By DAPO AKINREFON, TONY NYONG & TORDUE SALEM
UYO – MAYHEM that engulfed Akwa Ibom State, Tuesday, as a result of bloody clash between supporters of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and the opposition Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN continued, yesterday, as two persons were reported killed in Ikot Ekpene and several others injured when party supporters clashed with soldiers who were deployed to restore order in Uyo, the state capital.
Governor Godswill Akpabio and Senator Udoedehe traded blames on the cause of the crisis with the governor accusing the opposition of bringing ethnic dimension into the matter in order to create animosity among different tribes in the State.
Governor Akpabio, in a state broadcast, yesterday, accused the state chapter of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, for allegedly being the brains behind the violence which erupted in the state on Tuesday.
He lampooned the ACN for what he described as “premeditated untold mayhem on the cities of Ikot Ekpene and Uyo”, adding: “We are still appraising the human and material toll of the unprovoked attack on our dear state and our people.”
500 brand new tricycles, 200 cars burnt
Akpabio said: “Many government assets were destroyed including buildings, over 500 brand new tricycles and over 200 brand new cars which were parked at the Idongesit Nkanga secretariat at the time of the incident. With profound sense of shock, I extend our profound sympathies to the families and friends of the two persons who died at Uyo and the two who died at Ikot Ekpene at the hands of those hoodlums.
It is instructive that the hoodlums and their sponsors in the ACN singled out the properties of the PDP and its supporters for destruction.
“No responsible government can condone such lawlessness and wanton destruction of lives and properties.
We commend the security agencies, who have so far made 37 arrests and swiftly acted to bring the situation under control. We have directed that the arrested persons be charged to court immediately, while the search for their accomplices continues.
“We are fully resolved to bring to justice all those who participated in the perpetration of the heinous crime against our dear state and our people. The law as we know is no respecter of persons, and all those who collaborated, sponsored or were implicated in these attacks would be docked for trial no matter how highly placed they are or no matter who they think they are in the society.”
Campaign in Annang land
Meanwhile, the Director-General of the Udoedehe/Umanah Campaign Committee, Udoma Ekarika, at a press conference blamed Governor Akpabio for igniting the violence.
He said that PDP supporters were instructed by the governor to stop opposition party from campaigning in Annang land.
Udoedehe had last week said nine of his supporters were injured at the ACN campaign rally in Ini Local Government Area when people threw missiles including a machete into the crowd.
He noted that over 55 ACN supporters have been arrested and detained at the Police Command Headquarters, Ikot Akpan Abia.
Meanwhile, the state Police Commissioner, Felix Uyana, has confirmed the arrest of 45 persons in connection with the violence. He also inspected the Fortune Schools, owned by Senator Aloysius Etok where property worth N300millon, including several classroom blocks, 13 vehicles, generators, water dispenser and other valuables were destroyed.
Several computers, cash, televisions and other valuables were also allegedly carted away by the hoodlums.
ACN Chairman in the state, Mr. Aniekan Akpan, while addressing newsmen said the mayhem that took place in the state, speaks volume on the level of insecurity in the state.
Akpan who said the governor should be held responsible for the mayhem, also accused Akpabio of forcing the people to return him to power.
He said the governor had earlier organized a similar assault which disrupted the visit of Mrs. Justina Udoedehe, wife of ACN gubernatorial candidate who sought to visit her family and inform them of the intention of the husband to run for the exalted office.
Akpan said that Governor Akpabio had allegedly boasted publicly of paying N500 million to the police headquarters to secure the transfer of former Police Commissioner, Sani Magaji, arguing that while the police in the state had refused to provide security and back up to the ACN, the governor had ordered the arrest of about 61 ACN chieftains until the elections were over.
Inter party violence
Reacting to the violence, Patty Etete Inemeh, PDP, Ikot Ekpene, who represents the area at the House of Representatives said: “We condemn the violence in strong terms and we call on all people of goodwill to come and intervene to find the culprits behind it.”
He was however quick to exonerate his party, saying: “I don’t think it is my party (PDP), that instigated the violence, and we are trying to see that the kind of violence does not occur again in any part of Akwa Ibom State.”
On allegations that the Government of Akwa Ibom State may have marked the local government a ‘no-go area’ for the opposition parties, the lawmaker responded: “Ikot Ekpene is a free local government for all parties and all people. That was the first Local Government Area recognised by British West Africa, so it is not true that it was declared a no_go area for other political parties by the PDP”.
Inemeh argued that the Governor could not have banned opposition parties or anybody for that matter from entering there, because “he (the Governor) is not the law. ”
The Constitution is very clear on rights of citizens to express themselves or exercise their rights, including political rights anywhere and at all times. The law says you are free to move from one place to the other, so that is not true”
On whether the political parties involved may have taken to violence out of frustration, Inemeh warned: “Even if you are losing in your area, you don’t have to take laws into your hands. We are known as a peaceful and law abiding citizens of Nigeria, so for us, this is shocking.”