Anxiety As Armed Cultists Takeover A’Ibom Communities

Anxiety As Armed Cultists Takeover A’Ibom Communities
INIOBONG SUNDAY, Uyo
 
For the people of Etim Ekpo and Ukanafun Local Government Areas of Akwa Ibom State, life has become meaningless in strange places they have relocated following siege in their communities by armed hoodlums suspected to be cultists.
For over two years, residents in the troubled areas have had to grapple with life under the shadow of gun-toting men, who frequently raid homes, farmlands and churches for food and cash.
In Etim Ekpo for instance, no fewer than 50 persons have been killed in the last one year, forcing local residents to abandon their ancestral communities to constitute colonies of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in safer places.
Most affected communities include Udianga Enem, Ikot Udobong, Abakobong, Otoro, Obon Ebot, Ikot Mkporikpo, Obong, Ikot Edet and other group of villages where suspected members of the dreaded Iceland cult group operates.
In Ukanafun, areas like Ikot Udo Obobo, Ikot Oku-Usung, Nkek, Ikot Ibekwe, Okoyo and other adjoin villages have been deserted following intensification of kidnapping-for-ransom, politically motivated killings and armed robbery cases.
The upsurge in kidnapping and other violent crimes in the Etim Ekpo\Ukanafun axis, it was gathered, led to the Police formation of ‘Operation Purge’, launched by the former Commissioner of Police (CP), Mr. Donald Awunah.
With the transfer of Awunah to Police College in Kano and later moved to Bayelsa as the current CP, Muhammed Zubairu, who took over from him, continued with the operation.
The current CP, Mr. Samuel Ogunjemilusi, continued and intensified the fight against the hoodlums, culminating in the killing last year of the militant leader of the Iceland cult group, Akaninyene Jumbo, alias ‘Iso Akpafid’.
He was killed in an ambush in a joint military operation last year along the Akwa Ibom border with Abia State.
Although there jubilation over the killing of the militants’ kingpin, respite seem to have eluded the area as splinter group and remnant of the group loyal to the deceased ‘Iso Akpafid’ have been on rampage, forcing those still in exile not to heed the CP Ogunjemilusi’s call to return home.
“More worrisome is the fact that the militants now target low income earners and captured them for low ransom of N1million, which the family must bargain to arrive at between N.2 or N.3million naira”, a community leader who would not want his name in print told AlJazirah Nigeria in Etim Ekpo.
“The village head of Udianga Enem, chief Mendie Josiah is now sleeping from Church to Church with his family since he escaped being killed by the militants who stormed his palace in Udianga Enem”, he added.
Checks by Aljazirah Nigeria revealed that most of the affected residents have deserted their communities and now camped at the IDPs camp in Iwukem, where there is guarantee of security because of two Police stations in the place.  
In the last couple of days, several teachers have been abducted for ransom including one Hanson Ukpekpe, a primary school teacher at Saint Joseph Primary School, Iwukem.
Family sources say his abductors were asking for N1million from the teacher, who had since fled the community to Ukanafun town with his family, but temporarily returned to till his farmland at the start of the farming season.
Another lady, Mrs. Nseobong Thursday Etukudoh, a teacher at the Government Primary School, Ikot Inung, it was learnt, was still cooling her heels inside the kidnappers’ den, at the time of filing this report because of the inability of the family to raise the ransom cash.
Also, Hon. Idongesit Udokang, a former Councilor in Utu Etim Ekpo Ward 10, kidnapped early January is feared killed for the families’ inability to raise the N.5million ransom before his release.
Worried by the development, it was gathered, the Joint Task Force (JTF) comprising soldiers, Department of State Services (DSS), the Police and other para-military operatives stormed the camp of the Iceland group, popularly called ‘The Reds’ at Obon Ebot village.
The camp, according to military sources was razed one week ago, but the militants were say to have engaged the soldiers in gun duel, leading to the killing of an unidentified youth in military camouflage.
“They ambushed the JTF officials and one of them in military uniform was captured and killed. His remains were later dumped at Obo Inyang market area, close to the camp of the militants.
Military sources say the dead youth in military camouflage was an informant working with the JTF “to help us to locate the camp of the militants but was unlucky to be killed because of fear”.
He explained that they were on a mission to re-arrest the leader of the group, popularly called ‘Aboy Ikpor” and his gang said to have masterminded the Ikot Ekpene prison break, in which no fewer than 40 inmates escaped from the facility last year.
“Right now, I don’t think the Police can contain these people because of their modus operandi of hit-and-run. When once they launch attack, they escape either through the land or water into their hideouts in neighbouring Rivers State”, laments Anietie Udoh, a displaced person in Iwukem IDPs camp.
Trying to rally cash from the displaced locals to augment the regular security by the Police and other agencies, the militants were said to have got wind of the plan and raided Udianga Enem village where they seized the interim Chairman of the community, Comrade Itoro Inuaowo.
Inuaowo, Aljazirah Nigeria gathered, was unanimously selected to hold forth for the village head, Chief Mendie Josiah, who had been on exile since he escaped being killed by the militants last year.
Narrating his ordeal, Inuaowo said “I was captured by some armed boys on motorcycles as early as 6:00AM. I was blindfolded and taken into the bush where they tied me to a stake”.
“They stood some few meters away, and were still thinking on what to with me when security forces stormed and rescued me”, he explained.
He called for increased surveillance of the affected communities “so that our fleeing brothers and sisters could return to cultivate their farmlands this farming season”.
It was learnt the deplorable security situation in the troubled areas may not be unconnected with activities of desperate politicians who used these boys to feather their political nests going into the 2019 crucial election year.
It could be recalled that the House of Representatives member for Abak, Etim Ekpo and Ika Federal Constituency, has had to be impressed upon by leaders and stakeholders of Etim Ekpo, to help present their petition of unrestrained killings, kidnappings and armed robbery cases before the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris.
The matter, Aljazirah Nigeria gathered, was still pending at the Force Headquarters, even as the killing-spree continues in the affected areas.

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