The Ito royal fathers in Odukpani local government area in Cross River State, Southern Nigeria are accusing the police of conniving with the herdsmen to detain their royal ruler in a bid to desecrate their traditional institution.
Specifically, the royal fathers are therefore locked in a bitter protest over the arrest and detention of the Clan Head of Ito South, Etinyin Edet Okon Eyet Ebita, by the police over an alleged murder of a herdsman in the area.
Chief Inyang Inyang, a spokesman for the Ito traditional rulers raised an alarm over an alleged attack on the people of Mbiabong Ito in Ito North Clan and its environs by herdsmen, saying their ancestors are angry with the Fulani herdsmen.
“The entire Ito people are saddened by the unfolding scenario and want to state here that herdsmen in connivance with the police have desecrated our traditional institution by ambushing, arresting and detaining our paramount chief who innocently honoured a police invitation, as usual, only to be treated like a common criminal.
“By this act our ancestors are angry with the Fulani and there are henceforth not permitted to come to any part of Ito community or pass through same for purposes of grazing their herds (cows). We are therefore, demanding that Ebita be released forthwith.
According to them, the detained Ebita was innocent of the allegation leveled against him and as such, they are demanding his immediate release.
The rulers said “We the entire members of Ito Combined Traditional Rulers Council wish to bring to the notice of the general public and government/security agencies in particular, the unlawful arrest and detention, arraignment and subsequent remand in Afokang prisons of Etinyin Edet Okon Eyet Ebita, the clan head of Ito South. Fully armed herdsmen, notorious in destroying human lives and properties, had on December 5, 2017 invaded Mbiabong-Ito community with their herds of cattle and in the process destroyed farmlands and crops of the people with their cows in large number.
“The herdsmen were approached and asked why they invaded the community and destroyed their farmlands being that their cows had within the first one or two hours, already wreaked havoc on peoples’ farmlands. The herdsmen arrogantly refused to dialogue with the elders and youths of Mbiabong Ito choosing rather to shoot sporadically with sophisticated guns while making their herds of cattle to graze freely and destructively on the farms of the Mbiabong Ito people.
“In the course of trying to prevent them from further destruction, they inflicted gunshot and machete injuries on some Mbiabong Ito people. Etinyin Ebita who was not in his palace, resides some eight kilometres away from Mbiabong Ito, the scene of the incident.”
According to the monarchs, “On getting the information of the invasion through phone calls, he quickly made contacts with security agencies which enabled the Commissioner of Police, Cross River State to dispatch a contingent of quick intervention force to Mbiabong Ito under the command of the DPO of Odukpani Police Division whose jurisdiction covers Ito community as a whole.
“In a bid to restore normalcy in the area, Ebita at the instance of the DPO accompanied the police to Arochukwu, a neigbouring community in Abia State where the herdsmen invaded Ito south clan. In the same vein when the Police Commissioner arranged a meeting in Calabar with the two parties, it was Ebita who attended the meeting.
“It must be stated that none of the meetings facilitated by the police authority and other agencies was the issue of the alleged murder or missing person raised by the Fulani. When it appeared to the police that the situation in the community was under control, the police contingent was suddenly withdrawn even though there were rumours of impending invasion by the herdsmen who were said to be regrouping somewhere in the Ohafia area of Abia State.
“There was relative peace in the entire community, until last February 16, when Ebita received an invitation from the office of the Deputy Commissioner of Police, State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID), Calabar for alleged offence of murder. Without hesitation, Ebita knowing fully well that he was not culpable of any criminal offence promptly reported to the police on Monday, February 19, with his legal counsel and after interrogation was detained in the cell.
“Ito North Clan where the incident allegedly took place is a distinct gazetted clan from Ito South where Ebita resides, about eight kilometers away from Mbiabong Ito – scene of incident. He was not involved in whatever took place there and knew nothing about the alleged murder. It is therefore, surprising that not only is such an allegation being made now, but being made against Ebita,’’ the traditional rulers said.