Military men permanently positioned on the Cross Rivers State side of the Calabar-Itu Head Bridge have arrested 17 persons involved in the attacks in the boundary dispute between Oku Iboku clan in Itu Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State and Ikot Offiong in Odukpani Local government area of Cross Rivers State.
It was gathered that the suspects were dressed as pastors in all white attire on Friday, while trying to enter into Akwa Ibom state.
Chairman of Oku Iboku Clan Council, Mr. Ability Emah, who claimed he witnessed the arrest of the suspects, said: “When I heard that the military men on the side of Cross River State were interrogating a group that arrived in a bus that Friday morning, I quickly ran there and saw the Army arrest them.
“Some even disguised themselves as preachers, dressed in all white. An Army officer told me that it was when they confronted them that they discovered that they were armed.
“I saw them remove sophisticated guns, ammunition and charms from their bus. In fact, I was told that it was the charms on them that attracted the attention of the military men.”
The Police Public Relations Officer in Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Chukwu Ikechukwu, who confirmed the incident, said, however, that he could not confirm the number of suspects that were arrested.
“I contacted the DPO in Itu on Saturday afternoon, and he confirmed that some people were arrested at the Head Bridge,” he added.
Meanwhile, 2 Brigade, Nigerian Army in Akwa Ibom, confirmed the arrest in a statement yesterday in Uyo, signed by the Assistant Director, Army Public Relations, Captain Umar Shuaib.
In the statement, Shuaib said: “The troops of 2 Brigade, Nigerian Army in Uyo, today (yesterday) arrested armed cultists at Uku Iboku Itu Bridge, boundary between Akwa Ibom and Cross River.”
Commander of the Brigade, Brigadier-General Abdu Hassan, the statement added, has assured residents of the Brigade’s readiness to protect the people.
Prior to the arrest, there has been serious tension brewing as regards the crisis.
During the weekend, Mr. Mike Etaba, the member representing Obubra/Etung federal constituency of Cross River State in the House of Representatives, was held hostage by a mob for several hours at the outskirts of Ababene community in Obubra Local Government Area of the state when he led a delegation of the state governor, Prof. Ben Ayade, on a peace mission to the area.
The mob comprising young men and women also barred an indigene of the community, Mr Peter Akam, the Commissioner for Commerce, who was part of the delegation, from entering the village.
The community youths and women were said to be aggrieved that the state government did not respond on time to stop the communal conflict between the community and neighbouring Inyamete, with whom they have been at war over a piece of land.