Dr Eni-Uduma Chima, the chairman of Afikpo South local government area of Ebonyi, says over 5,000 Internally Displaced Persons from Urugbam community in Biase local government area of Cross River are taking refuge in the Council.
Chima who disclosed this to Newsmen on Thursday in Abakaliki, said the IDPs were camped in three different locations in the area.
He said the influx of the refugees from Urugbam was due to renewed hostilities from boundary disputes involving Urugbam community and their Egbor and Abanwem neighbouring communities in Biase local government area of Cross River.
The chairman explained that the crisis started when the Egbor community unilaterally leased out the Nigeria Institute for Oil Research palm plantation to African Stone Works Nigeria Limited, owned by one Chief Felix Ezeamama.
He further explained that the boundary crisis affected Ekoli-Edda in Ebonyi, Egbor and Urugbam communities in Biasi local government of Cross River, which jointly donated the land for the establishment of the institute.
He said: “The Ekoli-Edda in Ebonyi, Urugbam and Egbor communities in Cross River jointly donated parcels of land where the defunct NIFOR was established by the government of the defunct Eastern Nigeria.
“The communities have peacefully coexisted and enjoyed the proceeds from the NIFOR since its establishment in 1962, by late Chief Michael Okpara, governor of the defunct Eastern region.
“But following the unceremonious exit of NIFOR from the settlement, the affected communities including Ekoli-Edda, Urugbam and Egbor came together in 1997 and reached an agreement to harvest the palm fruits jointly.
“It is on record that this peaceful communal practice has been ongoing between the three communities since 1997 without hitches.
“In March this year, the Egbor community unilaterally leased the land which has been communally owned since the 1960s to African Stone Works Nigeria Limited in complete disregard to the position of the other communities.
“The governments of Ebonyi and Cross River in a move to avert an impending crisis held series of peace meetings first in Port Harcourt, Rivers and Nigerian Air Force Conference Centre and Suites in Abuja.
“Both meetings were attended by representatives of both state governments including deputy governors of the two states, Prof Ivara Esu and Dr. Eric Kelechi-Igwe and officials of National Boundary Commission where far reaching resolutions were made.
“Sadly, none of the items contained in the resolution has been implemented and this has led to the hostilities that resulted in the killings and destruction of property of the Urugbam and Ekoli-Edda people.”
Chima noted that the influx of IDPs in the area had created humanitarian crisis in the council despite the state government’s prompt intervention by providing relief materials.
He said: “The IDPs’situation we have is getting out of control putting strain on our scarce resources; security agencies should without delay enforce the order of the various stakeholders in the NAF meeting communique and arrest Ezeamama.
“I call on the various humanitarian agencies including the National Emergency Management Agency, State Emergency Management Agencies of the two states and the Red Cross to assist the IDPs with relief materials.
“That efforts should be made by governments of the two states to ensure the safe return of the IDPs to their homes and ensure that they are quickly resettled.
“I urge relevant government institutions to probe these wanton killings and bring perpetrators including their sponsors to justice.”