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Calabar-Itu highway blocked for hours in renewed communal clash


untitled-2The Calabar-Itu Federal Highway was yesterday blocked for hours following a renewed communal clash between the people of Oku-Iboku in Itu Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State and their Ikot Offing neighbours in Odukpani Council of Cross River.

For hours, several vehicles were forced to park by the roadside when the news of the clash broke.

As early as 7:00 a.m., the highway at both ends of Itu bridge was blocked. Drivers managed to get to the bridge-head with the assistance of about 10 soldiers who were travelling in two trucks out of Calabar.

The soldiers met the gun-wielding youths at the Cross River end of the bridge and after hours of persuasion, commuters were allowed to continue with their journey.

The youths, at both ends of the bridge with red ribbons tied round their head and faces painted with black charcoal and white local chalk, displayed sophisticated weapons, locally-made guns, axes, machetes and other dangerous weapons, threatening fire and brimstone.

An indigene of Ikot Offiong in Calabar, who pleaded anonymity, said: “The renewed clash started on Monday and as far as I am concerned, this is a senseless fight because both sides signed a peace accord in 2015.

“The federal and state governments should step in and declare the disputed areas a buffer zone.”

For years, both communities engaged in communal clashes that claimed several lives and property worth millions of naira.

A handful of armed policemen had been stationed at both sides of the bridge but residents say soldiers should be drafted in.

The Cross River State Police Public Relations Officer, Irene Ugbo, confirmed yesterday’s clash.

She said: “We are aware. The commissioner of police has drafted our men there and I am sure the situation is calm by now, otherwise there would have been a call. Our men and other security agents are there to maintain law and order.”

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