No fewer than 20 persons have been feared killed in Sunday’s renewed clash between people of Yache-Ijiegu community in Yala LGA of Cross River State and Tiv settlers from Benue State, over lingering boundary clashes.
Specific numbers of casualties are yet to be determined, but women and children are feared to constitute higher numbers.
numbers of those who have sustained various degrees of gunshots and machete cuts are also reported to be high.
More houses on both sides were reported to have been set ablaze, according to various sources.
A source in Yache, Augustine Odey, said the hostilities resumed on Thursday afternoon when their son, Ayeku Godwin Ochuole, went to his farm, where Tiv assailants allegedly attacked and killed him.
According to him, the incident allegedly resulted in the abduction of, at least, nine other persons who suffered various degrees of bullet wounds.
The violent boundary clashes started about two months ago when the Tiv settlers allegedly refused to continue the payments of royalties for their stay on Yache lands.
The Tiv settlers have claimed that they were being extorted forcibly by the natives, and that they have no other place to call their own, having settled there for over 100 years, intermarried and own properties.
Tiv leaders, including Mr Jacob Uswa, who claimed he was born 54 years ago and made a chief on the land after the death of his father, alleged that the Yache boys have continued to spring surprise attacks from the bushes, killing their own people.
“We can’t fold our arms and watch them continue to exterminate our people. We have to defend ourselves. They usually hide in the bushes to launch attacks. This is also our land. We are also from Cross River State,” he claimed
‘My father and his own father lived in this community for over 100 years. And I have lived here for over 50 years.
“I am surprised to hear from Yache people that we are not from here.
“We are indigenes of Cross River State, not Benue State. Despite this, we had succumbed to obeying their demands to pay royalties on lands and houses.”
According to him, it was the Yache boys who came to collect royalties that sparked the fight in July 2023, which has continued unabated despite government interventions and presence of the military.
Augustine Odey, a youth leader in Yache has blamed the governments of both states for being idle over the renewed killings and insecurity in Yache.
He also alleged that apart from the soldiers sent to keep the peace, they have proofs that other ‘armed soldiers’ moved with the Tiv settlers to unleash mayhem against them.
“The Cross River State and Benue State governments have continued to act like toothless bulldogs, allowing their citizens to die in a crisis they should have put an end to.
“The latest of the attacks resumed on Thursday through Sunday when the Tiv people of Benue State, accompanied by the military, successfully penetrated the Ijiegu-Yache Community and shot at Ijiegu people who went to farm. This resulted in the gruesome killing of an indigene of Ijiegu-Yache.”
Reacting, one of the commanders of the security team, who gave his name as Lt. Alex as well as Lt. H. J. Enoibor, explained that they have tried their best to ensure peace return to Yache but, “Yache boys constantly indulge in attacks. The Tivs have listened to us by restraining.
“They killed one of my men yesterday, and I had to frown at it. The Yache boys would even move to the other side of Benue State, where soldiers are also keeping watch to attack.
“They have made our peace efforts difficult. We had thought we wouldn’t be here up to two weeks, but it’s going to months now. They should know that war is not good at all. Yache cannot withstand the Tivs.
“We have scheduled to hold a joint peace meeting with all stakeholders on Wednesday, hoping that it will finally bring about an amicable settlement.”