Day bubble burst in Benue community

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It has been more than one week since Tyo-Mu, a community in the suburb of Makurdi, the capital of Benue State, went up in flames, but the pains suffered by displaced residents are far from abating.

A smouldering crisis involving two brother tribes in the community—the Ihyarev and the Kparev—was fanned into an inferno that razed no fewer than 30 houses and left hundreds of the residents displaced.

The crisis has become a recurrent decimal between the two Tiv groups as they both lay claim to ownership of the land located at the bank of River Benue with a large fadama used by residents of the area for moulding of burnt bricks in the dry season and farming rice, cassava and yam in the rainy season.

The Ihyarev tribe in the Tiv community are said to regard themselves as the indigenes of the town while they regard the Kparev who have also lived there for more than 100 years as settlers.

A Kparev eyewitness, Terna Aker, told The Nation that trouble started when the Ihyarev attacked the Kparev who were moulding blocks at the bank of River Benue.

According to Terna, the Ihyarev allegedly told the Kparev to vacate the river bank because they were no longer wanted.

“Before we could pack our buckets and clothes and leave, they pounced on us (Kparev) and attacked some of our people,” he said.

Terna said he only narrowly escaped death, but his house was set ablaze as the attackers moved the fight from the bank of River Benue to the mainland and set Kparev houses ablaze.

At press time, virtually all the houses in Tyo-Mu located on the Makurdi-Gboko federal highway had been set ablaze with smoke billowing into the sky, while residents  were seen leaving the settlement with mattresses. Many women were also seen seeking safe havens with babies strapped to their backs.

Five years without peace

Since the 2015 general elections, there had been no peace in Tyo-Mu. Hardly would a week pass without one or two persons killed.

Confirming the crisis, the spokesperson of the Benue State Police Command, Kate Sewuese Anene, said a team of Policemen had arrived the scene to maintain law and order.

A community leader, Chief Dogo Ugo, expressed shock that the Kparev who supported the Ihyarev when they were attacked by the Jukun are now being regarded as settlers and their houses are being burnt.

He attributed the recent crisis to the fact that the Kparev voted massively for Governor Samuel Ortom in the last governorship election and the governor has been protecting them; a situation he said was not pleasing to the Ihyarev who pride themselves as first sons who are entitled to the governorship position.

He called on security agencies to protect Kparev people from extermination.

Going round the community to assess the damages, the Secretary to the State Government, Prof. Anthony Ijohor, frowned at the magnitude of the destruction, describing it as unexpected and embarrassing.

He said: “The level of destruction is massive. Imagine brothers who have lived together for over 60 years engaging in this kind of destruction.

“Although there was no loss of life, we will bring the full weight of the law to bring the culprits to book.

“This crisis has to do basically with land. I want to urge the people to exercise restraint and not to embark on any reprisal.”

Meanwhile, Ihyarev people have fled Typ- Mu settlement as soldiers have taken over the disputed community.

An Ihyarev man, Tyodugh Tor, who fled to Malurdi, told The Nation that Ihyarev people did not support  the attack on Kparev.

Tyodugh stated that some politicians of Ihyarev extraction misled some youths into attacking their Kparev brothers.

He explained the crisis on two factors: criminality and politics. On criminality, he said  some youths took advantage of the situation on ground to loot properties, while politically, those who lost elections blamed Kparev people for their misfortune. They then went ahead to attack the people.

He, however, pleaded with the combatants not to mistake the actions of a few hoodlums as those of  Ihyarev people.

Ortom demands end to violence

Reacting to the crisis, Governor Ortom has warned its perpetrators to cease hostilities and give peace a chance.

The governor described as unacceptable the violence that led to the burning of many houses and displacement of hundreds of people.

He stated that no individual or group has the right to claim ownership of land as all lands belong to government.

The governor urged security operatives to identify and arrest any individual or group of persons suspected to be fuelling the crisis, stressing that his administration would not allow enemies of peace to get away with their anti-development actions.

He wondered why the people of Tyo-Mu, who he said had lived together for decades, would suddenly allow some selfish individuals to plant seeds of discord among them.

The governor charged all the stakeholders in the Tyo-Mu crisis to embrace the dialogue initiated by the Benue State Security Council whose delegation is led by the Secretary to the State Government, Prof. Anthony Ijohor, SAN, to end the conflict.

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