By Emmanuel Ayungbe
IKOT ANTA ENEN OBOM—ARMED gangsters have reportedly executed the village head and youth leader of Ikot Anta Enen Obom village, Ukanafun Local Government Area, Akwa Ibom State, Chief Emmanuel Umahaeyo and Comrade Esit-Ime Emmanson Brownson respectively, for allegedly challenging a faction of the youth that hijacked the management and control of revenue from the community’s oil palm plantation.
The killer squad also chased the village head of Ikot Ibekwe community, also in Ukanafun local government, Chief Sunday Udoikpe, whose town is embroiled in an ownership tussle over the plantation with Ikot Anta Enen Obom from his domain, while a close associate of the murdered monarch, Madam Mayen Emmanson, was abducted.
Residents, who fled the two communities, which are currently no-go-areas, point fingers at the police for not holding back the rampaging killers. However, the state Commissioner of Police, CP, Don Awunah, who confirmed the incidents, said he had since deployed men to the troubled areas to restore peace.
Investigations by Niger Delta Voice, NDV, showed that the killer-squad stormed the residence of Chief Umahaeyo, village head of Ikot Anta Enen Obom, at about 8.00 pm, January 24, and shot him to death in cold blood. The messengers of death allegedly came on a motorcycle, shot him twice in his chest at very close range. He died on the spot.
Our findings revealed that some of the fleeing residents were taking refuge in Uyo, the state capital and nearby communities, as hired gunmen were lurking around the communities. Similarly, the mercenary gang has overthrown the legitimate traditional authorities, hitherto, domiciled and subsumed under the command and control of the village heads and their councils.
Cause of disagreement
-Eldest son His eldest son, Otobong Umahaeyo, an Electrical/Electronic Engineering graduate of Enugu State University of Science and Technology, ESUST, Enugu, who spoke to NDV from his hideout, said the assassins had earlier threatened to kill his father over issues of youth’ leadership and control of revenue from the village’s oil palm plantation.
The palm fruits business from the plantation, he disclosed, yields about 200,000 bunches every other week, forcing the youth to take over control of the farm, covering several hectares of land from the late monarch and his council.
Agony: Lamenting his ordeal from his hideout, Otobong, said: “I was not at home when my father was killed. I was in Uyo while my mother was in Port Harcourt. My mother only called and told me that assassins came to our house and shot my father dead.
“I graduated last year and I am the eldest of six children, my younger sister is at the Akwa Ibom State University. The remaining four have finished from secondary schools, but with what happened, to further their education will be a big problem to me because my father was the only bread winner; we all depended on him.”
Police arresting wrong persons: He blamed the Police for not doing a thorough job to fish out the real culprits, saying the police know the real killers, but were arresting the wrong people.
Secretary of Ikot Nta Enen Obom village council, Chief Moses Joseph Udoikpong, recalled that the plantation had been in dispute with the neighboring Ikot Ibekwe village before they finally won its ownership in court.
Control of the plantation
What triggered the current onslaught and killings in the community, he explained, was the late monarch’s decision to retrieve the control of the plantation from the youth for overall development of the community, especially as they failed to remit a dime of the proceeds to the village council after one year.
The late traditional ruler was said to have subsequently dissolved the former youth council, then headed by one Eyak Umoekpo, and replaced it with another one led by Comrade Esit-ime Emmanson Brownson, an action that infuriated the Umoekpo faction. On February 3, about 10 days after the village head was exterminated, unidentified gunmen paid the new youth leader, Comrade Brownson, an unfriendly visit and took his life. Currently, his family compound and the entire village had been deserted.
Death threats: Chief Udoikpong accused the sacked youth leaders of instigating a climate of fear in the community with a view to restoring their leadership by imposing their authority on the people. He said, “They called me on phone and threatened that if I move anyhow, they would kill me; that I was the one giving the police information about their movement. They also sent a text to my brother that they would also kill him.”
His words: “They called him with a strange number and told him that they saw him at Ikot Iman Junction, though they did not want to kill him, but that he cannot run away from them until he paid N500,000 to them.”
The killer-squad, he added, sent similar threatening text messages to perceived loyal subjects of the late village head, including Saturday Isaac Akpan, Enobong Sunday Udoh, Victor Umahaeyo and Oku Ime Umahaeyo.
He revealed that the killers were after his life because he notified the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Hon. Udo Ekpenyong, of when the village head was murdered, adding: “Before they finally killed the village head, the assassins had sent a text message, asking me to steer clear of the matter.”
Suspect released by police!
It was reliably gathered that the late village head received a threat message, October 13, last year, from a former youth chairman and he reported the matter to the Divisional Police Officer, DPO Ukanafun Division, and few days after, a mercenary gang from a state in the south east zone invaded the community, robbing residents from house to house and killing Mrs. Noami Sunday Udokang and Obot Umadok in the process.
A dependable source said the culprit was later arrested by the Police, but released before the current regrouping, adding: “Later, the new youth leader was also killed, penultimate Friday, while a close associate of the late monarch, Madam Mayen Emmanson, was kidnapped and taken to an unknown destination, two days after. Up till now, there is no information on the whereabouts of the woman. The kidnappers have not called to negotiate for any ransom, meaning she should be presumed dead”, secretary of the village council added.
Ikot Ibekwe village head flees: In the neighbouring Ikot Ibekwe community, the village head, Chief Sunday Udoikpe, it was learnt, also escaped death by the whiskers. He fled into exile when the rampaging hoodlums unleashed terror on him.
Otobong, the eldest son of the deceased monarch, told NDV: “Currently, the two communities have remained without legitimate authorities to oversee the affairs of their people in line with the demands of their offices.”
Council boss absolves police
Chairman of the Ukanafun local government, Hon. Abasiono Udomfu, who confirmed the killings, said the council was currently holding stakeholders meeting with a view to returning normalcy to the troubled areas. He said the police acted promptly by drafting surveillance and anti-crime squads to the area for effective stakeout to forestall further killings and law breaches by hooligans.
Police deploy crack-team
Commissioner of Police, Don Awunah, who spoke on phone, weekend, said: “We have gone into it. From my preliminary investigation, they are cult-related killings; we have arrested some suspects we caught with firearms. In Ukanafun, we have deployed a crack team to put an end to the killings. The problem is not only in Ukanafun, I think it covers the entire Ikot Ekpene senatorial district because all the report we got from the area are cult-related.”