ON May 24, 2012, the Akwa Ibom State Deputy Governor, Obong Nsima Ekere, constituted an Adhoc Peace and Reconciliation Committee to broker peace between Ikot Akpan Udo in Ikot Abasi Local Government Area and Amazaba villages in Eastern Obolo Local Government Area of the state.

The 13-member committee headed by E. E. Eneyo, was set up following accusations of government’s inaction and indifference to the plight of Ikot Akpan Udo citizens whose homes were burnt and 11 persons killed in the Amazaba massacre of August 28, 2008.

Laudable as government’s initiative has been, it is noteworthy that the Eneyo committee made considerable efforts to meet the Ikot Akpan Udo refugees who are scattered in many villages of Ukpum Ete and other clans in Ikot Abasi LGA, at Ikwa village.

It also met with the Amazaba villagers at Okoroete in Eastern Obolo LGA. All sides to the crisis had their say and apparently communicated their terms for peace in the conurbation to the committee.

However, in interpreting the committee’s terms of reference, Eneyo’s mien or body language created the impression that working out “modalities for resolving the conflict” meant forcing the people of Ikot Akpan Udo to accept his contrived peace plans by all means possible, including coercion and police assault on the leadership. This is not an acceptable model and lends credence to accusations of overt influence by the Andonis.

Some of the recommendations of the committee are not only preposterous but also lacking in capacity to reduce the tension and conflicts in the area. For instance, the recommendation for construction of a bridge to link former Amanglass (Idung Nglass) with former Amangbuji (Idung Obo) smacks of the highest level of insensitivity and misunderstanding of the topography of the Ikot Akpan Udo land area.

The first reason this recommendation should not have featured in the report is the fact that a bridge across this creek will fence off Ikot Akpan Udo from the Akpan Udo River and ultimately the Atlantic Ocean where some of her fishing nationals earn their living. Whoever authored that recommendation banked on the ignorance of the committee members and government functionaries at Uyo, about the topography of this district and is not doing Akwa Ibom State government any useful service.

The second reason that Ikot Akpan Udo will not consent to the signing of any memorandum from the peace and reconciliation committee is the fact that given our recent experience, allowing Amazaba villages to satellite Ikot Akpan Udo again will be an invitation for them to continue to murder Ikot Akpan Udo citizens.

This is because they have proven, for the umpteenth time, that they are not capable of living in peace with their neighbours. The state government is aware that penultimate week, the Amazaba citizens who now live at Iso Otoyo, kidnapped four Ikot Akpan Udo youths – Idorienyin Ufot Akpan, Moses Udo Akpan, Abasiakan Ufot Akpan and Maurice Thompson. Even the mobile police team stationed at Ikot Akpan Udo, though aware of this development, could not prevent it. This  confirms our assertion that the reconciliation effort was not successful.

If due to political considerations, the state government is uncomfortable with relocating the Amazaba villages to Otunene and Ememen near their kith and kin at Emereoke, which lie within Eastern Obolo local government territory, it could settle them along Usung Effiat, from Idim Ukpong to Ikot Inyang (Okoro Inyong). However, where the Amazaba citizens are made to settle at Idim Ukpong on the Ikot Akpan Udo mainland, they shall automatically become citizens of Ukpum Ete clan in Ikot Abasi LGA and cease to belong to Eastern Obolo LGA.

This stand is anchored on the inerrant premise that the Akpan Udo River which begins at Ikot Ekpang in Mkpatenin LGA and courses through Nda Uko, Ikot Akpan Udo, through Iso Otoyo and Isong Mfon to the Atlantic Ocean shall be the constitutionally delineated boundary between Ikot Abasi and Eastern Obolo local government areas. Settlements on the right bank of this river shall remain in Ikot Abasi LGA while those on the left bank shall belong to Eastern Obolo LGA..

Commission of enquiry report: Also of interest is the fact that the ad hoc peace and reconciliation committee in its report urged the state government to release the report and white paper of the Magistrate Ime Ekam Commission of Enquiry into the communal disturbances at Ikot Akpan Udo empanelled by the erstwhile deputy governor of the state, Obong Patrick Ekpotu, in November 2008. It is our opinion that the committee apparently was wasting its time by clamouring for that commission’s report because the Amazaba villagers are entrenched in the Ministry of Justice. Their counsel at the commission’s sittings at Eket in November 2008 is now in that ministry.

If Governor Godswill Akpabio who is seen as an embodiment of justice and fairness is eager to assure the citizenry that he will not tolerate miscarriage of justice with impunity, then it would be appropriate for him to order the ministry to release the commission’s report without further delay.

Meanwhile, the state government should set in motion machinery for the reconstruction of the destroyed Ikot Akpan Udo community so that the refugees who are weary of their alienation from their homestead can return to  rebuild their lives.

The children that have been denied access to education for more than four years should be made to return to school, while the jobless youths should be provided with job opportunities through the provision of medium and smallscale firms to employ them.

By UDO IBUOT

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