Armed robbers, cultists and rapists have taken over former Governor Godswill Akpabio’s Ukana Ikot Ntuen village and other villages in Ukana Clan in Essien Udim local government area of Akwa Ibom State.
So far, NewsGazette learnt that about 20 persons have been killed in a clash involving two cult groups identified as Debam and Lutoks.
The latest victim, one Anthony Etok Uko Udeme from Ukana Iboho village was killed on Sunday at a place close to the Ukana Police station.
It was gathered that the late Udeme who graduated from the Cross River State University of Science and Technology was riding on a motorcycle when one of the cult groups accosted him at Ikot Ukpong junction and shot him at close-range.
It was further learnt that the two cult groups which operate from Ukana East and West attacked two schools in the area where they stole and disrupted academic activities.
It was gathered that one group attacked Independent High School in Ukana West while the other attacked Community Secondary Commercial School, Ukana East in reprisal.
During the reprisal, one of the cult leaders was reported to have been hacked down.
NewsGazzette also learnt that in the last three months the police have found it difficult to contain the sophisticated weapons deployed by Debam and Lutoks.
A resident who craved anonymity told NewsGazette that the cultists started initially as groups funded and armed by politicians to terrorise opponents during the run-up to the 2007, 2011, and 2015 elections.
“Then, the groups enjoyed financial patronage from politicians. But after the 2015, funding to the groups dropped and political activities and structures moved to Uyo following the emergence of Udom Emmanuel as the new governor of the state.
“After the 2015 general election, the sophisticated guns bought for the thugs were not collected. They have now turned the guns on the clan. We now live in fear of our people.
“In fact, the once vibrant community with the historic Obo Annang market has been reduced to a ghost town as most residents have, out of fear, relocated to neighbouring towns in Abak and Ikot Ekpene,” he said.
Another indigene of the community who identified himself as Uko Ekanem remarked: “A new government that thrives in terror has taken over Ukana. They call themselves Debam and Lutoks and it’s obvious that they have replaced the local council officials. They strike unannounced. They kill, rape, maim, and rob at will unchallenged by the Police or any security institution,”
“We now live as refugees; people who are held hostage by an ongoing war are not better than us. We can’t farm beyond 6pm. The Obo Annang market that sells till evening shuts down by 3pm.
‘The Police have been overpowered because these cult groups to show the superiority of their weapons now kill and dump corpses of victims in front of the Police station while the police watch helplessly.”
Another resident of the community who identified himself as Innocent Ekanem however told NewsGazzette that he suspects that it was armed robbers and not the cult groups that were unleashing terror on the community.
“What we see are heavily armed persons who ride on motor-cycles and whoever they meet they rob and if you resist they shoot and kill.
“They spare no one. When they move around, they attack anybody or any institution at sight. They have robbed two schools, disrupted students taking exams, beating and stealing mobile phones and monies from the students and teachers.
“Shops now close too early and petrol stations can’t operate beyond 4pm. Businesses are relocating elsewhere. There is fear everywhere. These are certainly armed robbers and not cult groups,” he said.
A chief in one of the villages who craved anonymity said the reign of terror and death had been reported to the Police and the senate minority leader.
However, he said the spate of robbing, killing, and raping was yet to abate.
“The former governor has been informed about the development because recently someone was shot and killed in front of his house.
“The police we have here have openly told us they are tenants; they can’t match the weapons of these cult groups,” he said.
“About 20 persons have been killed so far. We are talking about human beings. And this is happening in a community that produced a former governor of the state and senate minority leader. We need help; we need the reinforcement of the police to protect lives and property,” he added.