Street Journal’s investigations have revealed that prior to the April elections; the situation in Akwa Ibom State suddenly assumed a worrisome dimension with accusations and counter accusations flying across the state’s political arena. The political, social and economic sectors of the state were affected. Kidnappings and other vices suddenly became more rampant. The Speaker of the House of Assembly’s father was abducted in a commando like operation late last year. A policeman was killed in the operation while another security operative was fatally wounded. A few days before then, a school principal was abducted in broad daylight in Eket.
Just before the governorship elections in April, vehicles worth about N 2 billion Naira were lost to arsonists. 200 brand new Peugeot 307 cars and 500 tricycles acquired by the Akwa Ibom State Government were torched in the wake of the crisis that rocked the state then. A private school as well as the Goodluck Jonathan campaign office in the state capital also got burnt in the violent attacks.
The 22 man probe panel set up to look into the post-election violence that rocked some states in the Northern part of the country has also been saddled with the responsibility of looking into the pre-election violence that shook Uyo to its foundations.
In a petition sent to the Presidency and the National Security Adviser, it was stated that a grand plot has been hatched by a group of people to destabilize Akwa Ibom State through the orchestration of the assassinations/ kidnappings of some prominent citizens of Akwa Ibom State. In the opinion of the petitioners, the Governor’s detractors who seem to have lost out in the state’s power game were named as being responsible for most of the crimes taking place in the state. Prominent among those named in the group that allegedly hatched the plot are Obong Victor Attah, Senator John Akpanudoedehe, Ambassador Sam Edem, Group Captain Sam Ewang (Rtd.), Otuekong Idongesit Udokpo and Chief Ime Mbat Essien.
According to the petition, a copy of which was made available to Street Journal, the people in question are working towards the declaration of a state of emergency in order to re-arrange the cards for the 2011 elections.
The petitioners pointed out that the situation in Akwa Ibom assumed a worrisome dimension which reached a high point in January, 2010 when Major General Edet Akpan (Rtd.), former Director General of the NYSC was violently abducted. The perpetrators carried out the act on a Sunday morning, during worship at Qua Iboe Church, Iwok in Nsit Atai LGA. In the course of the abduction, two female worshippers were shot dead while a number of others were reportedly injured.
The petitioners also stated that rather than supporting the Governor in his resolve to tackle the wave of crime threatening the peace of the state, Obong Attah and the others embarked on a campaign of criticisms against the Governor. They started sponsoring advertorials blaming the government for the kidnappings.
The petitioners also averred that they have been reliably informed that Senator Akpanudoedehe had been mandated to recruit infamous hooligans who would function as hit men. Street Journal also gathered from the petition that the scheme of the perpetrators is to create unimaginable terror and tension which they combined with a publicity offensive while the crimes are perpetrated. For instance, Group Captain Sam Ewang was said to have openly alleged that the government knew about his wife’s kidnap sometime ago.
Contrary claims in some quarters that the Governor has not done anything to address the crime wave in Akwa Ibom State, the Governor actually convened a forum of stakeholders to address the issue of insecurity in the state right after General Akpan was kidnapped.
Street Journal even gathered that at the meeting of the forum, not only did the Governor condemn the spate of kidnappings, he urged all citizens to work with the government and all relevant authorities to ensure peace, maximum security and safety of lives and property throughout the state.
The stakeholders also expressed their confidence in the Akpabio administration as well as their support for the Governor in his resolve to fight crime in the state.
It was also resolved at the meeting that everyone in the state should take security very seriously and ensure that criminals within their hamlets and domains are exposed.
Reacting to the insinuations that he might be behind the kidnappings, Governor Akpabio disclosed that the kidnappings in the state are politically motivated and the perpetrators are members of the opposition. Speaking further, the Governor made it known that “they are also working in concert with some disgruntled members of the PDP to paint a picture of insecurity in the state so that what they could not achieve at the poll, they would get it through the backdoor with a declaration of a State of Emergency. In fact they are even accusing me as the one behind the spate of kidnappings in the state, and the question I ask them is when the Al-Quaeda struck in the United States of America (USA) was former President Bush accused of being the one behind the attack? ”
Though the feeling being harboured in some quarters is that the state is witnessing selective kidnapping, to the average Akwa Ibom citizen, a lot is being lost to politics. All efforts to reconcile former Governor Victor Attah and his men with the PDP proved futile and they have stopped being in the mainstream of the PDP in Akwa Ibom.
