The Police in Akwa Ibom has declared 59 persons alleged to be ring leaders and sponsors of insecurity within Ukanafun and Etim Ekpo Local Government Areas of the state.
The state Commissioner of Police, Mr Adeyemi Ogunjemilusi, released the names of the wanted persons in a statement made available to newsmen in Uyo on Sunday.
Ogunjemilusi said the suspects were needed to explain their roles in the resurgence of and persistent crises in the two affected areas during which four church leaders and one official of the Independent National Electoral Commission were kidnapped for ransom last week at Uruk Ata 2 community.
According to him, they are allegedly involved and connected with series of crimes such as armed robbery, rape, cultism, kidnapping, unlawful possession of firearms and terrorism.
The commissioner noted that the assailants were also said to have killed eight people, torched seven houses and abducted two female students of Obong University, Obong Ntak, in Etim Ekpo.
He said that the police had launched a manhunt towards freeing other captives from their abductors.
“The listed suspects are still within the crises areas. Difficult terrain and equipment have been hindering our operations.
“Even the Blue River at Azumini that they (the criminals) always use to migrate into Abia, Rivers and other neighbouring states after operations is even too shallow for navy boats,” he said.
He said collaborative security operations comprising the police, navy, army and other security agencies working with local communities have been intensified in the past one week to dislodge the criminals and their sponsors from the areas.
He explained that many of the troubled areas in the two affected local government areas had been freed with displaced people returning.
Ogunjemilusi said that one or two communities in Etim Ekpo and Ukanafun have become the last point of resistance due to difficult terrain.
Meanwhile, Gov. Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom had promised to deal with sponsors of violence in the troubled areas.
Emmanuel said that government was aware of the intensity of criminal activities in the areas and was strategically pursuing a course to entrench lasting peace in the area.
“What is happening in Ukanafun and Etim Ekpo, we all know that those things are sponsored. We have identified and tracked them; we are on it.
“Well, whoever is sponsoring them, good luck to that person because one day we will get to the sponsors,’’ the governor said.