May 5, 2024

Akwa Ibom: Murder of policeman,others signal renewed terror


By Egufe Yafugborhi & Chioma Onuegbu, Uyo

After operating on the fringes unhindered for months closing 2023, emboldened armed gangs in Akwa Ibom State are pushing a renewed reign of terror into the heart of Uyo, the capital city.

On the last day of January, a Wednesday, a police officer, Inspector Usang Egbe, fell victim when he got caught in the web of a gang of hoodlums numbering over ten.

Findings reveal unsuspecting Egbe was returning home at about 8.30 pm when he walked into the rampaging killers close to his Akan Bassey Street in Afaha Ube village in Itu Local Government Area (LGA), off Ikot-Ekpene Road. They gruesomely murdered him.

Eyewitnesses alleged the gang beheaded him after shooting him dead, shot sporadically in the air before walking away, but Police Public Relations Officer, Akwa Ibom Command, Odiko MaDon, dismissed the beheading as he confirmed the tragedy the day after.

A resident narrated, “After killing the police officer, the assailants were not even in a hurry to leave. Somebody, I learned, called the Police Control Room, but before they arrived, the hoodlums were gone, strolled away in different directions.”

In January alone, no fewer than five persons were killed in the same barbaric manner, some with body parts including eyes and private parts removed.

On January 23, a woman, known for farming fallow lands at the Banking Layout, Udo Udoma Avenue, Uyo, which hosts the Central Bank of Nigeria, the state Inland Revenue Service and other financial institutions, was found decapitated, the head lying meters from the rest of her body.

On the 29th of same month, the remains of an unidentified young lady, butchered with almost all of her upper body missing, were found stuffed in a Ghana-Must-Go sack along Nwaiba Road, Uyo.

Sources in the area said the suspected killers left a phone contact on their trail.

Despite the police announcing the arrest of 79 suspects across the state in January 2024, the hardened criminals, in more findings yet unconfirmed by the police, further disposed of another dead woman in a refuse dump around Afaha Ube, Itam Primary School.

At a lounge in Uyo, on the day Nigeria defeated Cameroon in the ongoing AFCON 2024 Round of 16, gunmen invaded and abducted three football enthusiasts cheering Super Eagles to victory in the thrilling encounter.

In the latest of the most bizarre of reported cases, February 29 two brothers, Enefiok Michael Etuk, aged 70 and Ebongeti Micheal Etuk, 50 were murdered at their Nnung Iyoho, Afaha Offiong, Nsit Ibom LGA residence by assailants Police say they are still trailing.

Eldest brother to the victims, Mr Ime Micheal Etuk, who escaped the ordeal narrated how one of the siblings, physically challenged, “was dragged out of the room and killed at the backyard, his head smashed.”

March 19, suspected assassins killed the General Overseer, Mount of Solution Redeemed Church in Ikot Ekang community, Abak Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, Prophet Elisha Asuquo and an associate pastor, Apostle Aniekan Ibanga in the church premises.

Before the Push into Uyo

The spate of killings and kidnappings in Akwa Ibom started outside the capital city last year.
Among the saddest cases, in April 2023, a woman was abducted at her husband’s business premises in Eket, Eket LGA.

Another businesswoman, Juliana Dimaka, was strangled to death by unknown persons in October 2023.
Similarly, a PDP chieftain, identified as Eyo Edet, was abducted in his fuel station in Oron, Oron LGA in June 2023.

Oron: ‘A’Ibom Criminality Capital’

Rendered vulnerable due to prolonged neglect of its collapsed roads which has surged traffic on its water routes to Calabar, capital of its mother state, Cross River, and the Cameroon, Oron nation, covering five LGAs, has assumed the ‘criminality capital’ of Akwa- Ibom.

Despite hosting a military barracks and a Police Area Command, stakeholders attest that the security apparatus in that strategic socioeconomic and political bloc in the state has collapsed, making Oron a haven for bandits, robbers, kidnappers, killers, and more.

A prominent Oron son narrated, “We live in fear, like refugees in our land. A romance between stranger infiltrators and native collaborators has birthed terror gangs that now lord it over the people.

“Day in and day out, with the deplorable Calabar-Itu Road forcing more travelers to take the waterways, these armed gangs are the pirates who impose tolls, attack and rob fishermen, water transporters, and travelers.

“Upland, they invade through the waters, rob, kidnap, and kill at will. Many are being kidnapped for huge ransoms. Regrettably, businesses and livelihoods are being truncated, as prime targets, investors and notable sons and daughters relocate to Uyo, those outside the state afraid to visit their homeland, LG secretariats deserted.”

Bishop Ante Nsoh, lawyer, former Mbo LG boss, former President General of Oron nation, and security expert, abreast of how things have degenerated attested to these challenges.

Nsoh said, “For those of us who still dare before you come to Oron, you do your surveillance, do your preparations. Going about with Mopol is not a guarantee of safety.

“What happened to the recently kidnapped judge explains how bad roads have hampered security in Oron. There is the actual route to take, but due to its deplorable state, she risked a better motorable detour. That’s how victims fall easy targets to the criminals.

“Oron is the only bloc in the state from the major cities that is not enjoying good roads, due to a certain degree of marginalization. I don’t see why people should play politics with the lives of the people.

“How can Oron people be used as political scapegoats? How would a contractor collect so much money and cannot finish the Oron Road project and the authorities are playing with the contractor? What is the EFCC doing? Who are those forces behind the contract?”

