Akwa Ibom State, Slipping Off Beyond the Red Line By Abasifreke Effiong
Akwa Ibom State is again slipping unnoticeably into insecurity. There is a surprising resurgence of crimes- kidnapping, robbery, murder, child theft, cultism and hooliganism- in the last four months.
This is happening just behind the ovation over a reduction in crime rate under the Udom Emmanuel’s administration.
Akwa Ibom ranked somewhere close to the top in violent crimes in a 2014 report released by the Police. Scores of people were kidnapped, murdered, in an unprecedented pace between 2007 and 2015. Akwa Ibom people still think that some of the kidnap and murder cases were politically motivated, and were sanctioned by government.
There was drastic reduction in these crimes at the beginning of the current administration. This is no longer so.
It should perplex everyone knowing that while the government-federal Security forces- is winning the fight against militancy on the Effiat waterways in the Mbo mangrove island, the maritime border between Nigeria and Cameroon; the towns have hopped into insecurity.
In the past few months, it has been, kidnapping and assassination in Ukanafun; cruel cult activities in Ikot Ekpene and Eket; child theft in Ibesikpo Asutan; hooliganism in Mkpat Enin; armed robbery and kidnapping in Uyo and Uruan; communal clashes in Itu. These are happening unnoticeably.
Dr. Idongesit Udom, Proprietor of Sure Foundation Polytechnic, an indigene of Ukanafun was kidnapped in Eket in April. Two expatriates were also kidnapped the same day in Eket. While Dr. Udom was still held captive by his kidnappers, the Secretary of Ukanafun local government council, Mr. Ime Atakpa, was gruesomely murdered. The immediate past transition chairman of Ukanafun, Abasiono Udomfu and his aide Akaninyene Ibuot have been arrested in connection to Atakpa’s murder.
On Saturday, May 27, 2017, two people were reportedly shot dead in Nkek. On Monday May, 29, Mr. Udeme Nelson Jacob, a carpenter, father of three children, was killed before his wife in his residence in Nkek, Ukanafun. The Land of Ukanafun is polluted with the blood of her children murdered by people who are probably on their way now on another mission to kill.
Recall that, a chieftain of the APC, two term member of the House of Assembly was clubbed to death a month to the 2015 general elections, still in Ukanafun. There is anguish, fear and disillusionment in the area. Some residents have fled their communities out of fear. The weak in might are expecting their leaders and government to act. Unfortunately, the government too is weak. There is a spring of silence. A police source in the area says, “inadequate personnel and poor intelligence”, are making it difficult for the Police. Residents are afraid to volunteer information.
The case of Dr. Udom whose right hand was chopped off by his kidnappers is agonising. Udom in an interview he granted Punch newspaper said his kidnappers “sort” policemen at 18 checkpoints before they got to their destination. This should seriously worry the head of the Police force in the State.
Ukanafun is a border community to Abia State. With these incidences, Ukanafun should be declared a special security area. Government oft dismiss the spate of violence in the area as “cross border crime”, but this cannot be sufficiently substantiated.
Cultists have inflicted fear on residents of Ikot Ekpene and Eket Local government areas. In his maiden press briefing, the Commissioner for Police Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Don Awunah said the Police identified 25 cult groups operating in the State. Frightening incidences of cult related activities in Ikot Ekpene caused the Police to launch her special security programme, “Operation Impact” in the local government three months ago.
Recently, CP Awunah said the operation has yielded “tremendous results”. Some residents of Ikot Ekpene said the operation should be sustained. In Eket, the Police division is mounting a fierce crackdown on cult groups. Last month, Police sources say 10 suspected cult members were arrested with weapons. A newspaper report earlier this month linked the transition committee chairman of Eket to sponsorship of cultists. The chairman however said the allegation was “spurious”.
In the same vein, the crime of child theft is resurrecting in Ibesikpo Asutan local government area. Within this year alone, six persons have been arrested in connection to child theft in the area. The cases, involving the kidnapping and selling of two children have been charged to Magistrate Court, in Nung Udoe, this year. In November last year, the Police smashed a-7 member child theft syndicate, led by one Dr. Anieyo Anyang, community youth President of Ikot Akpaetok, Ibesikpo Asutan local government area.
