Fourty persons have died in a communal clash between Ntan Obu-Ukpe in Odukpani Local Government Area of Cross River State and Ikpanya Community in Ibiono Ibom Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State.
Also, 40 persons, including women, mobile policemen and children have been reported missing as a result of the clash.
The Chairman of Odukpani Council, Stephen Asuquo, confirmed that they clashing communities recorded a number of casualties.
However, Hogan Bassey, spokesman of the Cross River State Command of the Nigeria Police, who also confirmed that casualties were recorded, said he could not give the exact number of the deceased.
“We cannot give the casualty figures for now because we just discovered another person found dead in the area,” Mr. Bassey said.
The Odukpani Council Chairman, Mr. Asuquo said that even properties are being brought down in the feud. “There is no house standing there, the entire village has been destroyed and burnt down,” he said.
Narrating the details of the clash, he said, “I can say it is as a result of the struggle by people from Ikpanya for the land that belongs to the Ntan Obu-Ukpe and Ikpanya is in Ibiono Local Government Council of Akwa Ibom State, while Ntan Obu is in Odukpani Local Government Area of Cross River State”.
“Something akin to this took place a year ago and the deputy governors of the two states met and agreed that everything should return to status quo ante that was the position before the conflict”.
Mr. Asuquo said that “A Supreme Court judgment has ruled that the land belongs to Odukpani and the people of Odukpani are Cross River indigenes and the people from Ikpanya have tried to lease out Ntan Obu land to cattle ‘rearers’ to rear their cattle there”.
He called on the cattle raisers to vacate the land in dispute, “so I am appealing to the cattle rearers, we don’t want cattle rearers being there, but you must recognise the overlords and not that of the neighbouring community,” he said.
Mr. Asuquo, however, said that the attack was not done by the cattle raisers; according to him, the indigenes of Ikpanya were the people who attacked the indigenes from Ntan Obu.
“We are yet to ascertain the number because the people they killed, they beheaded and then threw the corpses into the river, the village (Ntan Obu) head was killed and beheaded,” he said.
“We could recognise his body from the attire he wore the day before the attack. The name of the village head is Etinyin Mfon Asanye”.
“People managed to escape; some jumped through the swamp and jumped into the river. It happened in the wee hours of the morning of Wednesday last week,” Mr. Asuquo said.
He narrated that in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, indigenes from Ikpanya, the Akwa Ibom side, got to the disputed land, set loose all the boats in order to stop people from escaping and started attacking the people.
“There was complete destruction of the place, the only two building that are standing are two churches but the churches were looted, the musical instruments were all carted away”.
“Some of the displaced persons are in Asan Eniong and nearby villages,’’ he said,
Mr. Asuquo appealed to government to send security men to the area.
“We are appealing to government to send soldiers and mobile policemen to the area,” he said.
“We are appealing that they should use the church building and few of the buildings that were not completely destroyed for the displaced people, while we try to see what we can do to appease them,’’ he plead .
According to Mr. Asuquo, “The unit commander or the leader of the troop is on ground there and he is doing his best. But before then, after the first incident we had a few number of policemen who were there, out of the nine who were there, four are still missing up till now”.
He suspected that the missing police men have been killed and beheaded, “we are suspecting that some were dragged to the swamp, we saw some police uniform at the swamp with blood stains,’’ he said.
Mr, Asuquo called on the Federal Government to act on the June 24, 2005, Supreme Court of judgment, the ruling had demarcated the boundary between Cross River and Akwa Ibom States.
“This is to ensure that people from the other side keep to their side and if they are coming here they will come as tenants and they will be welcome and not as invaders,” he said.
Asakara Ekanem Umo, the Paramount ruler of Odukpani Local Government Area also confirmed the incident.
According to him, “The last incursion was so large in destruction. The fight had left the community completely destroyed.
“Children and women were not spared and in the process they killed four mobile police men who were stationed for security assistance to the people over there”.
Mr. Umo called for provision of relief materials to the affected victims, urging the government to take measures to prevent further occurrence of the mayhem.