Ordinarily, Calabar, capital of Cross River state, ought not to be difficult to police effectively because of its size. But that perception is changing with the sudden rise in crime rate in the city.
Security agencies have been grappling with cult-related violence until recently when armed robbery, kidnappings and sundry crimes became rampant. Residents in all parts of the city now live in fear as criminals are seemingly having a field day.
The crimes are not being committed in Calabar South alone, known for insecurity, but in Calabar Municipality as well. As this report was being put together, a young man was shot dead by people suspected to be cultists in the evening of Thursday last week.
Sources told TNN that he was shot on a street close to Kanu Agabi's chambers, off Marian Road in Calabar Municipality, when he came out of a house on the street and the people who pulled the trigger sped off in a car.
The cold-blooded murder of a 75-year-old businessman, Mr. Aloysius Adigwe, by an armed robbery gang that invaded his residence at Atabong by Eyo-Ita in Calabar South, shook the neighbourhood and added another dimension to the escalating crime wave in Calabar.
Adigwe may have been alive if not that he chose to confront a member of the gang in the early hours of Tuesday, June 12.
“When he cut one of the armed robbers with a machete, the robber shouted and other gang members came in and when they saw the machete cut, immediately they opened fire on him. They shot him in the chest and he died on the spot.
“He would have lay down quietly and allowed them to take whatever they wanted, than confronting the people,” an eyewitness narrated.
Within the same period, three businessmen were kidnapped by gunmen in Calabar barely three days after two pupils were abducted from a public school in Ikot Effanga Mkpa in Calabar Municipality LGA.
One of the kidnap victims is Justine, a 47-year-old native of Ukanafun in Akwa Ibom state. He was seized by gunmen at Yellow Duke by Palm Street in Calabar South.
It was on the same day that a 41-year-old building contractor whose name was given as Nwadike, from Imo state, was also kidnapped around 9:00pm at Ikot Ansa. A family member called Dubem, revealed that the kidnappers demanded N20 million ransom before they would release him.
“But I pleaded with them that we don't have such money at this time,” he said.
The third victim who is a mechanic known as Lumba from Ohafia in Abia state, was taken away from his workshop at Cemetery area in Goldie Street in Calabar Municipality.
Ogbonna Ude who witnessed the incident, narrated that the kidnappers arrived the mechanic workshop at about 5:00pm and scaled the fence into the premises.
“On sighting the gang, one of Lumba's boys took to his heels and while his boss attempted to escape the kidnappers swooped on him and whisked him into a car and sped off.
“The kidnappers shot sporadically in the air to scare residents away while their victim cried for help but help did not come on time as they succeeded in abducting the man,” he said.
The disappearance of two primary school pupils, Elisha Godwin Ukam and Isaiah Ugi Ugbong, aged five from Government Primary School, Ikot Effanga Mkpa in Calabar Municipal council became a hard nut for the police to crack during the period under review. They were said to have been abducted by unidentified persons after school hours on 17th May, 2018. Luckily the children were rescued last week after about a month in captivity.
The Police Public Relations Officer, ASP Irene Ugbo confirmed to TNN that the children regained their freedom last week.
In separate incidents, armed robbers recently attacked NNPC filling station and Dazell-B filling station along the Murtala Mohammed Highway, Calabar.
According to reliable sources, the robbers struck first at NNPC filling station and dispossessed victims of their valuables and cash.
Three days later, on Saturday, 2nd June, they invaded Dazell-B filling station at about 7:30pm where they shot a policeman attached to Federal Housing Police Station who was at the filling station to buy fuel.
They also raided the super market at the filling station and carted away jewellery and other valuables. Other customers at the filling station were also robbed.
Sources also told TNN that the robbers tried to snatch some cars but failed and later escaped across the highway. They are suspected to be cultists living in the neighbourhood.
Dazell-B filling station had been robbed several times, with the super market usually the target. Each time they strike, sometimes late in the night, they ransack the supermarket and cart away valuables.
Cult-related violence is an ever-present crime in Calabar. And true to the assertion of Hafiz Inuwa, Cross River State Commissioner of Police, it will take quite some time before cultism will be eradicated in Calabar and other parts of the state.
He stated this while parading some robbery suspects as well as suspected cultists recently. He based his assertion on his belief that cultism is deep rooted not only in Cross River state but in other parts of the country and it will not be eradicated over-night.
This notion was reinforced by the renewed deadly cult clashes between members of Vikings and Black Axe recently. The cult clashes that lasted three days, beginning on Sunday, 3 June, claimed nine lives in Calabar. The clashes were occasioned by a reprisal attack over an earlier attack on a member of one of the cult groups in March this year.
The attacks were exacerbated by the killing of a cult member known as Agbani that Sunday at the Ediba-Qua area close to Marian market. He was said to have been butchered by his assailants. Reprisal attacks on Monday also led to the death of two other members of the group.
By mid-morning on that Monday, TNN correspondent saw heavily armed policemen combing bushes around Ediba-Qua for fleeing cult members and residents had to withdraw into their homes momentarily to avoid being arrested or hit by stray bullets.
The police operations not-withstanding, the killings continued till Monday night and Tuesday morning around Marian Road, Ekondo Street, Mayne Avenue and Wilkie Street.
According to eyewitnesses, a tiler known as Emma was one of those killed along Ediba Road by Okon Inok Street.
The state Police Command Public Relations Officer, Irene Ugbo, confirmed the cult clashes but said only one person was killed.
The perennial cult clashes is a thing of very deep concern for the state Commissioner of police, Hafiz Mohammed Inuwa and he said he is determined to proffer a peaceful solution to the menace by having a discreet dialogue with leaders of the various cult groups.
He said the police were working with the special adviser to the governor on inter party affairs, Austin Ibok, to solve the problem.
“We sit every month and discuss how cultism would be wiped out and bring about peace in the state. Because of this effort, various cult groups interfaced with one another but you know in every group, there is Judas, you can't get the good ones all the time.
“Many of them are students, many of them are unemployed, and many of them don't have value for life. That is why they are doing cultism with impunity.
“We cannot allow that. So we are just trying to deal with the situation. But if they decide to be violent, we will confront them. That notwithstanding, we want to ensure that there is peace in the state. Crime does not pay and cultism is not the way forward,” Inuwa said.
Ugbo also played down the rising crime wave. She told TNN over the phone on Thursday that “we are doing our best. No society is crime free. We have deployed more men to the streets and we have arrested many suspected kidnappers, armed robbers, rapists and other suspects. They will soon be paraded and later charged to court.”