Between May 30 and November 22, 2014, six male children aged between 18- 48 months were kidnapped by gun-trotting criminals in Ikot Akpaetok. Two of the six children were found, four are still missing. There are new incidences which have not been reported to the Police. Transition chairman of Ibesikpo Asutan, Barr. Ukana Udofia said, the council is working with security agencies to purge the area of such criminals. He said the strong will shown by his administration and collaboration with security led to the arrest of those involved in the two cases currently in court.
A Magistrate Court in Ikot Ekpene recently convicted two young adults for kidnapping in the State. Both were sentenced to death. They were the first to get such tersed sentence since the State passed the Anti-Kidnpping law few years ago. The convicts are yet to be put to death because the governor is yet to decide how they should be executed as enshrined in the Akwa Ibom State Anti-Kidnapping Law. However, “many cases of child theft have been difficult to prosecute because parents of the children kidnapped are unwilling to appear in court to testify once their children are found”, a Police prosecutor said.
Furthermore, a Pastor, identified as Nnamani was killed by hooligans in Ife, Mkpat Enin local government area, last week. He was killed for preaching repentance according to reports. The incident was confirmed by the village head of Ife, Eteidung Saturday Isemin, a retired Assistant Superintendent of Police. He said the gangsters dragged the preacher to a bush near the back of a primary school in the night, killed him and hid his corpse.
Isemin said, “His offence was that he used to disturb them with his preaching. They said that he would be going around asking people to give their lives to Christ”.
The village head added that there has been serious hooliganism in the area. He recalled that on August 12, last year, elders of the village were rounded up during a meeting, beaten, their phones seized and N305,000 stolen from him.
Still last week, Egor Efiok, a filmmaker and celebrity publicist was robbed in Uyo, while on holiday. She was robbed on Thursday night and her phones taken away.
“I am so depressed. One misfortune after the other. I decided to leave Calabar to rest for a week only to come and encounter armed robbers here in Uyo”, she wrote on her facebook wall.
Nonetheless, security situation in the State last week did not end in a sad note altogether. On Friday June 23, troop from 2 Brigade Nigerian Army headquarters, Uyo, rescued one Mr. Malachy Emmanuel, of Idu Uruan, Uruan local government area who was kidnapped earlier this month. Assistant Director, Public Relations, of the Brigade, Captain Umar Shuaib said in a statement that Malachy Emmanuel was kidnapped by a 5 – man gang in his compound at Idu.
The statement says one of the suspects was arrested during a crossfire; one pump action rifle, four locally made pistols, two cutlasses, three mobile phones, three pump action rifle cartridges, four ATM cards, an envelope containing some documents and one Nissan primera saloon car, were recovered.
Still within the week, the federal government dispatched two gun boats to the State for the patrol of the pesky Itu-Calabar waterways. Dozens of people living along the coast have been killed in renewed communal clashes between natives of Oku Iboku in Akwa Ibom State and Ikot Offiong in Cross River State.
Though security agencies keep assuring residents of compact security, State’s government response to security needs is weak. State government’s response to the militancy in Mbo, and the communal crises in Itu came rather late.
The State may have to rely more on the federal government for security support, even as the spokesman of the ruling party in the State, Barr. Ini Ememobong says provision of security is the duty of the federal government. He said in a statement which was critised furiously by citizens that “the governor was not the chief security officer of the State “. However, the governor disapproved the statement. He said at a press briefing on May 27, he is the “chief security officer of the state”. Should the State government keep brushing aside security concerns, and treating it with profane bureaucratic style as it were; the State will glide deeper into a mess. Investments will suffer. The people will continue to pay with their lives.
Allocation for State Security Expenses has been cut down in the 2017 budget. Approval for purchase/installation/maintenance of security equipment and devices for surveillance tracking was cut by half to N2.5billion. Approval for State Security Expenses is N10billion in 2017.
According to eBudget of the State accessed at http://akwaibomstate.gov.ng/budget/welcome.html., (link not available as at the time thekillerpunch.com visited the site.) actual expenditure on State Security Expenses for year 2016 as at October stood at zero naira, same for purchase of security equipment. Did the State government throughout the period under review not spend a dime on security? This is strange! Security funding is domiciled in the office of the governor.
Everyone must wake up. Akwa Ibom State is again slipping off beyond security red line.
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