At least over 300 residents of Mbiabong Ito community in Ito-South clan of Odukpani Local Government Area of Cross River State have fled their homes following the invasion of the community by Fulani herdsmen on Tuesday.
It was learnt on Wednesday that the herdsmen, who invaded the community with large number of cows, had forcefully resisted attempts by the villagers to deny them access to their farmlands for grazing.
The herdsmen were said to have entered the community from Arochukwu, a town located at the southern end of Abia State.
There are fears that there might have been some casualties, but the Police source could not confirm it.
A relative of one of the displaced villagers, who identified himself as Eyo Edet, said his kinsmen abandoned their homes and took refuge in the bushes around when the herdsmen started shooting into the air.
He said his relative told him that at least 300 persons fled their homes when it became obvious that the herdsmen had sophisticated weapons and were bent on unleashing mayhem.
Edet said, “I got a call from my relative in Mbiabong Ito that Fulani herdsmen have invaded the community with their cows. She said over 300 villagers are in the bush because of the fear of the herdsmen.
“My relative told me that herdsmen came with a large number of cows and wanted the cows to feed on the farmlands, but when the villagers resisted, the herdsmen brought out guns.
“She said there were numerous gunshots and the villagers had to take to the bush when it became obvious that the suspected herdsmen had more sophisticated weapons.”
It was not clear as at the time of filing this report if the fleeing villagers had returned to their homes, but another source said it was unlikely, as the Police had yet to arrive.
“They cannot go back because the Police had yet to come to their rescue as at 1pm on Wednesday,” the source said.
A senior policeman in the Odukpani Police Division, who craved anonymity because he was not authorised to speak, said Police found it difficult to access the community on Tuesday because of the rough terrain.
“We got the information early Wednesday morning. You should understand that it will take a while before we can authoritatively give you information on the situation in the area.
“To get to the area is a challenge, as we would have to either travel to Akwa Ibom State before diverting to the village or go through the river in Itu,” he said.
Meanwhile, the state Police Public Relations Officer, ASP Irene Ugbo, confirmed the development, saying riot policemen have been drafted to maintain peace in the troubled community.
“The situation is confirmed. We are not sure if there are casualties for now; but I can confirm that we have just deployed our men to maintain peace in the community.
“I will still try to get more details,” she said.