By Amos Aar
LEADERS in the warring communities of Bonta and Okpute in Konshisha and Oju local government areas of Benue State have signed a natural resource peace agreement in a bid to permanently end the lingering communal crisis between the two.
The signing of the peace agreement held in Makurdi under the auspices of the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue with the support of the Federal Republic of Germany.
During the event, all parties involved in the communal clashes in both local government areas agreed to eschew conflicts and embrace peace in order to live in harmony and promote peaceful coexistence in the state.
Part of the resolutions from the roundtable dialogue captured in the pact read: “Markets from both sides should be for all regardless of ethnicity, origin or sex. Members of both Konshisha and Oju communities will trade side by side in all markets in the border areas.
“Our people will respect the constituted authority within which jurisdiction they reside.
“Ihiobila market should remain at its present location under the control of Oju local government council as decided by the Konshisha/Oju peace agreement committee established by the Benue State government and shall have oversight on the activities of the market in line with the provisions of the agreement.
“Bonta market should be reopened under the control of Konshisha local government until it’s otherwise decided by the border demarcation to be conducted by the Benue State government and
“No community will restrict individuals from both sides from accessing water”.
Benue State governor, Rev. Fr. Hyacinth Alia, represented by his deputy, Sam Ode, assured that the resolution and recommendation from the Konshisha-Oju Natural Resource Peace Agreement would be studied carefully and appropriate action taken where necessary.
The governor asserted that traditional rulers, religious leaders, women and youths all have various roles to play in building and sustaining peace for the mutual and peaceful co-existence of border communities.
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“The Benue State Boundary Committee appreciates the continued partnership and collaboration of the CHD in ensuring that workable solutions to the numerous land disputes and conflict challenges that face our state are being achieved.
“I therefore, encourage the border communities of Konshisha and Oju local government areas to engage in the exchange of royal visits, cross-cultural and cross-border economic activities to pave the way for peaceful coexistence among them”, Alia urged.
Earlier, the Country Manager, Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, Dr Chris Agoha, explained that the agreement falls squarely into the aspiration of the communities for total peace and development for all, especially the vulnerable population, which has suffered the negative impact of the crisis and has been deprived of their common heritage.
He disclosed that the agreement would be a model of peace-making and conflict resolution to be emulated by the wider communities of Benue State and Nigeria in general.
In a keynote address, former Vice Chancellor of Benue State University, Professor Charity Angya, called on Konshisha and Oju communities to embrace peace, ensure cooperation and communication among individuals and uphold conciliation for the sustainability of the peace agreement.
The two paramount rulers of Tiv and Idoma, HRM Prof. James Ayatse, the Tor Tiv, and HRM John Odogbo, the Och’Idoma, promised that the agreement would be executed, warning that appropriate sanctions will be imposed on those who continue to foment trouble in the area after the signing of the peace pact.
They charged youths from the warring communities to listen to their elders and embrace peace even without boundary demarcation.
But in their separate remarks, the Adutu Oju, Chief Daniel Ulegede, and the chairman, Benue Mediation Peace Process Committee, Dr Boniface Ukende, stressed that the boundary between Bonta in Konshisha and Okpute in Oju must be demarcated for peace to be achieved permanently.
“As long as land remains, as long as demarcation is not done, whatever we do will be exercise in futility,” Ulegede stressed.
On his part, Dr Boniface Ukende, who was represented at the event by Comrade John Okpong, the deputy chairman of the Benue Mediation Peace Process Committee and Chairman, Igede Steering Committee on the Konshisha-Oju Natural Resources Dialogue Steering Committee, said, “we have agreed that we will not fight each other again and we will not encroach again. Bust we agreed that the boundary must be demarcated.
“That’s the summary of all our engagement and we asked the Benue State Government to do the needful and we are waiting as we sign the peace agreement. We hope the Benue State Government will do the boundary demarcation without much delay”.
It can be recalled that a similar peace pact organised by a former Benue State Commissioner of Police, Audu Mada, was signed between Konshisha and Oju on May 12, 2021 but the crisis continued maybe because the boundary in question was not demarcated.
The boundary demarcation has remained a mirage since 2021 as several promises made by the immediate past administration of Samuel Ortom to do it failed even as dates were fixed for the exercise.