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Benue communities on war path over alleged land encroachment

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By Henry Iyorkase, Makurdi.

Claims over land border dispute between Igah community in Igumale, headquarters of Ado local government area and their Rijo neighbours in Utonkon local government areas of Benue state have taken a confrontational twist.

Orient Daily gathered that clashes between the communities began last Wednesday resulting  to damages to property on both neighbouring communities. There is a claim that Igah community had, before now, leased portion of its land to the Rijo community for farming who, in return, paid annual dues or royalties at the end of every farming season. The claim said, further, that this practice was unilaterally stopped by Rijo in 2006. They were said to have gone further to lay claims to the land, allocating and selling parts of it to other neighbouring communities without recourse to the other party, Igah.

This was said to have angered the Igah community who directed the Rijo people to vacate the land. This was not to be and all efforts to eject the Rijo community from the land failed, hence the peaceful protest.

The protesting community members who comprised elderly men, women and youths, marched with placards and leaves, to the local government council secretariat at Igumale to hand a protest letter to the council chairman, demanding that Rijo community vacate the land.

Presenting the protest letter to the council chairman, the leader of the Igah community and Ole’Aje of Igumale, Chief Ogomole Obande, stated that the Rijo community had failed to keep to the agreement earlier entered with them and, therefore, should vacate the land to avoid unnecessary crisis.

Obande explained that the activities of the Rijo community on the land were against the initial understanding Igah community had with them, saying the Rijo community had embarked on illegal sale and rent of the land to other neighboring communities without prior knowledge of Igah community.

Addressing the protesters, the chairman of Ado local government area, Chief James Oche, thanked the Igah community for not taking laws into their hands

 but decided to embark on peaceful protest to register their grievances. He maintained that the council had decided to wade into the Rijo and Igah-Igumale boundary dispute.

He explained that, to support his seriousness to amicably resolve the dispute, he had decided to constitute a tripartite committee consisting of the executive, legislative and the traditional rulers to convoke public hearing on the matter and seek ways of resolving the issue that would guarantee peaceful coexistence.

The chairman disclosed that the executive committee would be headed by the supervisory councillor for education, youths and sports, Mr. Attah Ede, while the legislative committee would be headed by the leader of Ado legislative council, Mr. Emmanuel Ajagbo, with the traditional rulers committee to be headed by the Ada’Ado Chief Ochikor Onazi to be assisted by Olong of Ufia, Chief Mathew Egede.

He assured that the outcome of their deliberations would be communicated to the office of the state deputy governor where all issues concerning boundary and land disputes are be treated for immediate action.

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