Judex Okoro, Calabar
Eleven persons have been reportedly killed in a communal clash between Okwabang and Beebo communities of Boki East, in Boki Local Government Area of Cross River State.
While two persons were killed on Friday, one each from both communities, nine Okuabang natives were hacked to death yesterday morning by Beebo guerrillas.
Okwabang and Beebo communities, with vast amounts of the state’s rainforest reserve, have been engaged in an age-long land dispute, leading to destruction of life and property, in spite of repeated peace moves.
Investigations by Daily Sun revealed that the recent clash was sparked by suspicions that the Beebo community was harvesting commodities at a farm allegedly belonging to an Okwabang man.
It was learnt that, following the suspicion, a youth leader from Okwabang, simply identified as Monjok, with his team on surveillance, accosted a group of Beebo people harvesting illegally from his farm and then a disagreement ensued, leading to a shootout and, subsequently, the killing of one Beebo indigene.
A witness, who gave his name as Johnson Abang, from Okwabang, said: “We have always disagreed over land matters for decades. But the recent tension rose following suspicions that the Beebo community was harvesting commodities at a farm belonging to an Okwabang man.
“This got to a climax on Thursday last week when an Okwabang man accosted a group of Beebo aborigines harvesting from his farm. There and then, fighting broke out and later open shooting, which led to killing of one Beebo native. The Okwabang man ran to the community and reported himself. The community then took him to the Bateriko Police Station and he was kept in custody.”
On getting wind that one Beebo native had been killed, the youths of Beebo community launched a reprisal attack on Okwabang community.
Another witness, Obi Micheal, said: “When news got to Beebo community that one of theirs has been killed in a scuffle by an Okwabang person, they quickly organized and ambushed and shot dead one innocent Okwabang man returning from market.”
He disclosed that efforts by traditional rulers of both communities to intervene were to no avail as both communities were poised for war, and security operatives, including the police and the Nigerian Army, have been deployed to both communities since the breakout of hostilities.
However, the presence of the security operatives has not restored peace and normalcy as nine persons from Okwabang community were allegedly killed yesterday morning. Sources close to the Okwabang community disclosed that the victims had braved the odds and went as a group to tap palm wine early that morning when their assailants, who laid ambush on various pathways around the boundary, attacked and hacked them to death.
The source said out of 10, only one escaped and ran back to Okwabang to report the murder of his kinsmen.
Speaking with Daily Sun on the incident, police spokesperson in the state, Mrs. Irene Ugbo, said immediately they got information about the clash, the Commissioner of Police deployed a crack team of regular and anti-riot policemen to the trouble spot.
Ugbo, who could not confirm any casualty, however, said she would get across to the area command at Ikom to know the situation of things, insisting that the police were working round the clock to ensure peace reigns.