– The fighting was as a result of a boundary dispute between people of Oku Iboku in Itu Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom and those of Ikot Offiong in Odukpani LGA in Cross River

Not fewer than about 20 people have been reportedly killed in a clash between communities in Akwa Ibom and Cross River states.

The Punch reports that the clash which was caused by a boundary dispute between people of Oku Iboku in Itu Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom and those of Ikot Offiong in Odukpani LGA in Cross River.

Heavy, war-like fighting began on Friday, February 10 night between the communities with light and heavy weapons used by both sides.

The report quotes an unconfirmed source as saying that over 20 people were left dead at the end of the fighting. Most of those killed were from Ikot Offiong after Oku Iboku youths ambushed them in the attack and chased them to the neigbouring Odukpani community.

The fighting held travellers along the Calabar-Itu Highway for hours on Saturday, February 11 until the arrival of soldiers, who drove the fighting youths away to make way for smooth movement of motorists and commuters.

An unnamed source said that the clash, which is the third in the area since December 2016 may have been sponsored.

On their part, the people of Ikot-Offiong community in Odukpani Local Government Area of Cross River State have written a letter to the Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant-Gen. Tukur Buratai and the Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Idris to investigate the activities of the soldiers and policemen posted to the area to foster peace.

The Punch reports that in a ‘Save Our Soul’ letter signed by Chief Etim Bassey-Offiong on behalf of his people and published by Southern City News wants Buratai and Idris to investigate the activities of personnel deployed in the Itu end of the bridge closer to Ibawa Police Division in Akwa Ibom State.

The letter read in part: “The people of Oku-Iboku on January 16, 2017, crossed the bridge and attacked our people with dangerous weapons, killing some of us. On January 19, the Oku Iboku people caught one Bassey Ekpo from Eteheten village, who was returning from Port-Harcourt and killed him at Ayadeghe Bridge in the presence of the soldiers.

“On Saturday, February 11, 2017, the Oku-Iboku people with the aid of soldiers crossed the Calabar-Itu Bridge to Cross River to attack our people. Consequent upon the renewed hostility by the Oku-Iboku people, the Nigerian Army and the police have deployed their operatives to the warring area to protect the people and prevent the attack.”

But spokesman of the Nigerian Army, 13 Brigade in Calabar Capt. Kayode Owolabi denied the allegations and insisted that the Army was on the ground to curb any occurrence of crisis between both communities.

“As I speak with you now, we just left the dispute area where our men are solidly on the ground. Our aim is to restore peace and not to take side with any community,”Owolabi said.

The Niger Delta has always remained a flash point in Nigeria with clashes among communities and attacks on oil installations.

Just last week, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo was in the Niger Delta to discuss peace with some of the communities in the bid to boost Nigeria’s oil production which takes place in the area.

Both Akwa Ibom and Cross River are part of the nine oil-producing states of the Niger Delta that also includes Bayelsa, Ondo, Imo, Abia, Edo, Rivers and Delta.