By Chioma Onuegbu
IKOT UDO ABIA- FOLLOWING the shocking killings of over 30 persons, including traditional leaders and prominent politicians in several villages in Ukanafun Local Government Area, Akwa Ibom State, in the last one year, Police authorities in the state have deployed a new security outfit, “Operation Purge” to raid notorious flash points in Ukanafun and Etim Ekpo council areas and fish out the gangsters behind the assassinations.
Residents of Nkek, Okoyo, Ikot Akpa Nkuk, Ikot Ibekwe, Idung Nneke, Ikot Udo Obobo and Ikot Udo Abia in Ukanafun, who have lived in fear over the months, were expectant that the special team will tackle the spate of kidnapping, murder, armed robbery and cultism in the area.
Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr. Zubairu Muazu, inaugurated the outfit drawn from the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, Anti-Kidnapping Squad, different Police Divisions in the state, among others, last month. Sources said the new strategy followed a series of security consultations between the Commissioner, community leaders and stakeholders from both local government areas as a solution to the security challenges that have claimed many lives in the last one year.
Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, Akwa Ibom Command, DSP Chukwu Ikechukwu, told NDV that “Operation Purge” was launched with the mandate to make sure that those behind the inhuman and heinous crimes were fished out, especially some persons that have been declared wanted by police in the communities.
He explained: “The police operations are slated for two weeks. After the two weeks, we will now review the situation to know whether to end it or extend it. But based on the operation order that we have, once we achieve the purpose, we will withdraw. And I want to tell you that we are making tremendous progress because even on the same day that ‘Operation Purge” was launched, the team took the fight to their camp by moving immediately into the forest where we had information that those bad boys gather in Ukanafun. They encountered some of them and engaged them in a shootout. They fled and abandoned some of their weapons.”
On the issue of accommodation problem faced by the combined security team deployed to the communities, which raised concern among the residents, last week, due to failure of the two council chairmen to keep to their promise of proving shelter for them, Ikechukwu said the issue has been taken care of by Commissioner of Police in line with his commitment and concerted efforts to restore peace in those communities.
“He took it upon himself to manage the situation, so that issue has been taken care of,” he retorted.
Meanwhile, citizens of Ukanafun local government area have described the new security strategy adopted over the lingering situation as highly commendable, even as some said that the lingering tension in the flash-points have gone down drastically in the past few days after the security team raided the notorious criminal hideout in the area.
A resident of Ikot Akpa Nkuk, Mr. Inyang, said, “We are very, very happy over this development. The killings, kidnappings and others crimes were growing out of control at a point such that many of our indigenes fled their homes and those living outside were so afraid of visiting home.”
“But I want to condemn the attitude of the council chairman for failing to provide accommodation for the security men. Ukanafun people were angry when they heard about it and the people really abused the chairman for leaving the security men stranded. If they knew they would not be able to do that, they should not have promised to do so. That was too bad and we must see that such attitude is discouraged among our leaders.
“We have been praying for peace to return to our communities and we believe that all hands must be on deck for us to achieve that peace. Since the special security team came, the tension in our affected communities has gone down and we are hopeful that things will get better. I believe that by the time the perpetrators are apprehended, peace will surely return to Ukanafun communities,” he said.
However, Uyo based lawyer, who preferred anonymity, said, “My interest is for the team to arrest all those people behind the killings and other related crimes because that is the only way that we will be sure that the situation has been addressed.”