From Austine Tule, Makurdi
The people of Ugambe and Mbamar communities of Shagev-Tiev in Konshisha Local Government Area of Benue state have luckily being shielded from the deadly incursions of Fulani herdsmen operating in some parts of the state. But ironically, members of the two communities are responsible for the deaths and pains stalking the land.
A prolonged land dispute between Ugambe and Mbamar communities has constantly led to wanton destruction of lives, homes, economic trees and cultivated farm lands.
Even tombs of the dead in the two warring communites have been desecrated, to the extent that today, the souls of the departed have ceased to “rest in peace.”
Investigation reveals that the crises which started like a pimple, has snowballed into a boil so to speak, and has now become cancerous.
This ugly development has taken a dimension which now bears a shattering effect on every single economic activity in the two communities.
Findings indicate that the real owners of the disputed land are said to be offspring’s of one late Yesem Anikyehe, who owned a vast area of land lying between and situated at Tse-Anikyehe Atsugh in Ugambe, Iwarnyam, Shangev-Tiev of Konshisha Local Government Area of Benue State.
According to sources, Yesem Anikyehe, had lived and developed the land; establishing several compounds and farm lands for his relations and family members up to the year 1944.
Checks showed that by early 1980s signals of dispute started showing when people from a neighbouring community (Mbamar) were alleged to have made moves to encroach on the land with an agenda of grabbing it.
This development according to sources led to minor skirmishes that led to the first lawsuit filed at a Gboko High Court, over the disputed land by the descendants of Yesem.
It was gathered that the first person to make an attempt at taking the land was one Shirkpen Igbudu, from Mbamar community who it was further gathered was also the defendant in the suit.
On the February 10, 1986, Justice L.C. Anoliefo of a Gboko High Court delivered judgment in favour of Yesem, and affirmed him as real owner of the disputed piece of land.
But following continued hostilities in disobedience to orders of the court by the Mbamar community, three other judgments were said to have been sought and gotten in favour of Yesem and his offspring.
However, findings revealed that the court judgments were never obeyed a development that led to endless violent armed confrontations between the two communities.
When our correspondent visited one of the ravaged communities, a source who pleaded that his name should not be mentioned in print, blamed the dispute on greed and dirty politics.
He said: “The courts have given four judgments on this matter, but up till now none of the judgments has been respected, and I do know that the courts said exactly who the owners of the land are.
“I think some people are just playing politics with this issue and have gone ahead to twist the facts of the case before government for reasons best known to them.”
Instead of seeking for a lasting solution into the land dispute, the Benue state Government some years back, was said to have declared the vast disputed land a buffer zone without paying any compensation to its owners, a development that did not go down well with the alleged owners of the land.
The inability or concern of the state government to wade into the matter with a view to seeing to its amicable resolution has expectedly resulted to the aggravation of the situation, leading to acts of cruelty and gross abuse of human dignity.
The crises took a more worrisome dimension in January 2019, when the remains of late Mr. Peter Tyoban, a relation of late Yesem – owners of the land – according court judgments- which were buried on a portion of the disputed land, were on February 9, exhumed by unknown persons and taken to an unknown destination.
Thereafter, the survivors of Yesem went back to the court to seek among other reliefs a declaration that the exhumation of the remains of Tyoban, amounted to abuse of human dignity; a right to lawful ownership of unmovable property on the land, contempt of court among others.
According to findings, the family is also urging the court to cause the defendants in the case to foot the bills for the re- burial of their deceased relation, and to also desist forthwith from trespassing on the said land under whatever guise.
As the two sister communities continue to fight over the disputed piece of land with the attendant loss of lives and property, some members of the public have called on the Benue state Government to urgently set up a fact -finding committee that would critically examine all the contending issues with a view to bringing to an end the age-long land dispute between the two communities.