The chairman of Oku Iboku clan council in Itu local government area, Akwa Ibom State, Chief Ability Peter Emah has said that no fewer than 30 fishermen from the community have been killed by suspected youths from Cross Rivers State.
Speaking in an interview in Oku Iboku, Emah disclosed that eight dead bodies had been recovered so far and interred after they were properly identified and their remains showed to the police in Itu.
He said the community arrived at the 30 casualty figure based on reports of some members of the community who had not seen their relations since last Thursday when some unidentified armed youths operating from a neighbouring community in Cross River State allegedly attacked Oku Iboku persons who went fishing on that day.
According to Emah, it was reported that the armed men had first attacked the fishermen on the waters on that day and continued the onslaught subsequently.
“But midnight Monday, they attacked the fishermen again when they had gone fishing. We were told they came in two flying boats. You know this is the season when our people go fishing a lot and make money.
“So far we have recovered eight corpses, so about 22 persons are still missing. And as we speak our people are still coming to report missing persons.
“And so many fishermen were already in the river when these violent youths who were heavily armed attacked and surrounded them and killed many of our people. I personally reported the incident to Itu Police Division about 1a.m.
“The community is deserted now because as our people heard the gunshots they fled their homes for safety because we are no longer safe here. As a community leader I am appealing to our government to ensure that marine police are deployed to our waters.
“The marine police team that used to be positioned here during the last crisis left even without our notice”, he said.
When contacted, the state Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Odiko Macdon, confirmed the incident.
However, he said he was yet to receive feedback on the casualty figure.
“I know that crisis erupted in the area. We have deployed our men to the area on both sides. That is why the crisis did not escalate. And as I speak normalcy has returned to the area because police moved in swiftly”, he said.
The recent incident is linked to the age-long feud between the people of Ikot-Offiong in Odukpani and those of Oku-Iboku community in Akwa Ibom and there appears to be no end in sight to the intractable dispute that has led to the destruction of lives and property.
The dispute started in the late 1990s when Ikot Offiong broke into factions with one of them insisting on aligning with Odukpani in Cross Rivers State and at the same time claiming to be part and parcel of Oku Iboku.
The Oku Iboku people claim that their ancestors, out of benevolence, welcomed the Ikot Offiong people to their land and gave them some portion to farm and also allowed them to freely fish in their river but the visitors are now claiming that the land belongs to them.