More refugees from Ukanafun are still pleading with the governor, Udom Emmanuel, for his assistance in cushioning the effect of their travails in the hands of militants in Ukanafun. One of them, Kufre Urom from Ikot Akpa Idem, a 30 year old and B.Sc (English/Education) graduate, narrates his experiences to an online news agency, Straight news.
What brought you from the village to Uyo?
I was displaced from my village since March 19, 2018 following the sudden death of my brother, Unyime Urom. He was killed by unknown gunmen in our compound in the night of March 18, this year. All of us- my parents including siblings- were forced to flee the compound. Since then, I have not reached our compound because of the gory sight of my slain brother. I am a wanderer in other places due to the cult war rocking Ukanafun.
What were you doing for a living in the village?
After my National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme in December last year, I picked a job as an auxiliary teacher in a private school in my village. I abandoned the job due the crisis.
What are you doing for a living now?
Nothing. I have again become a job seeker. I am squatting with some friends either in Abak or in Uyo. At the moment, I am depending on my friends and some kind-hearted persons for survival.
What have you lost in the crisis?
We lost many things due to the crisis. Our brother was killed. Our permanent building was demolished. We lost animal and poultry farms. We also lost household equipment including upholstery chairs, farm implements and a provision store. The people carted away other property. In fact, our losses run into millions of naira.
Before now, what were your parents doing for a living?
My parents are farmers. Farming is the only major industry in place. Since it very lucrative, many people are engaged in it. We have subsistence and crop farming. And the incident happened during the farming season. My parents all cleared our farmlands, but could not plant anything. Even the few they planted have been commandeered by weeds. Everybody was displaced. As I am talking, I do not know the whereabouts of my parents. In short, my parents are not doing anything for a living now.
Is your village safe for internally displaced persons to return home?
No, no, no! Most people deserted the troubled village. From December to June, this year, seven prominent people including three in a particular church in the village have been killed by unknown gunmen. More than 10 persons have been kidnapped.
Are churches and schools functioning?
No, no, no! From the beginning of the first to third term of this school calender, schools both primary and secondary in Ukanafun as a whole are not operational. Even in my village, no school is in operation. Churches are not functioning while many have depleted in numerical strength. Our market operates on a skeletal basis as two of five people could be seen at a time, but you may not buy any major commodity.
Does the crisis make you tramautic?
As a person, I fight hard to recover from the trauma of losing of my brother in cold blood. I am still in shock over all the losses, including the displacement from my ancestral home.
Has any government given your family any succour to alleviate the losses?
I hope Ukanafun local government council is in the process of doing something. The state government is yet to do something.
Do you have any appeal to the state government?
I want Akwa Ibom state government through State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) to come to our aid including many who have lost their beloved ones and property in the crisis. Let the agency assist us in providing building materials to rebuild our demolished house. Let government also rehabilitate many who have been displaced. Even though lives have been lost, this will help to assuage our pains and agonies.
Also, I want the state government to do more by restoring peace and order to the besieged villages. Let government provide more security in the villages to forestall further breakdown of law and order in the local government area.
What is your advice to suspected hoodlums committing the havoc in Ukanafun?
I want to advise them to desist from the evil acts by engaging themselves in meaningful ventures. Good a thing Akwa Ibom government is offering free, compulsory education from primary to secondary school level. I want all of them to embrace this golden opportunity by going to school to change their psyche. The government has done well by paying WAEC and NECO fees to beneficiaries. Let them drop their arms and go to school. Let some of them acquire skills to eke out a living for themselves.
Again, I want them to sheathe their swords and embrace peace. If they have any grievance with the government, they should seek peaceful means to resolve such amicably rather than taking arms to kill innocent and defenceless citizens.