For the residents of Ikot Anta Eneng Obom and Ikot Ibekwe communities within the precinct of Northern Ukanafun in Ukanafun Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, life has become like a worthless piece of dirty rag.
This is so because local terrorists have overthrown the legitimate traditional authorities hitherto domiciled and subsumed under the command and control of the Village heads and their councils.
Until January 23, 2017, Chief Emmanuel Jim Umahaeyo was still the village head of Ikot Nta Eneng Obom, holding court till the night, at about 8:00pm, when the assailants visited.
The messengers of death, according to his eldest son, Otobong Umahaeyo, two of them on a motorcycle, arrived and shot the monarch twice on his chest at close range. He died on the spot.
According to Otobong, an Electrical\Electronic Engineering graduate of Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUST), the assailants had earlier threatened to kill his father over issues of youths’ leadership and control of revenues from the village’s oil palm plantation.
The palm fruits business from the plantation, it was gathered, yields about 200,000 bunches every other week, forcing the youths to seized the farm, covering several hectares of land from the control of the late monarch and his council.
Speaking with Nigerian Tribune, the Secretary of Ikot Nta Eneng Obom village council, Chief Moses Joseph Udoikpong, recalled that the plantation had been in dispute with the neighbours, Ikot Ibekwe, before they finally won its ownership in Court.
What triggered the current onslaught and killings in the community, he explained, has to do with the late monarch’s decision to retrieve the control of the plantation, when the youths failed to remit the proceeds after one year.
The late traditional ruler was said to have also dissolved the youths’ council then headed by one Eyak Umoekpo and replaced him with another lad, identified as Comrade Esitime Emmanson Brownson, an action that infuriated the Umoekpo faction.
Currently, the family compound of the new youths’ leader, Esitime and the entire village had been deserted following his gruesome murder by yet-to-be-identified gunmen, last Friday.
Speaking from his hideout, the Village Secretary, Chief Udoikpong, accused the former youths’ leaders of orchestrating a climate of fear in the community with a view to restoring their leadership and to impose their authority on the people.
“They called me on phone and threatened that if I move anyhow, they would kill me; that I was the one giving the Police information about their movement. They also sent a text to my brother that they would also kill him…”
He lamented that the assailants were after his life because he notified the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Hon. Udo Ekpenyong, when the village head was murdered.
“Before they finally killed the village head the assailants had sent a text message asking him to steer clear of the matter”, he recalled.
Later, the new youths’ leader was also killed penultimate Friday, while a close associate of the late monarch, Madam Mayen Emmanson, was kidnapped and taken to unknown destination two days after.
“Up till now, there is no information on the whereabouts of the woman. The kidnappers have not called to negotiate for any ransom, meaning she should be presumed dead”, the Village Council Secretary, Udoikpong, lamented.
In the neigbouring, Ikot Ibekwe community, the village head, Chief Sunday Udoikpe, it was learnt, also escaped death by the whiskers.
He fled into exile when the rampaging cultist was unleashed on him, allegedly by a notorious gang leader, Akaninyene Jumbo, popularly called Iso Akpafid, who is also the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Vice Chairman in Ukanafun Local Government Area, Akwa Ibom State.
He is alleged to be the major sponsor of several politically motivated killings in the area, using his connections and political influence.
“Currently, the two communities have remained without any legitimate authorities to regulate socio-political and economic direction of the area in line with the demands of their offices”, Otobong, the eldest son of the late monarch disclosed.
Lamenting his ordeal from his hideout, Otobong, who just graduated from Enugu State University, said with killing of his father, the onus was now on him to take care of the family.
“I was not at home when my father was killed, I was in Uyo, while mother was in Port Harcourt. My mother only called and told me assailants came to our house and shot my father dead.
“I graduated last year, and as the eldest son of six children, my younger sister is at Akwa Ibom State University and the remaining four have finished from Secondary Schools, to further education will be a big problem to me because my father was the only bread winner; we all depended on him”, he lamented.
He blamed the Police for not doing a thorough job to fish out the real culprits, pointing out that “the Police knew the real killers, but they are arresting the wrong people”.
The Akwa Ibom State Commissioner of Police (CP), Don Awunah, confirmed the incidents, saying he had since drafted his men to the troubled areas to restore calm.
Awunah, the immediate past Force Public Relations Officer (FPPRO), who spoke via phone at the weekend on the matter, said the problem was not only peculiar to Ukanafun, but the entire Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District, Akwa Ibom State.
He said: “We have gone into it. From my preliminary investigation it is cult-related killings; we have arrested some suspects we caught with firearms. In Ukanafun, we have deployed a crack team to put an end to the killings. The problem is not only in Ukanafun, I think it covers the entire Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District because all the report we got from the area are cult-related”.
The Chairman of the Local Government, Hon. Abasiono Udomfu, who also confirmed the killings, said he and his council were currently holding stakeholders meeting with a view to ensuring the return of normalcy to the troubled areas.
He confirmed that the Police have acted promptly by drafting surveillance and anti-crimes squad to the area for effective surveillance to forestall further killings and law breaches by hooligans
By Iniobong Ekponta – Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.
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