By Ike Uchechukwu
CALABAR—No fewer than 400 residents of Ikot-Offiong community in Odukpani Local Government Area of Cross River State, yesterday, embarked on a peaceful protest to the state Government House to appeal for the release of 17 of their colleagus arrested by soldiers.
The community alleged that 17 of their youths were arrested on Friday at the Odukpani end-bridge by soldiers of 2 Brigade Nigerian Army, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.
Vanguard learned that the people of Ikot-Offiong in Odukpani and the people of Oku Iboku community in Akwa Ibom State have witnessed communal crisis that had claimed the lives of many with property worth millions of naira destroyed.
The protesters carried placards with inscriptions such as “We will die defending our ancestral home,” “Gov. Ayade please help us and release our 17 youths,” among others.
Mr. Philip Okon, who spoke on behalf of the protesters, said that they embarked on the peaceful protest to inform the state governor and residents of the state that 17 youths from the community were arrested by soldiers from Uyo.
Okon, who is the Chairman, National Youth Council of Nigeria, Odukpani chapter, said it was not proper for soldiers from Uyo to invade a Cross River State community to arrest the 17 unarmed youths over inter-state communal crisis.
He said: “We are here today to protest the arrest of our 17 colleagues by soldiers from 2 Brigade Uyo. We are demanding their unconditional release. The soldiers said that the youths were caught with firearms. If their allegation is true, then they should return them to 13 Brigade Nigerian Army, Calabar for trial.
“It is very risky keeping them in Uyo because this will further deepen the crisis between both communities that share a common boundary. We are calling on the state governor, the president and members of the National Assembly from the state to help us by releasing our youths.”