• Tony Igele

17-yr-old Communal Fighter Stuns Edo, as Oba Ewuare Orders Land Grabbers Out of Benin

Benin-City – The major reason for communal crisis, particularly in the seven local government areas of Edo South, is land. Youths, under the aegis of Community Development Associations (CDAs), allegedly took over the sale of land in most of the Bini communities and, in the process, scammed those who wanted to buy.

Apart from that, youths who believe their communities are more powerful than their neighbours often times encroach on the lands belonging to the neighbours and the result is bloody communal war in Edo State. One of such wars led to the beheading of the 81-yr-old chief priest of Aruogba community,

Pa Clifford Omosonwa, who met his death in the hands of some youths in March. The elders of the community were said to have relocated following threats from the youths alleged to be members of CDAs to eliminate them due to their opposition to the way community lands were being sold. The leadership of the CDAs allegedly train youths on how to engage in communal wars after which they are armed. Only recently, Edo State Police Commissioner, Haliru Gwandu, paraded two persons, including a 17-year-old boy who allegedly trained as community fighter.

The boy, identified as Belief Iriore, told Edoconnect that he dropped out of school after concluding his primary six and decided to become a community fighter. The leaders of the CDAs are said to be in the habit of promising to compensate the fighters with plots of land if they win any war. 17 -year-old Iriore narrated his story: “I finished primary six before I joined the community fight. I don’t have brain for school and that was why I went to learn to become a mechanic. But some of our leaders said we should go and fight the people of Ekiadolor community who allegedly took our land and that they will give us part of the land when we are through with the war.

But unfortunately the other community arrested us. We went there with cutlasses but the people called the police who quickly arrested us. We were trained for communal wars”. The second suspect, Abraham Osifo, said, “I am a community fighter, I was arrested by members of the Ekiadolor community when we went for a fight. But when we were on the way, our opponents arrested us and said we were armed robbers but we are not armed robbers but community fighters”. The Edo CP, parading the suspects, described as worrisome the activities of the CDAs and commended the Oba of Benin, HRM Oba Ewuare 11, who recently called for the scrapping of CDAs in Edo South. “Let me tell you that the law will not spare anybody who commits crime.

The issue of community clashes in Edo is increasing but we are checkmating the perpetrators’, the commissioner said. “If you have been following events in the state, you will hear paramount rulers making some pronouncements on this issue. You found a community appointing a young man as Chairman of CDA. There should be rules guiding the conduct of the person but what we see today is that such CDA Chairman graduates into a monster, he sells the land of the community and amasses wealth. In the process they, he leads his colleagues to stockpile arms and chase away the elders of the community or anybody who wants to stop them from selling land. We have invaded one community and our SARS recovered eleven English guns and cache of arms and eleven persons were arrested.

Those people are today in prison. The same CDA people are financing rubbish and they succeeded in chasing away their chief priest. This aspect of Enogie, chief priest and Edionwere, they are the ones in charge of the lands. You don’t need a Chairman who will come and dispose all their lands. In future you may need a university or hospital but if you allow these unscrupulous elements to sell all your land, what are you going to use to develop the community?

This is worrisome not only to the police but also to the state government. But very soon you will see plans that will checkmate the excesses of these land grabbers and I think it will be a thing of the past. By the time it gets legislative backing, those who speculate or grab land will face stiff punishment. That will serve to send a message to others. Unfortunately, we have some elders involved in this kind of scandals and it is bad”.

Oba Ewuare II had recently solicited the support of the state government to eradicate the activities of CDAs which, according to him, is creating crisis in Benin communities. “I want to use to opportunity to seek the state government’s support in eradicating the menace of Community Development Associations in Edo South in particular and Edo State in general. Most of their actions have created a lot of problems in the state and impeded the development of the communities”, the monarch told Governor Godwin Obaseki during a visit by Obaseki to his palace. “For the avoidance of doubt, CDAs really have no business with land

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