‘While wife materials are flooding churches praying for husbands, our would-be-husbands are killing themselves’

By Emmanuel Unah

Cult  conflicts, armed robberies, kidnappings and other acts of brigandage seem to have become commonplace in Calabar, following the inability of  security agencies to   stem the activities of hoodlums.

These acts of brigandage manifested when, for five days, hoodlums turned the streets of the capital of Cross River State  to a war zone after they killed at random    in what was said to be a battle between two rival gangs. Over 15 people were said to have been  killed before soldiers from  13 Brigade of the Nigerian Army were deployed to the streets to restore calm.

The battle reportedly started after one of the groups  retaliated for    the    killing of its members, last year, by the rival group,  with the murder of a University of Calabar lecturer, on Thursday, March 16, barely five days after the university conducted its 30th convocation.

That killing ignited a murderous rage which swept through the city for five days.   The next day, Friday, March 17, five persons were mowed down in various parts of the city. One person    was shot dead along Queen Duke Street, another at Harcourt by Luggard Street, two at White House Street, one at Etim Edem Motor Park, and another at    Nelson Mandela Street.    The two persons murdered  at White House Street include one of the    twins  who, last year, was allegedly shot  but survived. In the latest incident, the assailants shot him seven times  to ensure he died before they dumped his body on the road close to his house.

On Saturday, March 18, activities, at   a popular Calabar hangout spot, located at  Atekong/ Marian Road, came to  an abrupt  end after  some gunmen stormed the place at about 7.00 pm and started shooting thus sparking a gun duel with a  rival cult    that lasted several hours with    two people    reportedly killed and many others    left with gunshot wounds.

By Sunday, March 19, many of the suspected  cult members  held their fire only  to resume their killings on Monday. As early as 8.00 am that Monday, one person , said to be a barber, was allegedly shot dead at Nsemo Street, Ikot Ishie in his salon while attending to a client. Hours later,  two  other persons were killed  in  the same area, one at Obutong Street and the other around Ishie Town Hall Area.

Around  midday, same day, one  person was butchered at Eyamba Street close  while gunshots  were heard at the University of Calabar Main Campus where  three persons were allegedly gunned down..    At dusk,    some gunmen killers lurked around    the mini-market adjoining the university’s perimeter fence    patronised by UNICAL students where they shot dead two persons.

Fear descended on Calabar following  the killings   as many residents  dared not come outside the confines of their homes for fear of being hit  by    stray bullet or being mistaken for one of the warring cultists.

“My husband wanted go outside the apartment into our compound to put on the generator yesterday (Sunday) when there was public power failure but I prevailed on him not to do so for fear of attracting the hoodlums because you never can tell what would offend them”, Eme, a resident of the city told Sunday Vanguard.

Another resident, Affiong, writing on her facebook wall, lamented: “While wife materials are flooding churches praying for husbands,    our    would-be-husbands are killing themselves. God, please help us”.

While the killings were going on, the police seemed incapable of arresting the situation or even apprehending the suspected cultists.

Ms Irene Ugbo, the Cross River State Police Command Public Relations Officer, when asked how many people had been killed in the serial gun attacks, stated that she did not know, saying nobody had been arrested. “ I cannot    tell you the number of those killed in the fight so far, but the police are doing their best to stop the cult war; no arrests have been made “, the police spokeswomen stated.

It was not until the morning of Tuesday, March 21, when soldiers from 13 Brigade stormed the streets that normalcy    was restored. Captain Kayode Owalabi, the  Public Relations Officer for the Brigade, said the deployment of soldiers    was to tell the “militants and cultists that enough is enough and anyone who dares the might of the military    would have himself to blame”

Perhaps that threat served the purpose as it saved the situation in the city but traffic, night life and other social activities are still a far cry from what they used to be in the city known for its annual street party,  Calabar Carnival.

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