THE perennial harmony existing between the two communities of Okpella-Ogute in Etsako East Local Council and Uneme-Erhurun in Akoko-Edo Local Council, both of Edo State, is being threatened following the air of suspicion currently existing between the one-time peaceful neighbours.
The reason for the new-found animosity is being traced to the discovery of gold and lime stone on a piece of land situated some13 kilometres into an adjourning forest which both communities had made use of its products for years.
Only last week, a fracas broke out between them, leading to the death of one person, while five others were declared missing. The figure of the missing people was given as one from Okpella-Ogute and four Uneme-Erhurun locals.
The land in dispute, said to be situated within Uneme-Erhurun axis, was allegedly contracted to a cement company, BUA, by the traditional ruler of Okpella Kingdom, Okwokpellabe of Okpella, Alhaji Yesufu Dirisu, without the consent of their neighbours.
He allegedly claimed that Uneme-Erhurun community was tenant and maintained that the property in question belonged to his people.
The monarch also claimed that a report of a commission set up in 1981 to look into the issue gave the land to Okpella.
When The Guardian visited the two communities at the weekend, there was high presence of armed soldiers and policemen on the boundary areas.
Infact, reporters had to be led into the communities by a truck load of armed policemen from the Area Command in Auchi, Etsako West Local Council of the state. In Uneme-Erhurun, carcasses of burnt motorcycles, damaged cars and houses, including the community secondary school, were visible.
Contacted on phone, the Okwokpellabe said he was out of town but insisted that the immediate cause of the recent fracas was the sawing of wood in the land, adding it was only Ogute that had row with and not necessarily the entire Okpella kingdom.
Also speaking, the traditional head of Central Uneme clan, Oba Moses Omoarelogie Braimah, said the ‘provocation’ was a deliberate plot to harass him and his people.
“What happened was that the Okwokpelabe invited BUA to go and prospect minerals which is in our area in Uneme land in Akoko Edo LGA. I personally stopped the BUA not to prospect anything because I am the appropriate authority to deal with such issues”.
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