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Gangsters ransack C-River community, villagers flee

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By Ikechukwu Uche

EKPENE EFIO EYO— UNEASY calm has enveloped Ekpene Efio Eyo community, Eyo Edem clan, Ikot Nakanda, Akpabuyo Local Government Area, Cross River State, following a fierce battle for the town’s stool, which has resulted in bloody attacks, desecration of the land by armed gangsters and desertion of the village by residents.

NDV learned that since 2011, the villagers have been living in trepidation, forsaking their farms being unable to carry out their lawful business activities due to the siege by a gang of hoodlums, alleged to be supporters of one of the contestants for the throne.

Genesis of the crisis— Chief Effiom

The community was practically a ghost town when we visited, weekend. Chairman of Eyo Edem clan, Chief Effiom Ekpo Effiom, asserted that the crisis erupted since 2011 when the village head of Ekepene Efio Eyo, Chief Orok Edem, died, when some persons wanted to turn the custom and tradition of the people upside down by enthroning a stranger as village head.

•Obongette Okon attacked on January 11.

Chief Effiom: “In the days of Chief Orok Edem, I was in the council. There was no crisis. But trouble started when he died and Mrs. Sylvia Etim was selected, which was when this whole problem started. A young man and his group started making trouble that he wants to take over the rulership of the village.

“Funny enough, he is not even from Cross River State. He is a fourth generation grandson of one of our sisters. His lineage here is maternal, not even paternal. None of his immediate parents were from here, they are all from Akwa Ibom State.

“When the tussle started, they burnt people’s houses and destroyed a lot of property. As a result of the problem, Sylvia died, but before then, the matter was taken to court in 2011.

“When she died, the village had no village head for two years until 2014, when six out of the seven houses that make up Ekpene Efio Eyo selected Etinyin Ewa. But these people were still not satisfied, they began making more troubles and attacking Ewa’s supporters in the village.”

They cut my head open

— Okon, victim One of the victims, Obongete Okon, attacked on January 11, told NDV: “I was asked by Etiyin Joseph Ewa to make an announcement because our borehole was vandalised and some of the components, including the pumping machine, metre and other electrical component were carted away. So I was asked to announced a three-day ultimatum that whoever took those items should return them, and at the same time, also announce sanitation date. “I was with two other people when I saw a group of boys, numbering about 10, with guns and machetes. They pounced on me and cut my head open. I became dizzy because I lost a lot of blood. They also left other people with me with life-threatening injuries.  We have been warned by Etiyin never to take laws into our hands no matter the provocation.

“We petitioned the Commissioner of Police and the AIG, Zone 6, to look into the matter. Even though the mastermind of these nefarious activities was later remanded, there have been series of other attacks since he was sent to Afokang Prisons. We sleep with one eye opened. There is no peace in the land, people are afraid to go to their farms, for fear of been killed. We need help from the government, before these strangers kill us.”

41 pellets extracted from my body: Another victim, Okon Bassey Okon, said: “They shot me at very close range in 2015 and left me for dead. But God gave me a second chance; you can see for yourself. There are still bullets in my arm, after 41 pellets were extracted. It could have only been God who saved me.” A community leader, who spoke anonymously, appealed to Governor Ben Ayade to come to their aid because the matter about who remains the village head was still pending in court.

He said: “A lot of oil mills have closed because people are afraid to come to our place. As we speak, a lot of people have moved to other communities and the people causing all these mayhem are not from here. We need help from the Department of State Services, DSS, Police and other security agencies before this thing degenerates into full-scale communal war.

“Although the mastermind has been remanded at Afokang Prisons, he has boys numbering more than 50, who are loyal to him and still causing havoc in the village even though they are not from here.

“We have strong belief that there are high-profile individuals benefiting from the crisis because they have been promised land and you know our community is also blessed with a lot of natural resources, including economic trees. So these elements are giving these boys backing and sponsorship.”

Efforts to get the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Ozi-Obeh, to react to the petition was unsuccessful, as his number was unreachable at press time.

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