Suspected militants have continued to terrorise some villages in Ukanafun and Etim Ekpo local government in Akwa Ibom State. In Ikpe Annang for example, the village head has been forced to flee his home, just as many others whose houses have been razed by the gunmen.
Just as the militants are causing havoc in the land, security operatives are also not relenting in their efforts to contain their excesses. Police image maker in the state, Diko Mcdon told TNN over the telephone that there were enough men on ground to deal with the situation.
He did not want to speak on other issues concerning the security situation in those parts of the state. But it was gathered that up to 20 residential houses have so far been burnt at Ikpe Annang, one of the known hideouts of the militants, although unconfirmed reports siad security operatives had sacked them there.
Some of those affected are Famous Emmanson, a politician; Okuku Sunday Udo Enwo, the village head; Joseph Alexander Udoh, village vice chairman; Igwe Michael, farmer and Anthony Jumbo Ekpe, civil servant, among others.
Apart from those whose houses were burnt, the residence of a former chairman of Etim Ekpo and a prominent indigene of the village has been burgled by the hoodlums.
The village head of Ikpe Annang described the incident as sad. He said: “My 8-room building together with three generators and other valuables were burnt. I was not in the compound when my house was razed. I was told that the suspected arsonists came in the hilux van allegedly used by security operatives to set the building ablaze.
“I want the state government to come to our rescue. Some recalcitrant young men are going about fomenting trouble and destroying things in the village. They started setting houses ablaze in March and this is continuing. As a village head, I have been sent on exile and this is not good for the tradition institution.”
Emmanson whose one-storey building was said to have been reduced to rubble last week had fled the area for fear of his life.
He said as soon as security operatives sent there to contain the boys left, the hoodlums came out of their hideout and set ablaze houses of some people in the village, calling on the operatives to bolster security in the village.
“Not long since I was released after my friends had rallied, raised and paid N5 million ransom to my abductors. My family members and I have lost virtually all our belongings. I am at a loss on what to do.”
He condemned criminal activities of the hoodlums, thus compounding economic hardships for the people, and appealed to the state government and security operatives to come to their aid, noting “The boys see arson as a daily affair. If they ask you 'give us this amount and you delay, they will order you out to enable them to set your ablaze.”
Another victim, Anthony Ekpe narrated “I am a civil servant working in my station, but my wife was staying in the village. On the day of the incident, my wife and children went for vigil in a nearby church only to be told late in the night that our house had been set ablaze by unknown persons.
“My wife did not take her wrappers and other dresses, ditto my children. All important documents kept in the house had gone into the flame.
“I struggled to build the eight-bedroom house. Now, we are homeless. I want to appeal to State Emergency Management Committee (SEMA) to come to my aid,” he appealed.
Also, the suspected criminals have torched the house of Moses Etuk in Uruk Ata 11 in Etim Ekpo and destroyed property.
Meanwhile, some unknown gunmen have abducted five people from Ikpe Annang for ransom.
A source in the village said the abductees are Elder Okon Mark, Mrs. Ndarake Silas Ekereke, Mrs. Enwongo Mfreke Peter, Mrs. Atim Amos Jim and Unwa Ndarake Ekereke.
“Since they were kidnapped, no telephone call has been made to the affected families. And no ransom has been mentioned yet,” the source said.
Another native said “already, Monday Titus from the village has been released after his family had paid the kidnappers N500,000 ransom.”
In a telephone interview, chairman of the local government, Mr Udeme Eduo, said “Etim Ekpo and Ukanafun are embroiled in cult war. So, any story of cult havoc in any village in Etim Ekpo cannot be untrue.”
This is coming just as some chiefs in Okrika Local Government Area of Rivers State are expressing the concern about reports that hoodlums that operate in Ukanafun were taking refuge in the area and were also arrested there penultimate week.
Last week, the chiefs expressed serious concern about the development and resolved to meet over the matter, with a view to ascertaining what part of Okrika the hoodlums were hiding.
Details of the meeting were still being awaited as at press time. Last week, TNN had reported exclusively that some of the militants that caused mayhem in Ukanafun were arrested in Okrika and take back to Ukanafun where they were executed.