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 State.Bassey Essien Bassey, a former Vice Chairman of Itu Local Government Area, confirmed the incident to the News Agency of Nigeria in Itu on Tuesday, said several persons sustained injuries while over 20 houses were burnt, including a filling station in the age-long communal conflict.
He said two security operatives were among those who lost their lives, forcing the military to deploy dozens of soldiers to the scene.
Bassey said 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.
Ene Essien, a Community Leader in Oku Iboku, said 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.
“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,” he said.
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.
It was further learnt that they were later repelled by a combined team of soldiers, anti-riot police officers and officials of the State Anti-Robbery and Kidnapping Squad, SARS.
Narrating their ordeal also, two aides to Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom, Essien Ndueso and Joseph Okon, said that they were trapped in the incident while returning from Calabar on official assignment.
They said the entire area was “on fire” and thanked God they were able to come out unhurt.
Confirming the incident, the state Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, 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,” Ms. Nwawe said.
She added that normalcy had returned to the area as a detachment of Police Mobile Force 26 and 57, had been drafted to maintain peace.
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