BY VINCENT UJUMADU, Awka
NO fewer than 19 persons from Okpeze, Aguleri in Anambra East local government area of Anambra State were said to be missing following two nights of heavy fighting between the community and their Echonwa and Odeke neighbours in Ibaji local government area of Kogi State .
About 22 houses in Okpeze were also burnt down by people suspected to be from Kogi during a battle in which dangerous arms and ammunitions were freely used.
Since the renewed fighting began in the area last month, many lives have been lost and property worth millions of naira destroyed on both sides.
Some of the relations of the missing people told Saturday Vanguard yesterday that they were taken unawares on Wednesday and Thursday nights by heavily armed people from Kogi State who allegedly swooped on their homes at wee hours and started shooting and setting fire on houses.
They claimed that those who ran out of their houses were captured and taken to unknown destination, adding that those taken away in the last two days have not resurfaced. According to the people, the type of arms and ammunition used during the raid on Okpeze Aguleri was an indication that the raid was sponsored by people outside the two Kogi State communities, adding that the people of Echonwa and Odeke could not have had easy access to such weapons.
Hundreds of expended bullets were said to have littered the community after the gruesome raid.
Mrs. Martha Nweke, who said her husband was among those missing, regretted that despite her pleas and cries for the invaders to leave her husband, they still took him away.
Amid sobs she said: “We were asleep when suddenly we heard sounds of guns from many directions. There was pandemonium as many people ran out of their houses half naked into the bush. Many children were heard crying as the invaders dragged their fathers out to unknown places.
“Most of the people slept in the bush and when the day broke, we discovered that many houses were either burnt or looted. I thought my husband ran into the bush with others, but when he did not appear in the morning, we knew that he was among those kidnapped.
“We are worried because these invaders had boasted in the past that they will continue to kill and eat our people. We want government to step into this matter without further delay to save us from this trauma.
“We are just beginning to settle down after last year’s flood that destroyed our homes and crops and here we are again facing this attempt to sack us from our community by Kogi people because oil was discovered in our land.”
Worried by the latest hostilities in the oil-rich border communities, the people of Aguleri have sent a Save –Our –Soul, SOS, to the federal government, as well as the governments of Anambra and Kogi states to intervene immediately to avoid further loss of lives.
Saturday Vanguard recalls that before the renewed hostilities in the area, the National Boundary Commission had met with the deputy governors of the two states for the purpose of finding a lasting solution to the border problem which became more pronounced after the commissioning of the facilities of Orient Petroleum Resources at Aguleri Otu in Anambra State by President Goodluck Jonathan last year, during which Anambra State was listed as an oil producing state.
At the last meeting chaired by the Director General of the National Boundary Commission, Dr. M.B. Ahmad, with the deputy governors of the two states and a representative of the surveyor general of the federation in attendance, it was noted that the Anambra/Kogi interstate boundary was the boundary of the former Northern and Eastern regions described in the legal notice No 126 of 1954.
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