Ortom still mum as Benue communities’ peace deal collapses

By Egena Sunday Ode

Indications have emerged that the peace deal struck by the warring communities of Ukpute and Bonta in Oju and Konshisha Local Government Areas of Benue State respectively may have collapsed as scores were allegedly killed or injured in renewed attacks.
According to sources, the threat to the peace accord which was only reached penultimate week after days of protracted intense clashes by the two neighbouring communities followed the gruesome killing of a farmer, Mr Oga Icha, by gunmen believed to be members of Bonta community.
Our investigation, however, revealed that five days after the latest killing which residents said “is clearly in breach of the ceasefire agreement,” both the Benue state authorities and the police are yet to utter a word in condemnation of the dastardly act.
No arrest has also been made in connection to the killing and breach of the peace deal as the police personnel deployed from Otukpo Area Command to the crisis areas were said to have left Ukpute about three days before Mr Icha was killed.
The decessed was said to have been waylaid and shot to death while returning from his farm last Friday where he had gone with his wife to harvest his groundnuts.
It was learnt that the incident was immediately reported at the Police Divisional Headquarters in Oju, but the police allegedly dismissed the report as untrue, a development that forced the irate youth of Ukpute to take the body of the deceased to the divisional headquarters of about ten Kilometres for all to see.
However, as tension soared, the youth were prevailed upon by the elders to take the body away for immediate burial as is the custom of the people as well as to calm the rising tension, it was learnt.
It was also learnt that since the killing of Oga Icha, BontaTiv have been launching attacks against Ukpute people on a daily basis with scores either injured or killed.
Consequently, the Ukpute Igede are now said to be left at the mercy of their tormentors as no authority has intervened in the matter. The displaced persons too are at the mercy of the elements.
Findings also suggested that prior to the cold-blooded killing of the poor farmer, figthers from Bonta had invaded and dispossessed three members of Ukpute community of their motorcycles at gunpoint.
The Divisional Police Officer in Oju, Mr Daniel Alex, an indigene of Adamawa State, when contacted could neither confirm the incidents nor deny them. He said: “I am not in a position to grant any such interview. If you want an interview go to the Police PRO. You don’t interview police (personnel) anyhow.
He quickly dropped the phone call when this journalist asked him if his answer should be interpreted that he was not aware of the development because the matter was not reported at his division.
But he had earlier confirmed the incidents to another journalist where he alleged that the warring communities did not allow his men to do their job.
Also, the Youth Leader of Ukpute community, Mr Eje Ode, confirmed the killing of Mr Icha and the robbery of motorcycles, saying that his people were looking up to the state government to take more drastic actions in order to end the spate of attacks and killings going on presently.
An indigene of Bonta who spoke on assurance of anonymity said he was taken aback that the conflict had been left by the authorities to linger for too long.

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