What looked like a squabble between youths of two Benue communities over power supply has left many injured and scores of houses and facilities razed to the ground.
Saturday PUNCH gathered from residents that the quarrel brewed for over two weeks before the clash occurred on Monday between youths of Obi and Otukpo local government areas of the state.
A resident, Jack Anya, said the cable linking the Ijegwu people of Obi LGA, to the Otukpo power source, was disconnected by hoodlums, leaving Ijegwu in darkness.
“We thought it was just a regular blackout but when it lasted for 10 days, the youth began to ask questions. We called the Jos Electricity Distribution Company and the officials said the fault was not from them. We later found that the other side (Otukpo) had power. So, it smelt of sabotage,” he added.
When Ijegwu youths went to check for themselves what was happening, Anya claimed that an argument broke out, which led to a fight.
He said, “It was a bloody fight. Machetes and sticks were freely deployed. By the time it got heated up, some miscreants took up arms and began to shoot. Many people were injured and others are still missing as I speak.”
Another resident, who lives in Otukpo, Magdalene Chinda, said since the clash, the communities had known no peace.
She claimed that hoodlums took advantage of the crisis to steal from shops and burn down houses.
Chinda, in a fear-laden voice, said, “As I speak to you, I have arranged with a bus driver that will take me and my family to Makurdi. They are burning houses in Ijegwu. My brother, who stays in Obi LGA, called to tell me to arrange my things. His house has been burnt to the ground. I have videos.”
Videos obtained from Chinda showed scores of houses burnt to ashes by irate youths.
The state Police Public Relations Officer, Anene Sewuese, confirmed the incident but said she had no details.
She said, “There is a clash over electricity but the details before me are still sketchy. At different points, we got to know that it was an argument that had occurred over two weeks before now. There are no reports of fatalities so far. But, I learnt they are burning houses.”
Speaking in an interview, the Regional Manager of Jos Electricity Distribution Company, Otukpo, Olaniyi Ogunmakinya, said the power outage happened because of isolators used to segment networks.
“There are what we call isolators, which we use to segment our networks. If there are problems in some areas, we isolate those areas and allow others to have electricity supply, while we work on the areas that have problems.
“There is an isolator towards the end of Otukpo LGA linking Obi LGA. When it rained a few days ago and we had our lines destroyed, we had to isolate the affected areas to enable us to work on the lines,” he added.
According to him, whenever repairs are being done on the lines, the people on the Obi LGA side may have a power outage.
“They (Obi) will not be happy that we are isolating them to repair the lines; they will prefer that everyone is denied power supply instead of isolating them before the repairs.
“So, from what I heard, two days ago, they allegedly marched to that isolation point to sabotage it. But the youth of the community that would be affected by their action resisted them, which led to the conflict,” he added.
He noted that many facilities were destroyed as a result of the clash.
The Head of Corporate Communications, JEDC, Dr Adakole Elijah, in a statement on Friday, maintained that the company had no hand in the crisis.
He urged the state government and security agencies to critically interrogate the situation with a view to unearthing the real causes of the fight and proffering lasting solutions