More people have fled their homes in Ukanafun and Etim Ekpo Local Governments, following the continued terror activities of militia men, believed to be cultists. This is just as security operatives are meeting to find a lasting solution to the activities of the hoodlums.
In Ikot Udo Obobo, Ikot Akpa Nkuk and other neighbouring villages in Ukanafun Local Government Area for example, shop owners have shut down, with most of them relocating either to Abak or Uyo.
No More Schools
Schools have also been shut down, as the kidnappers now go after teachers. In the last two weeks, no fewer than five teachers have been kidnapped in the area.
Last week, a widow, Madam Ime Udodung was kidnapped from her house along Okoyo Road in Ikot Udo Obobo. The children have been told to pay a ransom of a million naira to secure her release.
As it stands now, motorists are avoiding the Iwukem-Etim Ekpo road, where militants burnt down a commercial bus belonging to the state transport company, AKTC, along with all the passengers on board.
The cultists, who have become very daring, now operate in broad day light, sometimes unmasked, and would move from Etim Ekpo to Ukanafun to carry out their activities.
But in the midst of this, the state government appear not to be in touch with realities. The commissioner for information, Charles Udoh, in a recent statement described the terror acts as isolated cases in Etim Ekpo.
His statement read in part: “Following a few isolated cases of criminal activities recorded in Etim Ekpo Local Government Area in the last few days, which resulted in the unfortunate death of an AKTC bus driver and a few other citizens, the Akwa Ibom State Government has directed security agencies to leave no stone unturned in the quest to bring the hoodlums.”
But a few days after that statement was issued, the militants wreaked more havoc. In fact, the victim in Ukanafun was kidnapped about 24 hours after. Same day, scores of residents fled Ikot Udo Obobo and relocated to Abak for fear of kidnap.
Udom Has Goofed
Reacting to the commissioner's statement, Mr Akanimo Edet, an indigene of Etim Ekpo described and former member of the state house of assembly said “this is the worst press statement I have read of recent. For over two years now, we from Etim Ekpo LGA especially wards 7,8,9 and 10 bordering Ukanafun LGA have been sleeping with one eye.
“Killing of more than 50 innocent persons, including village heads, former councillor, teachers, businessmen and women, kidnaping so numerous to count, including our present paramount ruler, the former house of Assembly member, even the father of this sitting chairman of council, village heads and so many to mention.
Edet, currently a commissioner in National Identity Management Commission, said “Mr. commissioner is saying 'a few isolated cases of criminal activities.” It means the government is not aware of the situation of things in Etim Ekpo in the last two years. It's painful that on a personal note, my farm, on over 30 hectares of land had not been accessed due to activities of hoodlums.”
Meanwhile, Edet Eyo Bassey, the state publicity secretary of APC has expressed concern over the state of insecurity in the three local governments, including Ika. “The All Progressives Congress (APC), Akwa Ibom State chapter is saddened and worried by the unending orgy of violence, kidnappings and killings that have continued unabated in Etim Ekpo, Ukanafun and Ika Local Government Areas of the state in the last two years.
“Reports have it that over 100 people have been killed by rival cult groups allegedly used by the PDP in the last general elections to perpetrate electoral fraud and who now feel abandoned by the politicians. Thousands have been displaced as refugees and are in habitation at internally displaced persons (IDPs) camp.
“When political crisis erupted in Ika local government area 18 years ago, Dr. Chris Ekpenyong, the erstwhile deputy governor visited the area and saw the mayhem by himself.
Since the crisis in theses areas, has Moses Ekpo, the state deputy governor and chairman of state Emergency Management Committee visited the affected areas? Or, is it not important for him to visit the areas, condole with the victims and return home to better inform the government on how to abate it?
“Before the December 2 local government elections last year, Governor Udom Emmanuel worshiped at Qua Iboe Church, Ikot Akpa Nkuk in Ukanafun perhaps to sensitise the masses to brace up for the elections. This was seen as a ploy to ginger the electorate to return PDP to power. It was not a condolence visit to assuage the feelings and cushion the hardships of the victims occasioned the horrendous crimes pervading Ukanafun with attendant spill-over effects to neighbouring villages.”
Last Saturday, the state police command and critical stakeholders from Etim Ekpo and Ukanafun local government areas rose from a security meeting Saturday to call for the establishment of joint patrol/crack teams with proper funding for effective operation.
The meeting was convened to find lasting solutions to the worsening months-old cult war resulting in wanton killings, rapes, kidnappings and robbery incidents in the two local government areas.
Stakeholders Meet, Find Solution
At the meeting held in Uyo, the state capital at the police headquarters in Ikot Akpan Abia, the stakeholders also called for the establishment and proper funding of neighbourhood watch in all the communities as well as the retraining, equipping and improved funding for the police and other security operatives in the state.
They equally called on the perpetrators of these heinous crimes to come out and lay down their arms and give the government the opportunity to look into whatever may be their grievances, among other salient resolutions.
However, the participants who rose from the meeting with a 13-point communiqué, observed with dismay the continued violent crimes in the areas which have led to loss of lives and properties
Adeyemi Samuel Ogunjemilusi, commissioner of police, who chaired the parley said the meeting was convened in furtherance of efforts to find a lasting solution to insecurity ravaging the areas, assuring that the Police have beefed up security in the areas and called on hands to be on deck to re-establish peace and security in the state.
He said: ''As I speak, intensive police and military operations are ongoing to dismantle all criminal infrastructure, destroy their strongholds and flush out all criminal elements terrorizing the local communities.
''Your sincere inputs and contributions will therefore go a long way to demonstrate our commitment to peace and security. It will encourage the youths to bury their hatchet and embrace peace, expedite the return of displaced people, and also accelerate the development of the affected communities''.
Speaking on behalf of the participants, Emmanuel Enoidem, the National Legal Adviser of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who is from Etim Ekpo enjoined the youths to lay down their arms and embrace peace for development to thrive in the communities.
Enoidem, who is also a one-time commissioner for Housing and Urban Development in the state, refuted allegations leveled against politicians that the youths were used for the previous elections and not empowered, saying ''the excuse that they were used and dumped are not correct.”
Kidnapped Ruler Freed
In a related development, the village head of Ikot Edet in Etim Ekpo local government area of Akwa Ibom State abducted by unknown gunmen has breathed fresh air of freedom.
Chief Mfon Udoessien kidnapped from his palace on Monday, February 26 was released after his family was said to have paid a ransom to his abductors. A family source that did not want his name in print said the sum of N5 million of the N7 million demanded was paid to the suspected kidnappers before his release.”
It was learnt that the monarch, a brother-in-law to the erstwhile Akwa Ibom Head of Service, Mrs. Cecilia Udoessien has returned to his home.
A retired primary school headmaster and former chairman of the Nigeria Union of Teachers, NUT, Etim Ekpo branch, said the village head's abduction might be in connection with his hard stance on secret cultism.
However, DSP Odiko O. Macdon said he was not aware if the village head had been released, attributing paucity of information on the matter to the recent re-deployment of the DPO and posting of a new one to the area.