The road is lonely. No bicycle or motorbike ply the roads. Vehicles have long abandoned it. Pedestrians peep before they can take a step to any direction. Quiet, calm but deserted.
A thick cloud of insecurity and anarchy looms in the once peaceful, serene and busy environment of this local government that those in the cities were longing to visit during festive seasons.
Ukanafun Local Government Area in Akwa Ibom has suddenly become war-torn. Many had thought that the killing of Akaninyene Jumbo Uko, alias Iso Akpafid, who terrorized the area for years, would bring peace to residents. Rather, the death of the criminal kingpin has turned out to be the beginning of endless war between militants and the joint security task force currently on a peace keeping mission in the area.
In the past weeks, the battle became fierce and deadly leaving in its trail numerous corpses, burnt markets and shops as wells as deserted villages, while churches, schools, hospitals commercial centres and courts have been shutdown.
The operation of the militants seems difficult for the security agents to comprehend. The joint task force has devised some military tactics such as stop and search at check points. The militants also deployed several strategies to counter the soldiers. These include shifting their operational base to neighbouring state as Abia and Rivers. For instance when Akpan Assiek market was burnt down, residents told TNN that the militants arrived from a neighbouring state, through the waterways, anchoring their speed boat at Urua Udofa beach in Edem Idim village, before moving in an already waiting motorcycle arranged by partners in crime who are indigenes of the area. TNN learnt that after their rituals, they arrived the market square around 1:30am and burnt down the market, killed the security man on duty and kidnapped the son to the market master known as Henry Harry Udom. At dawn, the market stalls and their wares had been burnt to ashes while the marauders escaped through the same route to their base.
As the council chairman Mr. Uko Idiong was contemplating possible relief packages for victims of the market, the boys struck again at Ikot Udo Obobo village.
This time, the militants using the same commando style, burnt down another market in the village and advanced to burn down the police station in the area before they were intercepted by the police from the state headquarters who rescued their colleagues amidst heavy exchange of fire between the militants and security forces.
TNN checks reveal that the mayhem at the weekend was a reprisal from the militants to settle scores with one Aniekan, popularly called Udo Udo Anwa Anwa, who was said to have chased and caught one of the militants penultimate week, when the militant barricaded Anwa Uyo Junction with his Ak47 in broad daylight, as he robbed motorists, passengers and okada riders.
Angered by such effrontery, Aniekan was said to have mobilized other youths and chased the hoodlum. When they caught him, they handed him over to the JTF operatives. The militants are known to have wreaked havoc in the area, kidnapping, murdering and robbing.
But security operatives are also not allowing them any breathing space. Last week, some of the militants that raided Ikot Udo Obobo were said to have been apprehended at their hideout in Okrika Local Government of Rivers State. Sources said about 15 of them were arrested and brought to Ukanafun, where they were killed. One of them even tried to escape but was not lucky. He was given a hot chase. He was caught and dealt with accordingly.
Last month, the Akwa Ibom commissioner of police Mr. Adeyemi Ogunjemilusi convened an emergency security stakeholders meeting with council chairman of Etim Ekpo and Ukanfun Council Areas and other stakeholders where a 13 point communiqué was issued to the press. The following day, the militants burnt down 14 houses in Udiang Anem while Akwa Ibom Transport Company Bus that ferried 14 passengers to Aba was burn down at Iwukem with all the passengers on board. The sequence of tragedies in Ukanafun is endless.
Refering to burning of 14 passengers in Etim Ekpo last month, the commissioner of police in Akwa Ibom Adeyemi Ogunjemilusi said “youths from Ukanafun and Etim Ekpo were involved in arson, cultism, kidnapping, armed robbery, massacre, self-extermination and other forms of criminality unprecedented in the history of Annang People”.
Ogunjemilusi blamed the elites and politicians in the area who have abdicated their responsibilities and accused some of them for recruiting armed youths a foot soldiers.
He said: “I want to emphasize that we have failed to use our positions to positively mentor these youths which has made them go astray”. He lambasted the elders and charged them to proffer lasting solution to insecurity in the area.
