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A’Ibom widow travels from village to city for empowerment, vanishes

By Chioma Onuegbu

EKET- THE mysterious disappearance of a 65-year-old widow, Mrs. Ekaette Uboh, a native of Ikot Esen Village, Nsit Ubium Local Government Area, Akwa Ibom State, since September 23, last year, when a political figure supposedly took her and 18 other rural women to Uyo, the state capital, for an “empowerment programme,” has ignited controversy in the “Land of Promise.”

The children of the mother of six, human rights groups, residents and security agencies, have raised questions over the intriguing development and tongues are wagging.

*Mrs. Ekaette Uboh

Swayed by wrapper

One of her children, Ezekiel Uboh, who spoke to NDV last Friday, alleged that a politician from the village had come to their residence that September 23, 2017 and insisted that their mother joined other women to Uyo for an empowerment programme initiated by a former local government chairman at the Godswill Akpabio International Stadium, Uyo.

Ezekiel, who is based in Calabar, stated: “Actually, I was in Calabar when the incident happened, but my elder brother, Sunday Etete Uboh, and my younger sister, Hannah, told the politician that our mother would not be able to attend because she could not walk very well. She (politician) managed to convince mother with a piece of wrapper.

“I was told that she was the one that assisted my mother to where the bus she used to convey the women was waiting,” he said.

Suspicion

“My younger sister, Hannah, said she became afraid when other women returned around 8.00 pm the same day without our mother. So Hannah said when she went with our elder brother, Sunday, to meet the politician and asked her about the whereabouts of our mother, she could not explain, instead, she asked them to wait till the following day.

“Hannah said it was when she did not see our mother the following day that she raised the alarm that the politician must produce her and she told them that one Mrs. Idaraesit Ita, the women leader, was last seen with our mother.

“My sister went to meet Mrs. Ita, who informed Hannah that they left our mother in Uyo. That was how Hannah and my elder brother suspected that something was actually wrong,” he said.

Confrontation with politician

His words: “When I got the bad news, I came back to the village on September 26 and went straight to the politician and started making noise, demanding for the whereabouts of my mother. She told me to calm down and asked that I should accompany her to Uyo, to bring back my mother.”

Police detention

He revealed: “But instead, she took me to the “C” Divisional Headquarters of the Nigeria Police in Uyo, where she lied against me and told the police that my mother was with me in Calabar. I was shocked and I was detained for one full day.”

According to him: “But when the DPO later heard that the woman leader, Mrs. Idaraesit Ita, was the person that was last seen with my mother, he ordered her to be arrested and questioned.”

Subsequent harassment

He continued: “And not long ago, Hannah told me that three motorcycles entered our compound enquiring about me and when she told them that I was not at home, they asked her to warn me to stop pursuing the case of my missing mother. And she said she could not recognise any of them.

“All we are seeking is that our sick mother be produced and nothing else,” he added.

I never took Mrs. Uboh to Uyo – Mrs Mbakara, politician

Reacting, the politician, Mrs. Blessing Mbakara, denied involvement in the matter, claiming that she was not even in the village on the said September 23 that the purported incident occurred.

“I was not the person who took her (missing Ekaette Uboh) to Uyo. And that day was Akwa Ibom creation anniversary; it was not an empowerment programme as they told you. So what they are telling you is wrong. Let them say what they want to say, but there is God.

Her words: “The truth will soon come and you will know that they are not saying the truth. They are trying to tarnish my image.”

There should be no sacred cow – Rights group

Coordinator, Akwa Ibom Human Rights Community, Mr. Clifford Thomas, insisted that the persons allegedly involved in the matter, including the former council chairman, Mr. Otobong Edemidiong, whom Mbakara alleged instructed her to bring Madam Ekaete Etete Uboh for purposes of “empowerment”, be made to produce the poor widow alive or face the law.

Ministry of Women Affairs wades in

The advocate, who commended the State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Welfare for intervening in the matter by inviting all the parties to meet with the Commissioner, said Ezekiel Uboh drew their attention to the matter.

“During the meeting, the Commissioner, Dr. Glory Edet, insisted that Mrs. Blessing Mbakara and others involved must produce Madam Ekaete Etete Uboh at the next date of their meeting,” he disclosed.

Police from Abuja headquarters take over

Thomas hinted: “Also Police from Abuja headquarters have taken over the investigation. We urge them to objectively investigate the matter, ensure that justice is done.”

Our unyielding demand

He declared: “Akwa Ibom human rights community insists that Blessing Mbakara must explain the whereabouts of this woman, and must produce her. She led her away from her house in Ikot Esen Ubium in Nsit Ubium on the 23rd of September, 2017; she must take her back to her house. This is our humble prayer.

“Insecurity in Nigeria today is of great concern to us. There is a noticeable phenomenon during periods approaching elections when the incidences of missing persons become rampant. This particular case cannot be left unattended to or treated with levity,” he asserted.


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