Incidentally, while the Governor convened a stakeholders’ forum to discuss the security of Akwa Ibom State in Uyo, a similar stakeholders’ meeting was held on the same day in Abuja at the instance of the immediate past Governor of the State, Obong Victor Attah.
The former Governor has also openly criticized his predecessor for the new crime wave. Obong Attah’s grouse is that the Governor is not doing what he should to stem the wave.
Describing the allegation that the Akpabio led administration was behind the kidnappings, a source opined that the government that is spending so much on security and crime prevention cannot turn around and be the perpetrator of such crimes. The source went further that “if the Governor had been the sponsor of the kidnappings, he would not be advocating for death sentence for kidnappers.”
Senator James Akpanudoedehe on the other hand believes that that there are two kinds of kidnapping in Akwa Ibom state, namely political and criminal kidnappings. The former FCT Minister said while criminal kidnappers could easily be arrested by the police, political kidnappers are invisible and cannot be arrested because they are being aided and abetted by the government.
The stakeholders’ forum organized by Obong Victor Attah have alleged that there appears to be a selective kidnapping, intimidation, harassment and killing of prominent Ibibio leaders and politicians . They also called on all Ibibio sons and daughters home and abroad not to weaken in the face of the tyranny they are currently facing but to brace up and be prepared to guard their rights and freedom jealously.
Those who believe that the war of words between the Akpabio government and the opposition has political undertones might have been justified by the defection of Senator Akpanudoedehe to the Action Congress of Nigeria. Street Journal gathered most of Attah’s cronies were already out of the PDP. In an interview, former Governor Attah described the Chairman of the PDP, Uwem Ita Etuk as the “chairman of one of the cult groups that Akpabio put together to support him.”
When the former Governor was asked for clarification on the communiqué jointly signed by him, Senator Udoedehe and Group Captain Ewang, he replied with a question “why is it that it seems that only Ibibio people are being kidnapped?” He went further to say “list out all the people that have been kidnapped in the state, list out the people that have been assassinated in the state. List truly who they are. What conclusion will you draw? It seems they are targeted at the Ibibios.”
When it was however put to Obong Attah that his communiqué seems to accuse the government of being behind the kidnappings, he said “no, if that is your interpretation, you are wrong. When I was the Governor, something like that was attempted and I stopped it because I was the Chief Security Officer of the state. I believe any Governor working with the existing apparatus in the state can also stop it, if he has the political will and wants to stop it.”
When he was reminded that there were kidnappings during his tenure as Governor too, Obong Attah said “there was only one kidnapping incident in Etim Ekpo LGA where they abducted one or two Mobil staff from their residence. The other problem we only heard of was militant problem, when they threatened to attack Mobil stations and they were repulsed because as the Governor, I have the ability to know that this is going to happen in the state and we deployed enough troops then to repulse them. ”
Those who linked Akanudoedehe with the plot to destabilize Akwa Ibom are of the opinion that it might be related with his failed governoeship ambition. He was arrested sometime ago in connection with the murder of Chief Paul Inyang, a well known supporter of Governor Akpabio.
Street Journal was also informed that the former Minister has violent antecedents which make it easy for him to throw the state into anarchy. It is also a well known fact among Akwa Ibom people that Akpanudoedehe has never won any position through popularity contest or sound intellect but through propaganda, blackmail and malicious lies.
For instance he allegedly framed up Obong Okon Mkpong and incited the people of Uyo against the then Local Government Chairman that Uyo Local Government Area headquarters was about to be relocated to Nung Oku village in the present Ibesikpo-Asutan Local Government Area. This falsehood and vicious propaganda reportedly worked for him and turned the table against Obong Mkpong and led to his emergence as Uyo Local Government Chairman, a position he could not hold which led to his detention for 28 days by the State Security Service (SSS) by the Commodore Adeusi administration and his disgraceful removal as Chairman, because of his violent conduct which he proudly exhibits and has been using to cow political opponents.
It was also stated that the same Udoedehe led a group of thugs who poured petrol around Chief Don Etiebet’s house in 1999. The petitioners averred that the house would have been torched had Akpanudoedehe not been persuaded to spare Etiebet’s life with the promise of a senatorial ticket through the intervention of the late Chief Etukudo Ekpro, a powerful PDP member at the time.
His violent disposition was also taken to the Nigerian Senate during between 1999 and 2003 as it earned him suspension from the Senate for his violent and disgraceful conduct. It was also pointed out that as a Senator in Abuja; his major preoccupation was to blackmail the administration of Obong Victor Attah through various negative newspaper reports and verbal blackmail at the Presidency. That was said to be the primary reason Attah frustrated his bid to return to the Senate in 2003.