Nigeria’s Cross River Communities Unite Two Years After Bloody Inter-communal Crisis 

The residents of Nko and Onyadama have been at war over a parcel of land at the boundary for decades. Things, however, fell apart in 2022 when soldiers on a peacekeeping assignment used extreme force against civilians, leading to the death of some people. 

After years of bloody tussle over a parcel of land at the boundary – Nko,  a community in Yakurr Local Government Area and Onyadama in Obubra Local Government Area in Cross River, South-south Nigeria, have agreed to co-exist peacefully. 

This resolution comes two years after soldiers sent on a peacekeeping assignment to the two warring communities used extreme force against armless civilians, leading to deaths and injuries on both sides. 

HumAngle reported widespread property destruction in Nko during the raid, with our fact-finding mission at the time counting at least 20 houses and shops, including a palace, razed in the attack.

Esther Solomon, a wholesale provisions seller in Nko whose shop was destroyed during the 2022 crisis, expressed her happiness to HumAngle about witnessing the unity between Nko and Onyadama. “I recall my husband sustained injuries during the attack, and I lost goods worth over a million naira. Today, I am happy there’s peace in Nko and Onyadama.” 

Osong Obeten, chairperson of the Nko youth board of trustees, attributed the peace process to collaboration between Nko and Onyadama youths, with himself playing a leading role.

“We have been talking to our friends in Onyadama about ensuring everyone lives peacefully,” he explained. “We had several meetings among ourselves before we went to the Onyadama leaders on May 12.”

Obetan recounted their approach: “We told the elders in the community about our intention, and they gave us their blessings. Later, we went to the community pavilion and were received with joy and happiness by Onyadama residents. Interestingly, after our talks with them, many residents of Onyadama escorted us back to Nko and our people were overwhelmed and happy to receive them. To our surprise, Onyadama leaders sent their delegates to us on May 19, saying they had come to appreciate us for the courtesy visit to their village.”

“Today, our women and their women have become friends, and our children play football with their children on the same football field. We are working together to ensure that the land causing the crisis is utilised for a project that will benefit the two communities,” Obeten said. 

Though his beer parlour was razed during the last crisis two years ago, Obetan told HumAngle that he has accepted his fate and is proud that their effort in making peace with Onyadama is yielding the desired outcome. “It’s just sad that we lost some of our friends to the fight; for those of us alive, we are happy that there’s progress.”

Justina Evans, a mother of two who lives in Onyadama, echoed this sentiment, expressing her satisfaction with the efforts of the youths of the two warring communities to end the age-long inter-communal war over the land boundary. 

“I’m proud that this peace move will lead to a series of inter-marriages between the two communities, and we will be able to see ourselves as brothers and sisters,” she said. 

A 1947 district court judgment awarded the disputed land to Onyadama, but Nko community leaders contested the ruling. They appealed to the West African Court of Appeal then, but their case was dismissed with costs in April 1949.

While the court judgments doused tension at the time, a crisis brewed again in the early 90s when Onyadama accused Nko residents of encroaching on the land.

Since then, the two communities have been at war until the reconciliation moves in May.

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Adejumo Kabir

Kabir works at HumAngle as the Editor of Southern Operations. He is interested in community development reporting, human rights, social justice, and press freedom. He was a finalist in the student category of the African Fact-checking Award in 2018, a 2019 recipient of the Diamond Awards for Media Excellence, and a 2020 recipient of the Thomson Foundation Young Journalist Award. He was also nominated in the journalism category of The Future Awards Africa in 2020. He has been selected for various fellowships, including the 2020 Civic Media Lab Criminal Justice Reporting Fellowship and 2022 International Centre for Journalists (ICFJ) 'In The Name of Religion' Fellowship.

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