•Community seeks FG, Ebonyi govt’s intervention in 100-year dispute 

By Zika Bobby

Ishinkwo autonomous community in Onicha Local Government Area (LGA) of Ebonyi State has called on Governor Dave Umahi and the Federal Government to help end the over 100 years land dispute between her and her sister community, Abaomege, which has led to deaths and destruction of property, as earlier efforts to resolve the matter through litigations, traditional adjudication and faith-based interventions have failed.

Last year, the Ebonyi State government promulgated an Executive Order, which outlined the modus of sharing the disputed property between both communities. This resulted in the suspension of hostilities between both communities. 

The demarcation was scheduled to take place between October last year and January 2023. However, indications emerged from government quarters that the demarcation would no longer be possible any time soon, not until after the forthcoming general election. Stakeholders in both communities say it is a fundamental error on the part of government that it had not taken the election into  consideration when it was deciding when to share the property. 

“This is regrettable, in view of the fact that, because of the swampy nature of the disputed property, its demarcation can only be possible during the dry season. What this means is that, with the election and change of leadership baton that would follow, the demarcation may simply be too long in coming with the consequence that the two communities may go back into the trenches sooner than later,” said Ishinkwo community’s director of legal services and media, Innocent Elum.

Elum said that only part of the problem, as the people of Ishinkwo would be faced with greater ones: “The three state roads leading to the community were barricaded with concrete structures by the Abaomege people during the crisis and they have remained so, making it almost impossible for our people to enter or exit their community.  One of the roads is a boundary between Ishinkwo community and Igbo -Ekwrekwu community. Igbo  Ekwrekwu is in Cross River State. 

“The second of the barricaded roads leads to the community’s boundary with Ndufu Amofia Ukawu, also in Onicha LGA, while the third leads to Afikpo-Abakaliki Expressway. With this, Ishinkwo is totally cut off. The only road open to it is the F113 Road constructed by the state government under Governor Umahi, which stretches from Uburu through Okposi to Ishinkwo. 

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“This is even as the state government has given orders that none of the parties should do anything on the land, including the blocked roads, until the land is demarcated. So, until the demarcation, which no one knows when it will take place, Ishinkwo roads will remain barricaded, with the adverse consequences that come with it.

“Another problem facing the community is that a police station in the community, which was providing security has since ceased to exist. This followed the unexplainable withdrawal of all the  police personnel. Ishinkwo Police Station was approved by the military government of the then General Olusegun Obasanjo in the 1970s to help stem the tide of invasion of the community.

“Unfortunately, a one-time vibrant  station is now a ghost of its former self as there is no single police officer there anymore. The community is calling on the Inspector-General of Police to use his good office to revive it,” he said.

In their letter to the governor, Elum said the community was unhappy with some political appointments unfavorable to Ishinkwo.

“The state government had, in its wisdom, decided that, in view of the conflict between us and Abaomege community, no political offices or appointments  would be zoned to either of us. We had  considered this fair enough and believed that the decision would persuade both  communities to speedily resolve the matter.

“Information reaching us indicates that one of the principal sponsors of the native war was recently appointed as a council supervisory councillor and another senior assistant. 

We consider both appointments as one-sided, with potential to adversely affect our community,” Elum said.

He called on the governor to consider Ishinkwo also for political appointments for the purpose of balance and equity.