Three people are reported to have died in the recent communal crisis between Offa and Erin Ile in Offa and Oyun Local Government Areas of Kwara State, which has witnessed the destruction of properties running into millions of naira.
Although the rift between the two communities over land dates back to forty-two years ago, there are conflicting reports over the cause of the current scuffle. While some residents blame it on the tussle over land, the Chairman of Offa Local Government Area, Mr. Saheed Popoola, attributed the latest violence to disputing transport unions.
Offa, the second largest commercial city in the state, after the state capital, Ilorin, has been deserted following the two-day crisis with its age-long neighbour, Erin Ile.
The latest fracas was the first in the New Year, but the sixth in the last two years and has been described as the worst in terms of the scale of destruction on both sides of the communities. A visit to Offa by Channels Television correspondent, Hakeem Garba, showed bullet pellets still littered the ground, although it could not be confirmed if they were fired by the warring parties or the military personnel drafted to the battleground to keep the peace.
The newly commissioned town hall in the town was not spared, as some of the windows were shattered with pebbles while a nearby petrol station was razed down.
Although the state government has imposed a 24-hour curfew, this has made most of the commercial institutions located in Offa especially banks to shut down, while the students of the Federal Polytechnic were seen rushing to make their way out of the town with the few available commercial vehicles cashing on the situation to inflate transport fares.
Meanwhile, the state command of the Nigerian police in a statement signed by the public relations officer, DSP Femi Fabode, revealed that an hotelier, Bukola Lawal of Adlag Hotel, located at the border of the two communities, was reported to have lost his life in the crisis while a police officer was also shot dead, together with an unidentified victim while trying to escape the scene of the fight.
Efforts by our correspondent to get to Erin Ile, the other community involved in the dispute, was not successful as he was turned back by the security personnel stationed at the buffet between the two warring communities.