In the wake of the communal clash between communities on the beach front of Isu(Osu, Abba and Abachi) and Utuma people which let to loss of lives and property, the Hon. represent Arochukwu/Ohafia federal, Hon. Uko Nkeole speaks the need to review the Mamman Nasir Committee report that pitched communities against their nieghbours. Excerpts:
I am Hon. Uko Nkeole, I representing Arochukwu/Ohafia federal constituency in the national Assembly,
What is the bill all about?
Actually it wasn’t a bill; it was a motion of urgent national importance, to move that an issue already on ground should be handled expeditiously. IT is selfless killing and wanton destruction of lives and property in one of the clans I represent, which is Isu in Arochukwu LGA of Abia State. It is a border town on the beach line of Utuma. Utuma is in Biase in Cross River State. It is an inter-state crisis that led to the invasion of three communities on the beach front of Isu. The community was totally overrun by her neighbours, which is the Utuma people. The villages are Osu, Aba and Abachi.
As I speak to you at the moment it has been completely raised down to ashes and lives were lost. And the unfortunate thing is that as at the time I moved that motion, there has never been any intervention, save for the effort of the Nigerian Army. Definitely, you know their rules of engagement. Police is statutorily saddled with the responsibility of restoring order in such conflict, but Police in that manner, and in this regard failed in their responsibility. As I speak to you now Police has not even made any attempt to move into the community. It is so bad that these persons as I speak to you they are internally displaced. They are refuges and they are being sheltered by neighbouring communities of Obieze and Isu. So it is something that calls for urgent attention.
Recall that the crisis started on Thursday night (last week of April) and by Saturday there was a period of Weekend and we don’t sit on those days. It became difficult. First legislative day we had was on Tuesday, which was when the motion can go. I seized the opportunity with the support of Mr. Speaker and Members the Green Chamber. They saw the need to call the President, because the President is the Commander-in-Chief of Armed Forces. It is only the President that can call for the deployment of soldiers. I can tell you that the police have not done anything. It appears that it’s only the military that have the wherewithal to contain that since the police can no longer do their responsibilities.
So that was what actually happened on the floor of the house.
Three prayers were made; one, call on the president as a matter of urgency to deploy military to restore normalcy and also for Nigerian boundary Commission (NBC) to immediately delineate and unambiguously demarcate the boundaries, so that two communities can actually know where their lands stop to avoid further reoccurrence.
And also, of course to call on the National Emergency Management Agency to move in to supply relief materials to these internally displaced persons especially in the area of health facilities, because they cannot have access to medical facilities. And also to honour the dead, for Nigerians to know the fact that people have died and a minute silence was observed as a way of paying tribute to those that have lost their lives in all these unwarranted attacks. Also the situations on ground as I speak to you, even some decomposing bodies are still lying there, in those villages. Everybody had been evacuated from the place to make sure that one is not killed. But unfortunately some people were mowed those who couldn’t escape from the evading neighbours.
And also this is farming period. This is planting season, if nothing is done urgently, that means there will be food scarcity in the next one year. And the kids’ schools have just resumed. So there are a lot of humanitarian challenges facing us. It was a motion of urgent national issue.
What factors do you think could lead to such breach of peace between communities?
Well, like I said it is inter-state boundary issue and this can vividly be traced back to the Justice Mamman Nasiri Boundary Adjustment Committee – boundary issues that have permanently pitched the Anans against the Igbos, on that stream. Streams are natural separators between states, but you find out that at that stretch, that stretch is a stretch which takes you from Isu, gets to Ejiowa, gets to Ere and that stretch, that front line today is a high conflict area. It is crisis point because the boundary now exceeded the original boundary which was the river, but after the Mamman Nasir delineation, the boundaries were adjusted further into the hinterland and past the river. And these were people, ordinarily have always known those places as theirs. So that is actually what happened. It has become a perennial issue. Even, it stretched up to Afikpo, to that extent. It is as a result of that Mamman Nasir boundary adjustment that led to those issues. That is primarily the root cause of the conflict.
Can you beat your chest and say the legislature have actually done well, especially looking at the crisis we have at hand?
Yes, if you watch on the floor of the house and right from the inception of this Eight Assembly, it has been one motion or the other of either to avert crisis or to save lives. If it is not Zamfara today, it is Gombe, if it is not Gombe, it is Jigawa, if it is not Jigawa, it is Yobe (Dapchi), if it is not Dapchi it is Benue, it has become a daily occurrence. And you as parliamentarians, we don’t have that instrument for state coercing force to enforce our resolution. It is left to the executive to handle. But if you are doing thing in synergy, as I speak to you, yes we have done our motions and resolve. It is everywhere; it’s now the part of the executive to take it up. We represent the masses directly; we get feedback and information from the grass root.
So if we are to nip this on the board, the executive part is to make sure that actions are initiated, but in a situation whereby the motion was moved and this is Friday nothing has been done. Just on my own, I just have to make some provisions to send food items, send money and even provisions to make sure the younger ones can get one or two things to eat. As at this moment, the government has not done anything. And if they run out of food, I wonder what will happen. So it is a situation, with hydra headed dimension that I think the government of today should be proactive and also should be very swift in interventions when such things occur because is almost becoming a daily occurrence.
And it is quite unfortunate. Even right in the National Assembly, last week Wednesday a Mace was conveniently taken out – the instrument of office of the legislative arm, no resistance from the police or army. That means nowhere is safe anymore, if National Assembly can have such an experience. National Assembly is the three arms zone. That means somebody can go into the President’s office and do whatever thing he likes and go away with it.
So it is not about the leadership of the National Assembly, it is not about Saraki, it is not about Dogari, it about the institution of the legislature. So nothing stops anybody, as the judge is about to give the verdicts just come there and rattle the man, go away and tear his document. That is why all hands must be on the deck. This is the government of President Mohammadu Buhari. So it is high time the executive that has every power within their ability to make sure that Nigeria is secured and everybody is secured. That is the primary responsibility of the government, protection of lives and property.
Thanks for your time.
You are welcome.