A lot has been said about the security challenges in Ukanafun, the Akwa Ibom State local government that has been under siege as a result of the unrelenting activities of cultists.
It all started with the senseless assassination of a former deputy speaker of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Obong Uwah in 2015, at the peak of the electioneering campaign. Since then, the area is prone to anarchy insecurity occasioned by maiming, killings, kidnapping, threat to life, demand notice for ransom, robbery, rape and outright genocide. The sequence of tragedy in Ukanafun is endless.
The carnage reached its crescendo with the murder of a former secretary of the Council, Obong Ime Atakpa on Easter Sunday morning last year. Since then, peace has eluded the area. Hell was let loose as the hoodlums went berserk and killed innocent citizens. The wave of terrorism and militancy in the area escalated and security of life and property deteriorated abysmally to the lowest ebb, causing natives to flee.
Worried by this scenario, government inaugurated the Joint Security Task Force (JTF) to restore peace and rejig the already comatose security situation in the area.
But before the JTF commenced operations, Ukanafun was in disarray. Schools, markets, banks, stores, churches as well as other public places were shutdown. On January 15, 2018, the JTF recorded a major breakthrough in their operations with the killing of the terrorists' gang leader, Akaninyene Jumbo Uko alias Iso Akpafit. Residents heaved a sigh of relief in the hope that normalcy would return to the war-torn council area once known for peace, tranquillity, orderliness, friendly disposition of the people and hospitality.
In the presence of the JTF in the area, much water passed under the bridge, ranging from broad day robbery, molestation of citizens, killings, kidnapping and all acts of man's inhumanity to fellow men. Not deterred by the temerity and effrontery of the criminals, the JTF continued in their combing for the terrorists' hideout. Even public examinations as the on-going West African Senior School Certificate and UTME examinations could not hold in the area.
Despite the adamant posture of the terrorists, the JTF descended on them and killed another self-acclaimed leader of the gang who assumed leadership a few days after the death of the former kingpin, a few days after the death of the former kingpin (Iso Akpafid), known as Stainless.
Intelligence gathering has shown that two factors account for insurgency in Ukanafun namely: politics and cultism. In politics, there is the suspicion that some politicians from the area recruited cultists to settle political scores. The testimony of suspects in police net in the murder of a former council secretary and subsequent arrest, trial and remand in prison custody of the former council boss attest to this.
Secondly, the wave of cultism in the area gave politicians the impetus to use them as pawns and stooges to intimidate opponents and dump them after the dirty jobs. The commissioner of police in Akwa Ibom confirmed it during the joint security stakeholders meeting between the police and leaders of Ukanafun and Etim Ekpo respectively.
He had lampooned the elites and politicians in the area who have abdicated hier responsibilities and accused some of them of recruiting armed youths as foot soldiers and charged them to proffer solution to insecurity in the area.
Be that as it may, leaders of Ukanafun have never convened any meeting to address anarchy characterized by several forms of violence perpetrated by youths in their self extermination agenda unprecedented in the history of Annang people. Indeed the elders have failed woefully. Prominent elders of Ukanafum must rise to occasion in the prevailing circumstance instead of taking refuge outside the local government, while their home is on fire.
For the victims in all forms of onslaught against the good people of Ukanafun, we sympathize and condole them in the words of the late Dele Giwa, who said “every evil done by man to his fellow man will be redressed; if not by man, certainly by God, for the triumph of evil over good is temporary”.
We are, once again, calling on leaders of Ukanafun stock to come together and find a lasting solution to the brigandage that has characterised that local government for sometime now.
Also, we call on the gunmen to allow peace to reign and end the killings and carnage. A situation where they would go about burning markets, people's shops and houses, cannot but thwart development. It is bad enough that people had to leave their homes and resort to renting houses in neighbouring local governments. It is unthinkable that for no just cause, people have been rendered homeless and their sources of economic power burnt to ashes.
Residents of Ukanafun, especially the royal fathers and political leaders should also partner the state government and security in the fight against militancy. Government should also make all provisions in terms of food, decent accommodation, medical care, et cetera in the camp of the JTF to encourage them to continue in their peace keeping mission.