By Nicholas Dechi
Gov. Samuel Ortom of Benue has called for lasting peace betweem the Egba and Ologba clans in Agatu Local Government Area of the state.
Ortom made the call in Otukpo the headquarters of Otukpo LGA of the state during the signing of the Agatu Natural Resource Peace Agreement between the Egba and the Ologba clans in Agatu.
The governor, represented by his Special Adviser on SDGs/NEPAD, Prof. Magdalene Dura, called stakeholders to work with the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue to bring lasting peace to the 20 Local Government Areas (LGAs) of the state that are experiencing various forms of conflicts.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that with the commitment to end decades of intercommunal violence over water and land in Benue, 20 clans from the Agatu community signed a peace agreement on the sharing of resources that also covers free movement in the area and the safe return of thousands of displaced people.
The peace deal was brokered by the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD).
”As we sign today, leaving behind misgivings and grievances accumulated over the last 50 years, go back and do more for peace.
“I appeal to the centre to also work towards bringing peace between farmers and herders.
”We appreciate the centre for the peace process which culminated into the signing of the peace agreement,” he said.
Also speaking, the Regional Director of the centre, Dr Babatunde Afolabi disclosed that it was the first time that the communities would end their differences through signing of a natural resource-specific peace agreement in Nigeria.
“We are therefore, proud and happy to share this unique history with you.
“We have managed to facilitate dialogue and help Agatu community especially the Egba and Ologba clans agree on how best to manage the lingering disputes between them on the ownership, sharing and management of their fish ponds,” Afolabi said.
Also, Prof. Armstrong Adejo, a Professor of History at the Benue State University (BSU), in his key note address said that conflict was not healthy for any society because it causes hunger, poverty, and loss of lives and property.
”Peace has a lot of benefits,” he said.
Also contributing, the Tor Tiv, Prof. James Ayaitse who was represented by Mr Iorbee Ihagh, appealed to the centre to engage Bonta and Okpute communities in Konshisha and Oju LGAs rto agree on a peaceful resolution of their feud.
Also, the Och’ Idoma, Dr John Elaigwu, charged his subjects to take the peace agreement serious.
The First Class Chief of Apa/Agatu intermediate area, Chief Baba Odangla and the Agatu traditional ruler, Chief Godwin Onah, appreciated God for making the peace process possible, believing that their land would enjoy peace again.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the peace accord, which recognises the need to involve women, youth and people with disabilities in the process, follows a Statement of Affirmation by the 22 clans in November 2021 that included their commitment to HD’s dialogue process.
Since the early 1970s, the area has suffered violence over natural resources, especially the ownership, access and management of water sources, farmland and fishponds.
The disputes have resulted in hundreds of deaths, thousands of people displaced, widespread criminal activity and interruption of economic, social and education programmes.
HD’s mediation and peacemaking work in various areas of Nigeria, includes three major intercommunal agreements in 2015 and 2016 and a landmark social media peace accord signed in July 2021 by the Bache, Fulani and Irigwe ethnic groups in the Bassa Local Government Area of Plateau.
With more than 50 projects and 300 staff across Africa, the Middle East, Eurasia, Asia and Latin America, HD is the leading international private diplomacy organisation working to prevent and resolve armed conflicts through dialogue and mediation. (NAN)