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Two Fear Dead, Many Injured As Two  Bayelsa Communities Clash Over Land

Properties belonging to the non-indigenes of the area were reportedly destroyed by the rampaging youths.

Two persons were feared dead and many others injured as two neighbouring communities, Opolo and Okutukutu, both in the Yenagoa metropolis engaged each other in a mid day war over a protracted land dispute on Monday.

The clash which left many stranded as vehicular and commercial activities were halted for several hours following the violence fight between the two communities in the state capital.

The youths from the two neighbouring communities were said to have engaged each other in violence war over over the ancestral boundaries of their communal land.

Properties belonging to the non-indigenes of the area were said to have been destroyed by the rampaging youths.

Eyewitness of Opolo, told Thisday on condition of anonymity, the the fight by the two brotherly communities was unnecessary as they have been living together in peace for several years, even before the creation of Bayelsa State and emergence of Yenagoa as the state capital.

They said the struggle for land demarcation between the two communities is as a result of development which have been attracted to the areas because of Yenagoa being the capital city, a situation that have attracted property developers to the area.

The youth president of Okutukutu Community, Kester Wilcox, who spoke Thisday, said it was the youths of Opolo Community that attacked Okutukutu and started destroying properties belonging to mostly strangers before those property owners mobilised themselves and also retaliated.

Though, he said the casualty figures could not be ascertained at the moment, he urged both the youths of Okutukutu and Opolo Communities, as well as strangers residing in both communities to embrace peace, as peace is priceless for accelerated development of the area 

He said they have been age-long boundary issue between the two communities, but reason that it should  not have snowball into violent attack on the innocent people.

He said: “What really happened is that this afternoon, I got a call that youths of Opolo Community are destroying houses belonging to Okutukutu Community, so the owners of the property, especially strangers who reside in that axis of the community now mobilised themselves to retaliate and protect their property.

But now, since it happened in Okutukutu, they will always say it was Okutukutu people that caused the problem, but it was strangers whose property were destroyed that retaliated. We have age-long boundary issue with Opolo, even before I was born, but it should not degenerate into violent attack. 

Police Spokesman in Bayelsa State, ASP Musa Muhammed, who confirmed the clash, said men from the tactical team of the command have been dispatched to the warring areas to restore peace and calm.

In a swift reaction to the clash, the  Bayelsa State Government, condemned the attack and directed relevant security agencies to fish out the perpetrators for prosecution.

The State Deputy Governor, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, in a statement issued by his media aide, Mr Doubara Atasi, warned that the present administration would not condone a situation where individuals or communities resort to violence and physical attacks over territorial or land boundary disputes, more so when such matters are pending in the law court of competent jurisdiction.

He, therefore, called on Opolo, and its neighbouring communities particularly Okutukutu to refrain from taking any further action liable to bring about breakdown of law and order in the area.

The Deputy Governor urged the feuding communities to shield their swords as the state government is taking every necessary step to resolve the issue, including an emergency meeting with leadership of the affected communities in his office by 3pm on Tuesday the 20th of February, 2024.

Senator Ewhrudjakpo expressed deep regrets over the loss of lives and property from the incident, and assured the bereaved families that government would do everything within its powers to ensure that justice was served.

Olusegun Samuel in Yenagoa

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