Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi has confirmed the death of three persons in a land dispute involving Onweonweya and Mkpumekweoku communities in Izzi Local Government Area of the state.
The governor gave the confirmation on Tuesday in Abakaliki when he visited the communities.
According to the governor, the loss of lives and the magnitude of property destroyed in the communities indicated that the perpetrators of the clash were hired.
“We have not witnessed this scale of violence since assuming office and it heightened our belief that mercenaries were hired to unleash mayhem on the people.
“The discovery of one of the dead dressed in camouflage lends credence to this belief and it is not in Ebonyi tradition for a citizen to take the life of another,” he said.
The governor, however, commended government officials who ensured that the situation was brought under control, adding that a Development Centre Management Committee member implicated in the crisis has been suspended.
He stressed that the management committee member and any other government official that might be indicted in the communal clash remained suspended until investigations by security officials were completed.
The governor revoked the disputed land, adding that no farming activity should go on it until peace was restored to the area.
He, however, said that farmers who planted rice on the disputed land should be allowed to harvest their produce.
The governor further announced a donation of N10 million for the reconstruction of destroyed houses in the area, adding that N8 million was for the reconstruction while N2 million was for furnishing.
He also directed that all elected and government appointees from the area should contribute 50 per cent of their monthly entitlements toward the reconstruction.
“I will personally head the contribution committee.
“The disobedience of some people in intruding in the land should not warrant death because when people are killed, sides are taken,” Mr. Umahi said.
Francis Nwifuru, Speaker of the State House of Assembly who hails from the area, apologised to the governor for the embarrassment caused by the clash, promising that it would not re-occur.
“I warned inhabitants of the area not to cultivate rice in the disputed land but those who violated the directive suffered the highest casualty.
“I have been dialoguing with stakeholders of the area since the incident occurred and I assure that permanent peace would soon be achieved,” he said.
Richard Idike, Caretaker Chairman of the council, said that the dead persons were covered with grasses while one of them was seen wearing a camouflage.
According to him, the dispute between the two communities has spanned over 30 years while efforts by community stakeholders to settle it had proved abortive.
He said the area covered over 20km land for rice cultivation, adding that most of the community’s inhabitants had been displaced and were seeking refuge in neighbouring communities.
Mgbokwor Mbam, a native of the area, described the incident as unfortunate, saying that her house was razed during the incident.
“I thank the government and security agencies for their prompt intervention as the situation could had been worse if not for their efforts,” Mrs. Mbam said