17th January, 2017
Four persons were feared dead and scores of persons injured in the renewed boundary crisis between Oku Iboku community in Akwa Ibom and Ikot Offiong in Cross River.
Mr Bassey Essien Bassey, a former Vice Chairman of Itu Local Government Area, confirmed the incident in Itu on Tuesday.
Bassey said that several persons sustained injuries while over 20 houses were burnt, including a filling station in the age-long communal conflict.
He said that two security operatives were among those who lost their lives, forcing the military to deploy dozens of soldiers to the scene.
Bassey said that motorists and commuters along the Calabar-Itu highway were delayed for more than four hours until the arrival of security operatives to clear the road.
Chief Ene Essien, a Community Leader in Oku Iboku, said that the latest incident occurred after series of attempts by the people to re-occupy the fishing area failed as they were forced out by the people of Oku Iboku.
“The Ikot Offiong people are fishermen who migrated into our area from Akpabuyo in Cross River State to settle.
“After settling for so many years, they developed the instinct of seizing our land and even expanding more into Itu.”
The community leader added that their “uncomplimentary” relationship with the host community forced them to push them away from the fishing community.
He said that when they left our community, they settled at Odukpani, but the people also pushed them out of their place in Akpabuyo, because of their warring attitude.
Essien said the intractable conflict had lingered for years, leading to intermittent attacks by the invaders from Ikot Offiong.
According to him, the communal crisis started around the fishing area, but later escalated to the Calabar-Itu road when the people of Ikot Offiong returned in reprisal, leading to the death of four persons.
It was gathered that the invaders returned with armed hoodlums in 11 buses and several flying boats.
They were later repelled by a combined team of soldiers, anti-riot Policemen and men of the State Anti-Robbery and Kidnapping Squad (SARS).
Narrating their ordeal also, two aides to Gov. Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom, Messrs Essien Ndueso and Joseph Okon, said that they were trapped in the incident while returning from Calabar on official assignment.
They said that the entire area was “on fire” and thanked thanked God they were able to come out unhurt.
Confirming the incident, the state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), ASP Cordelia Nwawe, said that several persons were injured, adding that she was yet to be briefed on those who died in the incident.
“It is not the business of the Police to count dead bodies, our business is to secure lives and property,” Nwawe said.
She added that normalcy had returned to the area as a detachment of Police Mobile Force (PMS) 26 and 57, had been drafted to maintain peace.