At least 60 persons were feared killed at the weekend in a clash between Ologba and Egba communities of Agatu Local Government Area of Benue State, leaving many with varying degrees of injury.
The clash was reported to be a fallout of a lingering dispute between the fishing communities over the ownership of a fishing pond in the area.
“The truth is that there is no love lost between the two communities whose preoccupation is mainly fishing,” a source told Vanguard.
“Unfortunately, the bitter rivalry between the communities and bottled-up anger for one another has lingered for several years and sometimes resulting in intermittent skirmishes; this latest conflict could have claimed over 60 lives because more bodies are still being recovered from the two communities.
“As I speak to you today, (Saturday) the Egba people attacked Ologba during a funeral procession early this morning, after the Friday attack, just when the people were trying to bury their dead. So many people were killed in that attack and more bodies are still being recovered from the scene so we expect the causality figure to rise.”
In his reaction, Sir John Ngbede, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) deputy governorship candidate at the last elections, who hails from the area, said the communities have been embroiled in long standing issues.
He confirmed that the crisis which started Friday evening had displaced so many persons who now live as refugees at Obagaji, the Agatu Local Government Area Headquarters.
Benue State Commissioner of Police, Hyacinth Dagala, confirmed the incident. He explained that the villagers had been fighting over a fish pond for some time.
According to him, the latest crisis allegedly broke out as a result of deep rooted suspicion by the Egba community on allegations that the Ologba people had organised last month’s deadly Fulani invasion against them. Close to 100 lives were lost when suspected Fulani herdsmen invaded the community.
Dagala said the Police had so far recorded 23 deaths. He, however, assured that security had been beefed up in the feuding communities adding that investigations into the matter had also commenced.