By Chioma Onuegbu
Uyo— A 25-year-old man, Daniel Effiong, who survived the latest clash between communities in Cross River State and Akwa Ibom State, has said the war preceded his birth.
He is among the survivors and relatives of those who lost their lives during last Friday’s attack on residents of Oku Iboku in Itu Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State by youths from Ikot Offiong in Odukpani Local Government Area of Cross Rivers State, who told Vanguard that government responded too late to the age-long war.
While calling on Cross River State and Federal Government to bring lasting solution to the perennial boundary dispute and avert further killing of their people, some of them recounted their ordeals to Vanguard, yesterday.
Effiong said: “On my way from the farm, I sighted five speed boats with heavy guns, shooting sporadically at people in the farm. I was trying to escape when they shot me in the leg.”
Effiong expressed disappointment that much was not being done by government to settle the boundary dispute.
He said: “After secondary school, I decided to go into farming. But I am discouraged because of what is happening. This war has been on before I was born and the situation is becoming worse. Some non-indigenes that are doing businesses in our community are moving out gradually.
“My question is when will government stop this war for us? Is it when everybody must have been killed by Ikot Offiong?”
‘I had already welcomed death’
Another survivor, a 35-year-old mother of five, Mrs. Nse Effiong Essen, native of Ikot Abiyak village, said: “I was on my way to the farm, but on getting to Oku Iboku beach, I saw Ikot Offiong people shooting in my direction.”
Nse Essen, who is also a nursing mother of a six-month-old baby, added “I ran into the bush as everybody was running in different directions. Unfortunately, a bullet hit my arm. That was all I remembered until I woke up in hospital.
“When I saw their big guns, I considered myself dead. I thank God for keeping me alive to take care of my children. They caught our people unawares.”
‘I lost my 29-yr-old son’
Also, a 55-year-old man Eyo Okon Akpan from Ikot Abiyat village lamented how the Friday mayhem claimed the life of his 29-year-old son, Etim Akpan.
According to him, “my son went to farm but did not return home. Some dead bodies have been recovered, but the body of my son has not been found.
“I feel saddened about this whole thing. I don’t know if I will ever recover from this because my heart is heavy. He left his three little children behind.
“Since then we don’t sleep with two eyes closed because we have been receiving information that they will attack anytime. But they did not until Monday morning, when they came shooting again from the waters.
“We are no longer safe; our women and children are constantly being killed by those people. They have not gone away because they are still hanging around the waters.”
However, the community leaders claimed that out of 31 persons that were killed in the last Friday attack, only 12 dead bodies, mostly young people and women, have been recovered, while the corpses of 29 persons, who also left to fish and farm that Friday, are still missing.
Chairman Oku Iboku Clan Council, Elder Ability Emah, said women and children have been barred from the beach area, adding that the community had already lost so many women and young ones in the crisis.
His words: “We even received information that they are planning to come in eight buses and invade this area. That is why you see the Army carrying out a stop-and-search operation at the Itu-Calabar Bridge Head.
“We appreciate our governor’s efforts geared towards resolving the lingering crisis.”
The Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Chukwu Ikechukwu, when contacted, said that the police were on ground to ensure the safety of the residents.
He added that the report from the District Police Officer of Itu, Monday evening, indicates that the situation was under control and the community calm.