20 people feared killed as Cross River, Benue communities clash over farmland

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Twenty or more people are thought to have died in Sunday’s rekindled fighting between the Yache-Ijiegu village in Yala LGA, Cross River State, and Tiv settlers from Benue State, over unresolved boundary disputes.

Although the precise number of casualties is unknown, it is anticipated that women and children would make up a larger proportion.

It was learned that there are a lot of people who have been cut with machetes and have received gunshot wounds of varying degrees.

Multiple sources said that more homes on both sides had been set on fire.

According to Augustine Odey, a source in Yache, fighting broke out again on Thursday afternoon when their son, Ayeku Godwin Ochuole, went to his farm and was ambushed and killed by Tiv attackers.

He said that at least nine more people who had been shot in varying degrees were kidnapped as a result of the incident.

The Tiv settlers are said to have refused to continue paying royalties for their stay on Yache territories, which sparked the violent boundary conflicts approximately two months ago.

The Tiv immigrants have maintained that, having lived there for more than a century, intermarried, and acquired estates, they are forced to extort money from the natives and have nowhere else to call home.

Leaders of the Tiv people, such as Mr. Jacob Uswa, who asserted he was born 54 years ago and was raised as a chief on the land following his father’s death, stated the Yache youths have persisted in unleashing unexpected attacks from the bushes, murdering members of their own community.

“We cannot stand by and let them keep eradicating our people. We must protect oneself. When they want to attack, they normally hide in the bushes. This land is also ours. We hail from Cross River State as well,” he asserted.

For more than a century, my father and his father before him resided in our village. And I’ve spent more than 50 years living here.

“The Yache people’s claim that we are not native to this area surprises me.

“We are not from Benue State; we are natives of Cross River State. We had given in to their requests to pay royalties on lands and houses in spite of this.

He claims that in July 2023, the violence began because the Yache guys arrived to collect royalties, and it hasn’t stopped despite military presence and government initiatives.

Yache youth leader Augustine Odey has accused the governments of both states of doing little to address the recent spike in killings and unrest in Yache.

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In addition, he said that they had evidence that more “armed soldiers” had moved with the Tiv settlers to inflict havoc on them in addition to the soldiers assigned to maintain order.

“The administrations of Benue State and Cross River State have persisted in acting like helpless bulldogs, letting their people perish in a crisis that they were supposed to have resolved.

The most recent assaults continued from Thursday through Sunday, when the military-backed Tiv people of Benue State were able to enter the Ijiegu-Yache Community and open fire on the Ijiegu people who were going to work on their farms. This led to the horrifically murderous death of an Ijiegu-Yache native.

In response, Lt. Alex, one of the security team leaders, and Lt. H. J. Enoibor, another commander, said that while they have made every effort to bring peace back to Yache, “Yache boys constantly indulge in attacks.” The restraint shows that the Tivs have listened to us.

“I had to scowl at them yesterday when they killed one of my men. The Yache brothers would even relocate to Benue State’s opposite side, where troops are stationed for potential attacks.

“They have complicated our attempts to achieve peace. We had anticipated being here for no more than two weeks, but it’s now been months. They ought to understand how bad war is. Yache can’t take the Tivs anymore.

“We are hoping that this combined peace meeting with all parties involved on Wednesday will finally result in a peaceful resolution.”

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