our community and our neighbouring Adadama Cross River State. He was preparing for his university education that time he was killed.
He came to carry food from where we were taking refuge when the Adadama people pounced on him and killed him instantly. “After killing my son, proper war between our community and those of Adadama began. We continued fighting the war and we lost our valuable things. All my houses were burnt, all my crops were harvested. When the war started nine years ago, the former Governor of Ebonyi state, Chief Martin Elechi visited us and saw the enormous damage in our community and wept.
The Adadama people were killing our people and we were also killing them.” Nwekoyo called for an end to the protracted war. He said the best solution to the war was the demarcation of boundary between the two neighbouring communities and called on the National Boundary Commission(NBC) to do the needful.
“Now, we want the war to end, we want an end to this war. Since nine years this war started, I am homeless. I am living in Item Amagu and I want to return to my place. We want this war to end immediately. The relief materials National Emergency Management Agency(NEMA) and our representative at the National Assembly, Hon. Chinedu Ogah brought to us and shared to us is good but resolving this protracted war by demarcating the boundary is the best for us.
This relief materials can’t stop the war, National Boundary Commission should expedite action and demarcate the boundary so that this war will stop,” he said. On his part, Chief Edward Nwogha Narrated his ordeal thus, “my first wife was abducted and killed in the war between our community and that of Adadama, Cross River state. Warlords also burnt my houses, I am now homeless.
I have been living in somebody’s house and it is now that I am building a house. Some of my children are in the university, some are in primary schools, and some are in secondary schools. I have been battling to train them; life has been so difficult for me.” Also, Mrs. Angelina Nwete from Ochienyim shared her own experience- “they killed my husband in the war, the warlords killed him, Joseph Aloh. He was in the house when they came, abducted him and killed him. We don’t have homes anymore because they burnt all our houses. We sleep anywhere we see, we have not gone back to our community because of the war.” Another woman Rose Oshine also from Ochienyim community, lost one of her children to the war. She said, “my child, Uche Oshine was killed.
He was sent on errand when they waylaid him and killed him. My house was burnt down and no single thing was removed from it. This wrapper I am tying was given to me by somebody. Since the war started, we have not been finding it funny, things have been very difficult for us. I ran to my father’s house, I am currently in my father’s house. My children are also there with me in my father’s house at Nwangamgbo.” In Azuofia Enyibichiri Echi-Alike also in Ikwo local government area, it is same story.
A woman, Ojon Eze said she lost one of her sons to the crisis between the community and her neighbouring Enyida, Abakaliki local government area of Ebonyi state. She said, “one of my sons who had three children was killed last year in the war between our community and that of Izzi, Ebonyi state.
They destroyed the three houses I was living, they also did same thing to that of four buildings one of my sons built. We are homeless now. We are sleeping under the mango trees. My husband is no more alive, I have four children. “We have been having dispute with Enyida people since four years but it has ended after that my son was killed. His children are suffering and nobody is taking care of them, we are dying of hunger. We no longer eat because there is no food to eat, we are dying.
I want those my grandchildren that are suffering to be taken care of, I also want house where we can live so that we can quit sleeping under this mangoes tree.” NEMA distributes relief materials, decry killings National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) while distributing relief materials to the victims of war and communal crisis in Ikwo, Ebonyi state said the state which was hitherto known for peace, unity and love for community development is gradually turning into a theatre of hostilities. It said the number of crises recorded in Ikwo, and by extension the state, in the past few years is evident that age-long cordial relationships have turned sour, while man-hour, man-power and resources meant for development had been lost.
Director-General (D-G) of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), retired AVM Mohammadu Mohammed stated this in Ohatekwe, Ikwo local government area of the state while supervising the distribution of the relief materials to the war victims. Mohammed, who was represented by the South-East Zonal Coordinator of the agency, Mr Fred Anoziem, said the items were meant to provide succour to the victims of the intra and inter community disputes in the area. He explained that Ochuenyum, Ofenekpe, Agubia communities and parts of Alike would benefit from the items, which included food and non-food essentials. He said that the agency was aware of the various communal clashes in the area, arising from boundary disputes, internal political wrangling and chieftaincy title tussles, among others.
He said that the boundary clashes mainly involved communities in Ikwo and those between Ikwo and their neighbours in Cross River. “Although the relief materials are meant for three communities, we are going to extend them to other victims in Igbudu and Ekpomaka, among others,” he stated. He averred that although disasters could happen, communal conflicts, leading to disasters, “could be prevented or avoided.” “Conflicts, such as communal ones, did not emanate from nothing. They are usually due to human actions.
The agency is aware of the border dispute that erupted between Ikwo and Cross River communities in April 2013. Also in June 2016 another report of crisis from the area reached us, while the third was reported in January this year. “Communities involved have been completely displaced and their farmlands declared buffer zones.
“It is therefore sad to lose lives, property and those affected go through the trauma of displacement over crises of great dimension. He therefore called for a rethink, self appraisal and attitudinal reorientation of the people to curtail the spate of communal conflicts in the area.
The relief items included 503 bags of five kilogrammes of parboiled rice, 503 bags of cassava flakes, garri, 403 bags of beans, 61 bags of iodized salt, 125 bags of granulated sugar and 147 cartons of seasoning, among others. Non-food materials included 1,500 blankets, 1,500 insecticide treated nets, 1,000 mattresses, 1,200 pieces of ceiling boards and 1,400 bags of cement, among others.