About Three people were killed and 30 houses burned down after a land dispute between the Egborode and Okwijorogu communities in the Okpe local government area of Delta state.
saturday punch deduced that the disputed land is located on the old road to Lagos.
The incident that occurred on New Year’s Eve claimed the life of one Mr. Charity Ogbe from the Egborode community and in retaliation; Youth from the community burned several houses in the Okwijorogu community.
In a video shared with our correspondent by a source, Victor Akpenvwe, Ogbe’s lifeless body is seen on the road with supporters crying and shouting ‘Okwijorogu no go exist again’.
It was deduced that both communities used to face each other along the old Lagos road before the government built the new Lagos road which split the Egborode community in two.
Akpenvwe said saturday punch that over time, the other part of the old Lagos road was occupied by indigenous people from Okwijorogu, adding that efforts to recover the land had led to conflicts between the two communities.
A shop owner along New Lagos road residing in Egborode, Ms Cynthia Obie, told our correspondent that more than 30 houses including shops were also burnt down during the crisis.
Our correspondent noted that some merchants and shop owners along the road were driven away and some shops were set on fire.
Speaking further about what happened between the two communities, Obie said: “I have two stores there and that’s where they started fighting. They were fighting over the land because that part was supposed to belong to Egborode but the people of Okwijorogu claimed it. You know it was the old Lagos road before they created a new express road.
“It’s the new road that splits Egborode in two, so the Okwijorogu people want to claim the other side where Egborode was split and the Egborode people said it’s not possible and that’s what caused the fight. They have burned almost all the houses in that town. My prayer is that it doesn’t lead to something else.”
About how Ogbe died, he said that he was shot when he was going to the crossing. She said: “They shot him and he didn’t know they were carrying a gun. They only held sticks and machetes; he didn’t know that one of them was holding a gun. As he was returning, he was shot in the back. After shooting him, they attacked him with a mortar.”
Our correspondent who visited the Egborode community on Sunday, January 1, 2023, saw guards with guns and machetes searching cars and passenger bags at the entrance of the community.
The atmosphere was tense; various shops were locked up as people stood at different crossroads outside their houses arguing.
A resident, Aisosa Aibangbe, told our correspondent that some residents had fled the community for their lives.
He said: “My brother, this New Year started on a sad note. I just can’t imagine the problem getting to this level. Someone has even died. Many people have even run away out of fear.”
Another resident who gave his name only as Ochuko said some of the residents ran away because they were avoiding thugs who might loot their shops.
“In fact, the owner of a pharmacy packed everything inside her store and ran towards Warri. Now we live in fear,” she added.
Tega Ayi, a grocery store owner, said the situation had become unbearable.
She said her husband took their children to his sister’s house in the state capital immediately after the crisis began, adding that he planned to meet them there later.
She said: “I just came to buy something from the store. This problem has been around for a while, but yesterday (New Year’s Eve) it got worse. In fact, my husband went with our children to my sister’s house in Warri. I’ll be with them later today. My brother, I don’t want to die because of the earth crisis”.
Our correspondent also visited the home of one of the victims in Egborode, who sustained an injury to his left hand due to the fire in the Okwijorogu community. The victim, however, refused to speak on the matter.
The victim asked our correspondent to go to the head of the community for any information.
One of the community elders, who gave his name simply as Mr. Use, advised our correspondent to be careful and tread carefully in the matter.
He said: “My brother, this is a fight between two horses. You have to watch your movement in this community, especially for your safety. Some of them don’t know what your job is as a journalist and before you know it they will think you are from the government and if they attack you that will be your cup of tea.”
Efforts to get the community leader to talk about the matter were futile as our correspondent had to leave the community for safety when some young people started asking about his mission.
Our correspondent, who also visited the Okwijorogu community on Sunday, noted that many houses were burned, including the premises of a Redeemed Christian Church of God and a Living Faith Church in the area.
Motorcycles and tricycles were also burned. The once-bubbling community has become a shadow of its former self, with residents packing up their property and fleeing the area.
Some youths were also seen with machetes and wood, looting and selling items to junk dealers who also collected the items that were seen around.
At the time of the visit, there were no security agents in the area.
A resident whose home was affected, who gave his name simply as Tega, said he was unable to escape because the incident took him by surprise.
He said: “My wife and I were inside the house when they came and yelled at us to go to bed. He surprised me. The whole thing was like a movie. They burned houses in the town. I did not expect that we would spend the New Year like this without a roof over our heads. You can see for yourself that they have burned everywhere.”
Another resident, Lucky Odavwaro, said he was scared to see the type of vehicles brought by some of the people who participated in the fight.
Odavwaro stated: “It was like another world war. They burned the houses but they didn’t kill the people, they just threw them out of their houses. They said they don’t want people back on the land that belongs to Egborode.”
One shop owner, Bright Chijioke, said it was as if the community had turned into a desert.
He said: “Even if you were given a piece of land in this place, would you take it when you know what can happen in the next few months? What happens is that this topic has been around for a while. But I often tell people that we didn’t come into this world with anything, and we won’t return with anything. Now they have killed someone for the land.”
He claimed that an unidentified man who shot Ogbe was recently released from prison, accusing the person of masterminding the crisis.
In a follow-up to the incident, a villager who spoke on condition of anonymity said saturday punch One person lost their life in the incident.
Contacted, state police spokesman Edafe Bright, who confirmed the incident, said only one person was killed and several buildings were burned.
Bright said: “The incident is confirmed. But the report I have is that one person died. I know that some buildings were demolished, but for now I don’t have the exact number of houses affected. But one person was shot dead by one of the suspects, Ogbeini Otoyon. And the person who was killed is a man, Charity Ogbe.”
He added that he was awaiting further details from the District Police in the area.
Speaking about solving communal crises in the country, a social commentator and Professor of Sociology Education at the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Oledinma Nwanna-Nzewunwa, urged the government to be more proactive in providing adequate security for the volatile areas.
She said that such crises erupted when there was disagreement or supremacy over ownership of property.
noted Nwanna-Nzewunwa. “It is common for people who live together to have misunderstandings, but the extent to which it is happening now in Nigeria requires caution. Some of the causes are ownership of land and other property, as well as power struggles and supremacy.
“The government is doing something about it, but not enough. I think that since the government is aware of the major issues in dispute, it should station law enforcement closer to volatile areas and be proactive in providing adequate security in those areas. Once communities are aware of the presence of law enforcement officers in their areas, even if they engage in such acts, it will not be to the point of loss of life and property.
“One of the problems is that politics has done a lot of damage in that sense. In addition, there is still a psychological problem where you find that people who are engaged in such things have lost their sense of humanity. Currently, the most worrying issues have to do with politics because some people believe that when they do something bad, there is a godfather to ensure their bail.
Also, speaking about the efforts of the Delta state government to curb crises between communities, State Information Commissioner Charles Aniagwu said that the government established three committees to engage with communities to ensure peaceful coexistence.
He added that the state reduced community clashes from what it used to in the past through continued interface with communities.
Aniagwu said: “As a government, we have continued to bring communities together through programs, projects, appointments and seamless interface. We established three committees to interact with the communities. Through the committees we were able to interact with the traditional rulers, youth and different people from the communities and that is why in the last seven and a half years there has been a drastic reduction in community disagreements and conflicts.
“In some cases, we accommodate them and have them play soccer and other games together and that has greatly helped make the communities more peaceful. Sometimes you might have some disagreements like the one you just mentioned, but it doesn’t go to the level we’ve been used to in the past.”
The commissioner said that once a crisis broke out in any community, the committee would step in, address it and report back to the governor in case there were other things that needed to be done.