Posted by Idongesit Ashameri | 5 August 2017 | 3,527 times
In a very unprecedented scale, cultism has enveloped many local government areas of Akwa Ibom State in the last twelve months, killing, maiming and displacing many rural dwellers.
As at the last count, in Etim Ekpo, one of the leading Local Government Areas plagued with cultism in the state, not less than 54 persons have been reportedly killed either during cult clashes or as scapegoats during demonstrations by men of the underworld.
Ukanafun shares a common boundary with Etim Ekpo and is obviously one of the harbours of cultists, kidnappers, hired assassins and perpetrators of all forms of crimes, all taking root in cultism. It was about the same area that the immediate past Commissioner of Police, CP Donald Awuna was reported to have identified 40 cult groups.
Giving a background of the history of cultism in both LGAs which have roots into every other local government areas across the state, an indigene, who pleaded anonymity, said Etim Ekpo and Ukanafun LGAs are held hostage due to tussle for supremacy by two cult groups identified as Debam and its rival, Iceland.
Debam, according to our source, has been in existence in the area and was used by politicians during the last general elections to intimidate political opponents. It was same Debam, according our source that the immediate past Transition Committee Chairman, Ukanafun, Mr Abasiono Udomfu, currently standing trial in court, used in the assassination of the council secretary, Barr. Ime Atakpa.
Provoked by the political recognition and popularity of Debam (popularly known as the whites), and symbolised by Chelsea drink, the rival cult group identified as Iceland, with a red colour, symbolised in Squadron drink, came up with a determination to displace Debam, recruited the strongest of men and has continued to perpetrate violence in both LGAs, carrying charms and other fetish items to showcase evidences of supremacy. “No bullet penetrates their body.” Our source said
Not being an election period, when cultists are generously utilised by politicians to intimidate opponents, the local cultists, according to our source, have resorted to assisting some irate youths in rural communities in the state to overthrown legitimate authorities and take over the village headship, to be able to control the natural resources in their various communities.
“Remember when palm oil went up to N22,000 per 20 litres? Youths in villages across Etim Ekpo, Ukanafun, Mkpat Enin and many other local government areas across the state, assisted by these cult groups, overthrew legitimate village heads and took over the running of the villages and management of palm fruits in such areas.
The cultists, whom he said recently, murdered one Barr. Mfon Etukudoh and a Vice Principal in Nkek Community Secondary School, Mr Aniekeme Brownson, now goes about harassing school teachers in Udianga Enem to deposit a good percentage of their salaries at the end of every month or risk having their houses burnt down.
Confirming such attack in his area, one of the sacked Chairmen of village council, in Mkpat Enin Local Government Area, Evangelist Saturday Oton Isemin (ASP rtd), who narrated the ordeals of his community since the irate youths took over in August 12, 2016, said that the development has led to increased crime and violence in the community.
Giving a background to the abominable development in his area, the retired Assistant Superintendent of Police said the youths who had earlier made an attempt to register a cult group with the village council but was rebuffed by the village council, invaded the Council of Chiefs meeting, August last year around 7.30am. They locked up the elders and severely beat them up, and inflicted various degrees of injuries; while dispossessing them of their belongings and seized the keys to the Civic Center.
Isemin said after being held hostage for about eight hours, the youths on the intervention of one Rotimi, the then DSS official in the area, released the elders, some of whom had already became unconscious due to severe beatings and injuries inflicted.
The irate youths, according to Isemin, used the occasion to warn the elders against further attempt to preside over the affairs of the village or take charge of the yearly sales of the village palm trees.
His words: “We have seen series of problems since August 12, 2016 when about 20 youths led by Nsikak Friday Peter and Francis Ezekiel Ibanga invaded the village council meeting with machetes and guns. They ordered all of us to lie down and demanded the keys to the Civic Center.”