Meanwhile, as the elders and leaders in the affected council areas trade blames, the militants have devise several means to counter security agents in the quest to restore peace in the area. Schools, hospitals, markets, churches and other public places remain shut in Ukanafun.
Between January 2017 and now, the militants have killed a lot and kidnapped many others. The underlisted are some of the victims of their atrocities:
- Obong Okon Uwah -Assassinated at Nkek
- Engr. Albert Ukpanah -Assassinated in his house
- Obong Ime Atakpa -Assassinated
- Elder (Dr) Idongesit D. Udom -kidnapped and right hand amputated
- Bar. Mfon Etukudo -Assassinated in his house
- Apostle Usen Mark Ibekwe -kidnapped and released after collection of ransom
- Rev Mfon Udonneke -kidnapped and released after collection of ransom
- Hon Udo Ekpenyong's sister -Assassinated at Ikot Oku Usung
- Mr. Paragi from Nkek -Assassinated
- VP secondary school Nkek-Assassinated at Nkek village
- Elder Ekponudim N. Akpanudo-kidnapped at Nto Okon and released after collecting ransom.
- Nnamkere James Umoh-Assassinated in Ikot Akpa Idem
- Akpan Assiek market-burnt down
- Wife of EFICO, an INEC staff from Ikot Inyang Abia kidnapped and released after collecting ransom
- Deaconess Nseobong Okon Monday- Kidnapped and released after collecting ransom
- Monday Johnson Udoudo -kidnapped and released after collecting ransom
- Rufus Tommy -Assassinated
- Mr. Ime Nkwo -Assassinated
- Unyime Urom -Assassinated
- Mrs Etiowo Sampson -The wife to Hon. Otobong Akpan's uncle kidnapped in Ikot Udo Mbang and released after collecting hefty ransom
- Mrs. Okon Uwoh -kidnapped and released after collecting ransom
- Mr. Philip of Ikot Akpa idem - kidnapped and released after collecting ransom
- Mr. Alex of Ikol Apaidem - kidnapped kidnapped and released after collecting ransom
- Mr Macaulay Udoudo of Idung Nneke -kidnapped and released after collecting ransom
- Mrs. Nse Akpanakpan -kidnapped and released after collecting ransom
- Henry Harry (Udo Harry) - kidnapped and released after collecting ransom
- Mr. Essien Jackson Udoekpo of Idung Nneke -killed at the kidnappers den because the family could not afford the money demanded as ransom. His corpse is yet to be seen
- Udeme Nelson of Nkek -Assassinated
- Samuel Mark of Ikot Akpa Idem -Assassinated
- Chief Johnson Rufus of Okoyo -Assassinated
- Aniekan Dick Udofia of Okoyo -Assassinated
- Enobong Akpakpan -Assassinated in Okoyo
- Mr. Uyo of Ikot Akpa Idem -Assassinated
- Mr. Harry Nkok (headmaster) -Money extorted from him after being served with threat letter
- Mr Aniefiok Stephen Ebebe and his daughter, Madu Aniefiok Stephen from Ikot Ndot Afaha Obo were kidnapped and released after payment of ransom
- Iniobong Sandy Udoudo - Ikot Inyang Abia (Kidnapped for a week ransom was paid before being released), They extorted money from her husband too.
- Temple Thompson Nnah from Odoro Ikot was kidnapped and later released, after collecting ransom.
- Between Odoro Ikot village and Ikot Owure village on 1ST April , four motorcycles, a generator and other valuables were carted away at gun point, by the bandits.
- Mr. Christopher Uko of Ikot Udo Obobo -- Assassinated after a letter of threat.
- Mr. John Akpan Eshiet -Assassinated in Nkek
- Godswill Jacob Umoette - Kidnapped and released after payment of ransom
* Mrs Aritha Abasiubong Ekanem. Kidnapped on 18-3-2018 and shot on her leg, now lying critically ill in the hospital