10 February 2013

Nigeria: Why Offa/Erin-Ile Clash Defied Interventions

Indications have emerged that the renewed hostilities between Offa and Erin-Ile communities in Offa and Oyun Local Government Areas of Kwara state which led to the destruction of property worth millions of naira and killing of innocent citizens, could have been averted, only if the monarchs of the feuding communities had listened to the wise counsels of the Emir of Ilorin and chairman of the state council of traditional chiefs, Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu Gambari.

The age long communal clash which broke out again on Monday, January 28, according to independent sources, claimed ten lives but the state police command put the casualty figure at three.

A government source confided in LEADERSHIP Sunday that the Emir of Ilorin had, at the instance of the state government, mediated between the Olofa of Offa, Oba Muftau Gbadamosi and The Elerin of Erin-Ile, Oba Abdul Ganiyu Ajibola.

The Emir was said to have impressed it on the two monarchs about the need to promote a more cordial relationship between them and their communities.

But indication that the two monarchs who are also first class chiefs would not heed the Emir's advice emerged on Friday, December 14, 2012, in Ilorin the state capital during the official commission of the Advanced Diagnostic Centre by Vice-President Mohammed Namadi Sambo.

The two monarchs were alleged to have refused to exchange pleasantries with one another at the ceremony where the state governor, Alh. AbdulFatah Ahmed and other top government functionaries were present.

Six weeks after the open show of 'hatred' between the two monarchs, a fresh crisis broke out between the inhabitants of the two communities.

The source further hinted LEADERSHIP Sunday that, "The state governor also mandated the Honourable Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Alhaji Isa Bawa and the secretary to the state government, Alh. Isiaka Gold to meet with the traditional rulers of Offa and Erin-Ile to stress the need to ensure that the situation does not degenerate into lawlessness.

"Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed also held meetings with the chairmen of Offa and Oyun Local Government councils and the Chief Security Officers of their councils to impress it on them the need to maintain peace and order in Offa and Erin-Ile communities".

Though, the source traced the fresh communal clash between Offa and Erin-Ile towns to a disagreement between rival chapters of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) in both communities, the primary cause of the age long crisis is dispute over land.

It would be recalled that the crisis that broke out between the two communities in 2006 was as a result of disagreement over land as the two towns share boundary. And the fact that a unity road was constructed on the disputed land shortly after the resolution of the crisis in 2006 is a pointer to this.

In a swift move to save the situation from degenerating, the state government, as a first step on Wednesday, January 30 imposed a 24-hour curfew on the two communities with the attendant restriction of both human and vehicular movement in both communities. Three days after, the government announced a relaxation of the curfew on Fridays and Sundays to enable the people observe both the Juma'at and Church services on the two days.

However, the government in a more decisive decision on Monday, February 4, announced the suspension of the Chairmen of Offa Local Government, Prince Saheed Popoola and Oyun Local Council, Alh. Ibrahim Omoniyi from office for a period of three months in the first instance.

The government also set up a judicial commission of enquiry headed by Justice Adeyinka Sikiru Oyinloye to look into the immediate and remote causes of the crisis and made appropriate recommendations.

The state governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed also approved the appointments of Alhaji Ishaq Abubakar and Alhaji G.B.O. Bello as sole administrators of Offa and Oyun Local Government Councils, respectively.

Addressing a news conference in Ilorin, the state capital, the secretary to the state government (SSG), AlhajiI siaka Gold explained that the governor's decision to suspend the chairmen of the two local governments was in exercise of the powers conferred on him by the Kwara State Law Number 4 of 2006 (Kwara State Local Government (Amendment) Law 2006).

He said that the chairmen of Oyun and Offa local government councils, as Chief Security Officers of their respective councils, failed to protect the welfare of the people and maintain public order in both communities.

He said the suspension was also borne out of the need to prevent the deterioration of the security situation in Offa and Erin-Ile due to what he called, "the clear and present danger of the break-down of law and order, security and public safety in the two communities".

The Judicial Commission, Gold said, is expected to submit its report within six weeks, with a promise that those apprehended for inciting violence or disrupting public order in Erin-Ile, Offa and other parts of the State would be made to face the full weight of the law.

The SSG recalled that when the crisis started, government delegation met with the traditional rulers of Offa and Erin-Ile, while the Chairman, Kwara State Traditional Council of Chiefs and Emir of Ilorin, Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari was requested by the State Government "to mediate between the Olofa of Offa and the Elerin of Erin-Ile to promote a more cordial relationship between the two monarchs and their communities on the need to ensure that the situation did not degenerate into lawlessness.

Answering reporters' question, the SSG said that anyone found guilty of masterminding the crisis or promoting violence in the two communities and in any part of the state will be dealt with in accordance with the laws of the land.

He added that, "There would not be sacred cows as anyone, including the traditional rulers, found guilty of promoting violence in Offa and Erin-Ile communities or any other parts of the state would be dealt with decisively.

"As a responsible government, we could not fold our arms and watch the situation degenerate into criminality and lawlessness".

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