“They snatched all our phones, monies and a briefcase belonging to the youth president, Mr Anthony Simeon Akpan, containing the sum of N300,000 which he had for his personal business. We were rescued by one Rotimi who was the SSS person attached to Mkpat Enin then.”
Speaking on the latest Etim Ekpo cult attack which claimed the lives of no fewer than four persons in Udianga Enem community in Etim Ekpo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, one of the indigenes of the area who declined being mentioned in print narrated that the cultists, suspected to be members of Iceland, invaded the community through three routes; Using Obo Inyang, Usung Afang Ukwak and Usung Okoyo.
“There was a burial ceremony at Qua Iboe Church Udianga Enem, Etim Ekpo Local Government Area, where members of Iceland cult group came to attack people from Debam, their opponents. On their way to the venue of the burial, the cultists, numbering over 30 on motorbikes invaded homes, markets and attacking whomever they met on the way. Four people died, two from the community and two passersby.”
He explained that some of the persons shot dead included a Pastor, Mr. Uwem Ananki and one radio technician, simply identified as Da Mon.
Speaking with Independent, the Village Head of Udianga Enem, Chief Mendie Josiah Udo Ekoriko, whose compound was also attacked, lamented that his motorbike was seized by the hoodlums.
“They set fire on the Affiong market in the village, and some other compounds including Idung Akpanawo, where they chased the women, children and the youths out with gunshots, before setting some houses ablaze,” he stated.
He explained that “the Pastor came to this compound to see his Mother’s sister and was so unlucky to be around when the hoodlums arrived, and they shot him several times at close range.”
He appealed to security agencies to draft a standby Police unit in the community “because people no longer sleep at homes during the night because these armed hoodlums have nothing to fear.”
“Farming, which is the main business of everybody, women and other farmers, can no longer go to the farms alone,” he lamented.
The Local Government Chairman, Hon. Udeme Eduo, himself from the village, confirmed the incident, saying he had met with the Commissioner of Police (CP), Mr. Muazu Zubairu, with a view to apprehending the suspects, as well as strengthening security in the troubled area.
He assured that he would work assiduously with security agencies to make the area safe for socio–economic activities to thrive once again.
Besides, he enjoined the people to be safety conscious and report every suspicious character within their immediate neighbourhoods to security agencies.
Another victim of the last attack, Mr Akpan Akpan Owo whose compound was razed down with fire during the recent attack, said the hoodlums invaded the house, brought out all household items including clothes and mattresses, poured petrol on them, took them to the roof and set the house ablaze.
Reacting to this, one of the top politicians and an opinion leader in the area, Elder Mfon Iko who put the number of casualties so far in Etim Ekpo at 54, attributed the prevalence of cultism in the area to politics, joblessness and illiteracy.
“These people were used by politicians during the elections and were abandoned immediately after the elections. All they do now is drink ‘Kai Kai’, smoke marijuana and perpetrate violence in the area as they await the next election. They need jobs and education to take their minds off evil in the society,” he said.
Cult activities are not restricted to rural communities in Akwa Ibom, as men later identified as cultists by the police Public Relations Officer DSP Chukwu Ikechukwu, about two weeks ago, held Uyo, the state capital hostage while engaging in a gun duel with the police for over an hour along the banking area, Abak road.
Confirming the issue of widespread cult activities in the state, the Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Chukwu Ikechukwu who confirmed the existence of about 40 cult groups in the state, said the police has been working hard to restore normalcy to areas held hostage by men of the underworld.
He confirmed that four persons lost their lives during the last cult attack in Etim Ekpo and assured that the Commissioner of Police and the Transition Committee Chairman of the area have been working together to apprehend the culprits whom he described as enemies of the society.
“Cultism in the state is not just restricted to those few areas, there are about 40 cult groups operating all over the state. That is why we appeal to parents to assist us to monitor their children and volunteer information to assist us in tackling this crime. We are on it and we can assure Akwa Ibom people that normalcy will soon return to those very volatile areas,” he assured.
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