Scores flee Cross River community over violent clash

Many villagers are vacating Uyanga in Akamkpa Local Government Area of Cross River State over renewed hostility with their neighbouring Ojor community.

The communal crisis, which started late Monday and continued on Friday, was said to have claimed more than four lives.

There are conflicting reports as to the cause of the hostility, but sources said the problem started after an unidentified policeman was killed by some youths from Uyanga on the suspicion that the slain cop was taking arms to Ojor.

In June 2017, both communities were involved in a bloody communal clash that left several persons dead, while many houses were destroyed.

The warring communities had failed to embrace peace after that encounter before the Monday clash started.

It was learnt on Thursday that scores of villagers were fleeing their homes to neighbouring communities in order to avoid being caught in the ongoing mayhem, which has led to destructions of homes.

Uyanga is located along the Calabar-Ikom highway, while its neighbour, Ojor, which is off the highway, could only be accessed through a road from Uyanga.

A commuter, ImohBassey, told our correspondent that many houses had been set ablaze while commuters plying the road were stranded on Wednesday.

“These two neighbouring communities have held themselves hostage. Many are being locked inside their houses without an escape route. Some persons, who managed to escape, are going to neighbouring communities to avoid being killed in the fight,” he said.

An indigene of Uyanga, Mr. Eugene Aidam, said the slain policeman was caught carrying arms to Ojor when he was nabbed and killed.

He noted that despite warnings from the police authorities that all communities should remain in their domain during the Yuletide, the Ojor people threatened the peace, which led to the latest violence.

Aidam said, “The commissioner of police wrote to inform all communities in Akamkpa to remain in their homes. I saw the letter from the clan head. On December 25, the Ojor people said they were embarking on a road walk, but the Uyanga youth resisted them.

“The Ojor youths went back to reinforce and came back to attack Uyanga. In the process, a man who was later identified as a policeman wanted to drive into Ojor with arms and ammunition.

“The youths intercepted his Toyota Sienna at the junction. He resisted being searched and his tyre was shot and he was eventually killed. They searched his vehicle and saw so many arms. He was said to be married to an Ojor woman and was taking arms to them.

“The Ojor people immediately came and started attacking Uyanga. I heard the slain policeman was from Adim. So, the Adim people have joined them to attack us (Uyanga). They invaded Uyanga and killed three persons on Wednesday. Those killed were Ekpo Clement, Barnabas and the third one is Paul.”

But an Ojor youth, Mr. Andrew Ikumo, denied the claims, saying that Uyanga youths struck first without being provoked.

Ikumo stated, “One of our in-laws from Adim was on his way to pick his family from Ojor when he was held hostage at Uyanga by some youths on the grounds that he carried arms. They probably thought he was an Ojor person. They brought him out from his car and beheaded him before burning his body. They took his rifle and set his car on fire.

“That same day, another Ojorboy was coming from Biase LGA. They held him and took him to their shrine. He was also beheaded. So, Ojor people got angry and attacked some persons from Uyanga. The head of the policeman that was killed has been recovered.

“Uyanga people were actually planning to hit Ojor people when this whole thing played out. There had been series of peace meetings, but the Uyanga people had refused to attack.

“They have been killing people who attempted to go to Ojor. The Ojor people had to retaliate. They have attacked the Uyanga community and burnt down some houses.”

The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Irene Ugbo, confirmed the death of the policeman.

She said the policeman was killed when he tried to mediate in the scuffle.

Ugbo, however, said that a detachment of mobile policemen had been deployed in the area and added that calm had been restored.