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COMMUNITY CALLS FOR GOVT WHITE PAPER ON COMMUNAL CONFLICT

By NBF News
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Leaders of Biakpan community in Biase Local Government Area of Cross River State have urged the state government to release the white paper on investigations into intermittent communal conflicts and bloodshed between them and Etono 11village.

The Biakpan Community, which was led by one Chief Onun Godwin, alleged that the natives of Etono 11 had resumed activities in the disputed land between the two villages, which might spark off fresh bloodbath in the area.

They said Etono 11 natives had allegedly invaded the area, cultivating new farms and destroying crops belonging to Biakpan community. They added that the alleged invaders had defied the injunction by the State Government, restraining the two communities from cultivating on the disputed land until the dispute was resolved.

Chief Onun said the Biakpan community was unhappy that about five years after the Justice R. Odu (retd.) Commission of Inquiry was set up to look into the intractable land dispute and communal conflicts in the area, the commission had not presented its findings to the public for government to evolve a lasting solution to the crisis.

He said the delay in the release of the commission's report was causing tension in the area as information gathered allegedly revealed that some people from Etono 11 were privy to the recommendations of Justice Odu, and had started lobbying for the report to be tampered with them. The monarch said since the past decade, the spate of communal conflicts in the area had claimed several lives and property worth millions of naira, saying urgent intervention by government would prevent further bloodbath between the two communities.

The Justice Odu commission, he said, was mandated to identify the socio-cultural and economic ties which were common to the two communities and make recommendations of how to rekindle such ties to foster the bond of unity between the sister communities.

The Biakpan indigenes said the state had not recovered from the effects of Nsadop/Boje Communal clash, which claimed scores of lives and property in Boki Local Government Area of the state, urging the state government to ensure that Justice Odu's findings and recommendations would be made public and implemented to the letter.

Besides, he said few months ago, there was communal clash between the people of Kutia and Okworotong communities in Obudu Local Government Area of the state, warning that further bloodshed in the state would create negative impression that the state was not conducive for tourists and foreign investors to visit.

In presenting the report of the commission to the public, he said it was necessary for the state government to look at the Supreme Court judgment of June 2006, which allegedly stated that the land belonged to Biakpan community.

Speaking with Daily Sun, Chief Onun said the white paper on the boundary disputes and proper implementation of Justice Odu's recommendations were necessary as the two communities were preparing for a new farming season in the disputed area and might take up arms against each other again.

Restating his call for the release of the report of the commission, Onun urged the state government to set up a task force for implementing recommendations of the commission.