Ebonyi community rejects peace pact report

A peace panel report on the three-year-old war, emanating from the Bishop Emeritus of Abakiliki Diocese, Rt. Rev. Fr. Michael Nnachi Okoro, has been rejected by the people of Effium, in Ohaukwu Local Government Area of Ebonyi State.

The two communities of Ezza-Effium and Effium have been at war since January 21, 2021, which led to the loss of lives and the destruction of property worth billions of naira.

The rejection of the peace pact report, according to them, was because it infringed on their fundamental human rights.

The war began from a leadership tussle between two factions of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, in a motor park in the community, after taking on a dangerous dimension with many killings and wanton destruction of property.

Although efforts were made by the past administration of Governor David Umahi and the Federal Government to end the war, they didn’t yield the desired result.

To ensure lasting peace in the war-torn communities, Governor Francis Nwifuru set up a peace panel headed by a retired Catholic bishop in the state, Rev. Michael Okoro, which issued a white paper after the warring communities signed a peace pact.

But the people of Effium rejected the white paper and the peace pact.

The people, under the umbrella of the Ezza-Effium Consultative Assembly, said some of their stakeholders were compelled to sign the peace pact against their free will.

This was contained in a statement signed by Chief Aligwe Matthias Chukwuma, chairman of the assembly and secretary, Dr. Bernard Orichi.

The statement was made available to newsmen in Abakaliki, the state capital.

They argued that the white paper was against the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which gave every Nigerian the right to live anywhere in the country and wondered why they were described by the white paper as tenants in Effium community.

The people also described it as unacceptable, the aspect of the white paper that barred them from producing a traditional ruler of the Effium community when they had been doing that for so long.

“The recommendations of Retired Bishop Okoro’s peace panel and its implementation could better be described as apartheid, in the words of the former Vice President of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), in an event in Abuja on Thursday, August 26, 2023.

“The report which erroneously posited Ezza-Effium people, who have lived in their God-given community since time immemorial, as tenants, is a malicious and misleading report orchestrated by supposed men of God. What an unprofessional and disreputable contradiction!

“It is rather ridiculous that we are now regarded as tenants by the purported Peace Pact document, whereas the Uffioms, who are non-Igbo speaking, let alone of Ebonyi State origin, are now described as “landlord” by the same Peace Pact document.

“This is wrong, and a calculated, organised decimation and diminution of Ezza-Effium personality in particular, and Ezza people in general. We are simply accommodative and in keeping with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended), which gave all of us equal rights to citizenship.

“We, Ezza-Effium people, therefore, reject, in its totality, any Peace Pact or White Paper that tends to deprive us of any of our constitutional rights and privileges in Effium community, inclusive of the rights over our entitlements, freedoms, lives and properties.

“For emphasis, the right to the traditional stool of Effium Community was first enjoyed by Ezza-Effium people even in the colonial era. The British Colonial Government appointed an Ezza-Effium man, Chief Ekuma Omaka (now late), as the first traditional ruler of Effium community with his Certificate of Recognition, dated 1st September 1960, and signed by Okon Udo Affia, Minister of State (Chieftaincies and Establishments).

“The said Chief Ekuma Omaka was later succeeded by Chief Leonard Agena (now late), a Uffiom man, as the second traditional ruler, on grounds of our common understanding of the rotational basis between the two tribes of Ezza-Effium and Uffiom. Or does the retired Bishop Okoro-led Peace Panel claim ignorance of this fact?” they stated.

The Ezza-Effium people, affirming that they want permanent peace in Effium community and not ‘graveyard’ peace, called on the state government to order a ceasefire and direct all residents of Effium community to return to their homes while issues relating to revenue in the motor park, market places and other things incidental thereto, should be rightly addressed using extant laws.

They urged Governor Nwifuru to revisit the report of the retired Bishop Okoro-led peace panel and the Peace Pact document, and any other document relevant thereto, for more informed and constitutional measures to guarantee the restoration of enduring peace to the Effium community.

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