Justice Joy Unwana, who presides over Oron Judicial Division of the State High Court, was abducted along with her driver, her police orderly killed on the spot as she was returning to Uyo from the court on December 18, 2023.

Gov Eno Points Fingers

Despite introducing a Ministry for Internal Security and Waterways, headed by a retired General, Koko Essien, provision of 14 gunboats and sundry interventions to boost the state’s security infrastructures, Governor Umo Eno’s efforts are yet to deter the criminals.

Faced with this reality, the governor is pointing fingers at detractors.

Hosting out-going service commanders at Government House Uyo on the same night the police Inspector got killed, Eno alleged, “Credible intelligence suggests that some in our society, living among us, are giving support, aid, and comfort to these criminal elements just to upturn the peace in our state and use it as a narrative”.

He then boasted, “We are drawing up new security architecture for the state and, in the next few months, you will see the results and how serious we are. So if criminals believe Akwa Ibom is a place for them to hibernate, they will find this state too hot to stay.”

On why the governor’s efforts appear to have failed to make a difference, Bishop Nsoh explained, “After providing gunboats, you must talk of maintenance, logistics. “Provide gunboats without providing diesel, in quantum, it spells doom for that operation.

“It means the money committed to acquiring these sophisticated weapons amount to an exercise in futility”.

Police reactive

Seventy-two hours after the killing of Inspector Egbe, the police announced the arrest of 22 suspects in connection with the murder and for other cult-induced killings in the state, just as a new CP, Ayilara Waheed Adedamola, has taken over at the helms of Akwa Ibom State Police Command.

SP Odiko MacDon, Police Public Relations Officer, Akwa Ibom State, indicated that the arrests, including that of an alleged serial murderer, Emem Ime Friday, were made between January 31 and February 2, 2024.

In the timeline on his crime profile, MacDon described Friday, alias Barracks, “a serial murderer from Mbiaso village in Oruk Anam LGA who masterminded the Inen Clan Cult War.”

The suspect is also accused of masterminding the beheading, in 2022, of Inen Clan Youth President, Hezekiah Adaidem, the 2020 murder of Ufot Unwana, Udeme Unwucha, Okon Ubok Udom, Ntiedo Sambo, Eferemfon James and Gilbert Akpan.”

Among other suspects, on January 22, operatives of the Ika Divisional also arrested Emmanuel Francis Daniel, 33, of Otomo village Ika LGA, for shooting dead 58-year-old Emmanuel Jimmy Udoh of Nket Abak in Ukanafun LGA, Pastor of Jesus Power Ministry in Ikot Esu village in Ika LGA in Akwa Ibom.

The suspect and cohorts shot the Pastor dead in the church.

“Similarly, On 23/1/2023, one Happiness Isaiah Ekanem ‘f’ and 3 others of Ikono L.G.A., who conspired and killed one Imo Isaiah Ekanem ‘m’ aged 32years of the same address by beating him to death and secretly buried the corpse have been arrested and investigation ongoing”, MacDon further stated.

Odiko’s statement quoted the CP as boasting that the “Command will intensify its onslaught against criminal elements in the State and wishes to inform Akwa Ibomites that perpetrators of heinous crimes will be brought to book.”

Part of the problem— DIG Ekpoudom

Security expert, DIG Udo Ekpoudom (rtd), attributed the poor security management and crime fighting to a lack of equipment for police operations as well as poor welfare for the personnel.

“In a country where these bad boys have taken over, police officers should be equipped very well”, he told Sunday Vanguard.

“It is meant for internal security. If you don’t equip them very well forget about it. From what I am seeing the police force is not well equipped”.

Citizens Divided On Interventions

Fear-stricken residents are praying Akwa Ibom does not return to the reign of terror that characterized Senator Godswill Akpabio during his first term as governor of the state.

Youth Activist, Ifiok Bassey, like other skeptical residents, urged “Governor Umo to impress it upon security agencies to stop the ugly trends”.

Bassey added: “Recall just last week, a lady was beheaded and her headless body dumped in a farmland by the Udo Udoma Banking Layout, Uyo.

“The police, as usual, came, took the headless body, and up till now, nothing is heard.

“Now another case has happened and the police have come to this scene three times, and there’s the likelihood that nothing serious would be done to fish out and bring the perpetrators to book.
“Akwa Ibom has been touted as one of the cleanest and security conscious states in the last couple of years, yet these kinds of ugly developments keep denting the state’s image which rubs off negatively on the destination state of tourism and investments hub the Governor is trying to sustain.”

Bishop Nsoh, in defense of Eno, said, “Without prejudice, the case in Oron needs serious collaboration between state actors and community stakeholders, including oil firms.

“The Governor is trying but he is limited by statutory mandate. The state can buy gunboats, but FG can increase them and get involved in massive deployment of personnel to run them and funds to maintain them.

“Only the IG knows the capable squadrons, tactical commands to post to flashpoints, and adequate logistics provided.

“The Governor of Akwa Ibom cannot post-military men or police to the field. It can only appeal. He cannot establish a Mopol Base in Oron. And it has gotten to that stage.

“The Federal Government can carry massive deployment upland and waterways. The communities need to give the required cooperation by identifying the hoodlums in their midst and their hideouts. Collapsed roads in Oron must be tackled.”

Vanguard News

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