Some unknown gunmen have wreaked mayhem in Ikpe Annang Village, Etim Ekpo local government area of Akwa Ibom State, and allegedly set ablaze more than 20 residential houses worth millions of naira, investigations by Straightnews have shown.
Straightnews reporter visited the besieged village that looks like a war-torn area and saw charred cars, household items, bicycles and defaced buildings staring at first-time callers.
Domestic animals were seen roaming the once-relatively peaceful village while the hoodlums were said to have mowed down trees, rolled logs to block all the intra-routes in the village to check incursion of security operatives and walked about unmolested.
Mostly affected are the houses of Famous Emmanson, a politician; Okuku Sunday Udo Enwo, the village head; Joseph Alexander Udoh, village vice chairman; Igwe Michael, farmer, and Anthony Jumbo Ekpe, civil servant, among others.
Straightnews learnt that the house of a one-time chairman of Etim Ekpo and a prominent indigene of the village (name withheld) has been burgled by the hoodlums.
Confirming the story to Straightnews in a telephone interview, Okuku Enwo, the village head of Ikpe Annang described the incident as sad, lamenting that “My 8-room building together with three generators and other valuables were burnt.”
Asked if he suspected any person, the monarch reacted “I was not in the compound when my house was razed. I was told that the suspected arsonists came in a Hilux van, allegedly used by security operatives, to set the building ablaze.
“I want the state government to come to our rescue. Some recalcitrant young men are going about fomenting trouble and destroying things in the village. They started setting houses ablaze in March and this is continuing. As a village head, I have been sent on exile and this is not good for the traditional institution.”
Emmanson whose one-storey building was said to have been reduced to rubble last week had fled the area for fear of his life.
He confided in Straightnews that as soon as security operatives sent to quell the criminal activities in the area left, the hoodlums came out of their hideout and set ablaze houses of some people in the village.
He called on the operatives to bolster security in the village.
“Not long since I was released after my friends had rallied, raised and paid N5 million ransom to my abductors. My family members and I have lost virtually all our belongings. I am at a loss on what to do,” Emmanson told Straightnews.
He condemned criminal activities of the hoodlums, thus compounding economic hardships for the people, and appealed to the state government and security operatives to come to their aid.
He noted: “The boys see arson as a daily affair. If they ask you ‘give us this amount’ and you delay, they will order you out to enable them to set your house ablaze.”
Another victim, Anthony Ekpe narrated “I am a civil servant working in my station, but my wife was staying in the village. On the day of the incident, my wife and children went for vigil in a nearby church only to be told late in the night that our house had been set ablaze by unknown persons.
“My wife did not take her wrappers and other dresses; ditto my children. All important documents kept in the house have gone into the flame.
“I struggled to build the eight-bedroom house. Now, we are homeless. I want to appeal to State Emergency Management Committee (SEMA) to come to my aid,” he appealed.
Also, the suspected criminals have torched the house of Moses Etuk in Uruk Ata II in Etim Ekpo and destroyed property.
Meanwhile, some unknown gunmen have abducted five people from Ikpe Annang for ransom.
A source in the village confirmed to Straightnews that the abductees are Elder Okon Mark, Mrs. Ndarake Silas Ekereke, Mrs. Enwongo Mfreke Peter, Mrs. Atim Amos Jim and Unwa Ndarake Ekereke.
“Since they were kidnapped, no telephone call has been made to the affected families. And no ransom has been mentioned yet,” the source said.
Another source told Straightnews “Already, Monday Titus from the village has been released after his family paid the kidnappers N500,000 ransom.”
In a telephone interview with Straightnews, Udeme Eduo, the chairman of Etim Ekpo reacted sharply that “Etim Ekpo and Ukanafun are embroiled in cult war. So, any story of cult havoc in any village in Etim Ekpo cannot be untrue.”
In a telephone interview with Straightnews, DSP Diko S. Macdon, the Police Public Relations Officer of Akwa Ibom Police Command said “I am not aware of the incident. If there was anything like that the DPO of the area would have reported to us. Anyway, I will call him to find out if there was such an incident.”