Road Map To Effium Peace

By Monday Eze 
Effium war refugees under one of the overhead bridges in Abakaliki.
Effium war refugees under one of the overhead bridges in Abakaliki.

Effium Community which is the largest community in Ebonyi State has been engulfed in war since 21:01:21. Effium, a rainbow community inhabited mainly by Effium indigenes of Ezza Ezekuna extraction otherwise known as Ezza-Effium; and Effium indigenes of Korri extraction also known as Uffiom, comprises of five electoral wards, two development centres and 95 polling units. Commentators on Effium war have left to mere conjecture the real causes of the war.

The remote and immediate cause of Effium war is the frustration of the operation of section 42 of the 1999 CFRN (as amended) in Effium Community. This section holds that, "No citizen of Nigeria shall be subjected to any disability or deprivation merely by reason of the circumstances of his birth". Uffiom people believe that they are superior citizens while Ezza-Effium people are second-class citizens. Unfortunately, the establishment in Ebonyi State connived with them in the prosecution of this unconstitutional, ungodly, inhuman and apartheid project. Hence: Wards and polling units were designated with genealogical and language boundaries which completely ignore number and the things that unite Effium community while placing heavy emphasis on the differences between the peoples of Effium Community. This is why the Uffiom with about 14,500 voting strength and 29 polling units are spread into three electoral wards while Ezza-Effium with about 43,000 registered voters and 66 polling units are squeezed into two electoral wards! Effium community traditional institution which pioneer king was an Ezza-Effium man, Chief Ekuma Omaka, has been exclusively appropriated by Effium indigenes of Korri extraction since 1998. Yet, the traditional stools of Unwuezeokohu, Unwuezeoka, Izzikworo-Kpakpaji which are the three autonomous communities created for Ezza-Effium people by the same law (Anambra State of Nigeria Edict No. 9 of 1976) that created Effium and other first-generation autonomous communities in Ebonyi, Enugu and Anambra States were denied activation on grounds that Ezza Effium people share language and cultural affinities with the people of Ebonyi Central. One then wonders why Effium Community traditional stool was activated and has continued to thrive even when Uffiom people share language and cultural affinities with the rest of Korri in Ntezi, Amuda and Okpoto in Ebonyi Central and Ukele in Crossriver State. Effium Community Development Union established in 2009 has a constitution which recognized the diversities in Effium Community and enacted the rotation of the town union leadership among them. The former chairman of Ohaukwu LGA, Barr Clement Odah, and ilk hijacked the town union and appointed an all Uffiom executive since 2017. The apartheid mentality of Uffiom people became so rife from 2017 that they banned Ezza-Effium people from entering Okporo forest to pick herbs or biomass. In fact, Ndubuisi Alexander Nwali, an Ezza-Effium man, was killed in the forest in 2017 by Uffiom youths for venturing into Okporo forest. Ezza-Effium people were also banned from using public boreholes and roads in Enyanwigwe, Uffiacha, Ogbagere and other parts of Effium Community where Uffiom reside in good number.

Effium Community has mineral deposits which bulk lies in the areas occupied by Ezza-Effium. When Cletus Ibeto indicated interest in the minerals, Frank Onwe, Nicodemus Omenka, James Agina alongside their Uffiom ilk appropriated the negotiations with Ibeto to the exclusion of Ezza-Effium people whom they regarded as strangers and inferior citizens. After the parochial negotiations, access to targeted mines became impossible. It is generally suspected that this war is being levied by the Uffiom people with the financial backing of mineral speculators in a bid to evict Ezza-Effium from their place of inheritance to give room for exploitation of the minerals! Hence, the refrain of "Ezza-Effium must leave Effium Community", which Uffiom people sing each time they are asked to suggest solution to Effium crises!

The only channel to permanent peace in Effium Community is to enforce the operation of the Nigerian constitution to end apartheid in Effium Community and allow every indigene of Effium Community whether Uffiom or Ezza Effium to enjoy full rights of citizenship as guaranteed under the Nigerian constitution. The constitution guarantees Ezza Effium people the rights to life; franchise at the nearest registration area; rights to acquire, own and enjoy properties anywhere in Effium and in Nigeria!

Given the vast size of Effium Community and the proliferation of arms during this war, one police station is grossly insufficient for the community. There is need for the establishment of a military cantonment and more police stations in different parts of Effium Community. Communities that share boundaries with Effium Community should effectively police their boarders to prevent access to armed warriors who often stage guerilla attacks on refugee camps and villages in Effium Community. It is instructive that guerrillas have never attacked Effium Community through any of the vast Izzi boarders.

The traditional stools of Unwuezeokohu autonomous community, Unwuezeoka autonomous community and Izzikworo-Kpakpaji autonomous community in Effium should be activated without delay. This was recommended in paragraph 9 at page 14 of Ebonyi State white paper on the report of the panel of inquiry on the crisis in Effium Autonomous Community dated October 2004.

Boundaries of polling units, wards and development centres in Effium should be demarcated geographically and not by tongue and bloodline. This is the letter and spirit of section 40 of the Electoral Act 2022. Above all, geographical demarcations will emphasize the things that unite the peoples of Effium Community and diminish their differences because people of the same polling units, wards and development centres will be left with no other option than to forge bonds of love, unity and progress over time.

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