Akwa Ibom State governor, Udom Emmanuel does not seem to have a solution to the lingering security hiccup in Ukanafun Local Government Area. While gunmen hold sway in the area, the governor is looking elsewhere and doing nothing to save the people from the hands of the militants who are daily harassing the citizens.
He has failed to live to his promise of curtailing the activities of the militants, although many people prefer to refer to them as cultists. In March this year when he signed the prohibition order on the activities of secret cults and unlawful societies in the state, the governor had boasted that his government would deal decisively with cult members in the state.
The order was signed at a time that cultists had terrorised Ukanafun, Ika and Etim Ekpo Local Governments. But Udom has not lived to the letters of the promises he made.
In Ukanafun for example, the militia boys have forced most of the people to flee their homes. Now, most villages in the local government have become ghost towns.
To worsen matters, the houses of the fleeing natives are being burnt every other day. The latest is the palatial country home of Nkanang A. Nkanang, popularly called Ambassador, at Ikot Udo Obobo. They brought down the building on the eve of Sunday, unchallenged.
Nkanang shed tears on Sunday morning as he spoke with TNN over the telephone. He said all that he ever laboured for in life was burnt into ashes. Apart from his house, the militants also burnt his elder brother's house.
Recall that in the last one month, the militants had burnt other people's houses at Anwa Uyo Junction, in the same Ikot Udo Obobo village, just as they looted people's shops and chased policemen drafted to the area away.
Kidnappers on the prowl in Ikot Inyang Abia
In the neighbouring Ikot Inyang Abia, the militants have also succeeded in chasing away the village head. Other elders in the village have also been forced to flee to other parts of the state to hide.
In Ikot Inyang Abia, two women were said to have been kidnapped last week- Mrs Aniefiok Sunday Ukpe and Mrs Eteno O.J. Ebong. As at press time, their whereabouts have not been known.
Apart from this, the militants are also going from house to house, breaking into and looting people's houses, mainly belonging to those who fled the village, after they were given demand notices to pay a ransom to them.
One of those affected told TNN over the telephone that he ran away from his village a few months ago and by the time he went there during the weekend to pick a few things, he discovered that the boys had removed his doors and windows and looted the entire place.
He had to quickly run away for fear of being attacked. He expressed the concern that the government was not doing anything to stop the boys from further harassing the citizens.
“Nobody sleeps at home again. The only safe place in Ukanafun now is the headquarters...the main road. I am a chief. From Idung Usoro, around Jimmy Okpon Iwuo compound, nobody is there again. Even the village head has fled.
“From Urua Inyang Abia up to Ikot Ukpong, people are running away.” At Ikot Ukpong, a neighbouring village, a former vice principal at the foremost secondary school in the local government, WASCO, Dr Udo Emma was shot in the leg as he tried to resist the boys when they attempted to kidnap him. He is receiving treatment now in an undisclosed hospital.
The militants appear to have annexed Ikot Inyang Abia as part of their conquered territories. Before now, they had made it a point of duty to storm the biggest market in the village, where they chased traders away and took possession of their wares.
Udom Celebrates, plans for re-election while Ukanafun Boils
In the midst of this, the governor appears to be more interested in his third year anniversary celebrations as he sets the stage for his re-election. The cries of Ukanafun people to him does not seem to mean anything to him.
One of the villagers cried in a telephone conversation with TNN as he asked “is Ukanafun still part of Akwa Ibom State? Or has the governor excised Ukanafun from the map of Akwa Ibom?
“The primary duty of government is to protect lives and property. So, if a government cannot protect the lives and property of the people, it means the government has failed.”
As at now, the road leading to Ukanafun from Iwukem, Etim Ekpo Local Government Area is a no-go area. Those wishing to travel to Aba from Ukanafun now have to travel to Abak, passing through Etim Ekpo towards Iwukem before they can access Aba.
The militants who are suspected to be having some strong operational base in Ikpe Annang, are feared to have taken over that section of the road.
Qua Iboe Church Pastors kidnapped at Uruk Attah
The kidnappers are also seriously terrorising Uruk Attah village in Etim Ekpo Local Government. As it is in Ukanafun villages, the people have also fled their homes, taking refuge in other local governments.
It is believed that the gang in Uruk Attah are very deadly and daring. On Friday, a pastor was kidnapped from the Qua Iboe Church, alongside two other elders of the church. Those kidnapped were Pastor Donald Cookey Ekpo, Elder Charles Demas and Elder Ime Ibah Ukpong. Their whereabouts remain unknown till date.
Also, the boys succeeded in setting ablaze a police patrol van in that village, while the policemen ran away into the bush. Penultimate week, a gang leader was killed by the police. The killing of their gang leader was said to have angered the boys who may have moved to revenge.
On Saturday, TNN made efforts to speak with the special adviser on security to the state governor, retire Captain Iniobong Ekong. In a text message sent to him requesting to be interviewed on the security situation in the state, he responded with laughter, before saying that security issues were not a subject for discussion on the pages of the newspaper.
When we moved further to ask what the government was doing to stop the killings and carnage in Ukanafun, he merely responded with a 'thank you.' When he was asked again what the government was doing, having failed to protect lives and property, again he responded with a 'thank you.'
TNN made further moves and sent text messages to the governor directly, drawing his attention to the plight of the people in Ukanafun and a neighbouring local government in the hands of gunmen.
As at press time, there was no response from him. A phone call to the state police commissioner was rejected on Sunday.
Hell Let Loose At Ikot-Enang, Ikot Inyang Udo
A suspected kingpin from Ikot Enang whose name was given as Udo Akaninyene was said to have mobilized his gang members to Ikot Inyang Udo village during the weekend, where they destroyed about four houses belonging to Etim Ukata, the village head- elect, Sunday Frank and Dike Udo Inyang Udo. This has forced the villagers to leave their houses for safety elsewhere.
The village head of Ikot Enang, Chief Okon Solomon Akanekpo who is said to have eye issues, has also fled the village together with his younger brother, Udogwo Solomon.
The said Udo Akaninyene, according to the villagers, is currently handling a building project in the village. The villagers believe that the project is being financed from crime proceeds.
Women are not spared in all this. As the hoodlums stormed Ikot Inyang Udo, they held women hostage as they could not run. Those in Alexander's compound were the worst hit.
The gunmen appear hell-bent in annexing the entire Ikot Inyang Udo, Ikot Enang, Edem Idim, Idunk Uko Udo, Ikot Odiong. Ironically, they have been operating without encumbrances by security operatives.
Soldiers, MOPOL Active around Ikot Oku Osung
Despite the high insecurity level in most parts of the local government, those living around Ikot Oku Osung and adjoining villages are sleeping with their two eyes closed, as there is a steady presence of soldiers and mobile policemen there.
TNN learnt that a very top official of the government hails from that area and was able to attract a high-level security presence to his village. Even the local government chairman, Mr Uko Idiong is not able to help his Ikot Inyang Abia kinsmen as they continue to suffer attacks in the hands of the gunmen.