Akwa Ibom’s multiple tragedies latest
• Investigation delays burial of 3 murdered brothers
From JOE EFFIONG, Uyo
It was all tears and anguish on Saturday in Mbete, Nkari clan in Ini Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State when the proprietor of Liberty Films and Liberty Gospel Church, Evangelist Mrs. Helen Ukpabio, buried her mother and younger sister in one fell swoop. While the mother, Madame Atim Essesin Akpabio, 72, was said to have died in November 2012, the sister, Miss Elizabeth Essesien Akpabio, 37, was said to have died earlier, after learning that men, suspected to be security operatives, had gunned down her three brothers in front of their mother in March 2012.
According to documents distributed and read at the funeral, Evangelist Ukpabio’s younger brothers, Emmanuel, Charles and Joseph were arrested while with a friend in Ikot Ekpene and brought back home to the village where they were shot dead in the presence of their aged mother.
“On the 25th of March, 2012, Mama’s sons were rounded up by a team led by an officer of the State Security Service (names withheld by us) while in a meeting with some white men, bound, shot on their knees and brought to the village from Ikot Ekpene with the intention to first kill Mama’s husband in their presence before sending them to their early graves. “On arrival, they saw only mama. They searched for her husband but could not find him.
Finally, they killed the boys in front of their aged mother. Mama witnessed the murder of her boys in such cruelty. Her husband heard the gunshots from where he was hiding. “A man (names withheld by us), a one-time gubernatorial and senatorial aspirant, has told several people in the village that it was government that killed Mama’s sons but government has totally denied this claim. It is wrong to kill people, who are not involved in the acts of insurrection or without putting them on trial before a court of law if they were accused of committing any crime.
This man has lied to the whole community and since these boys were killed, he has refused to come home. “However, Mama died long before her death. She died the day she saw her labour, effort and hope thwarted by this killer SSS operative, hired by the politician. Her beautiful daughter, Elizabeth Akpabio, died on hearing of her brothers’ death and finally Mama is gone,” the family said.
Speaking with Daily Sun after the burial, Mrs. Ukpabio said the family’s problem started when her father and brothers insisted that compensation be paid for the family land forcefully taken over by the Federal Government for the construction of a dam in the community.
She accused a former paramount ruler of the area of colluding with the said politician to economically emasculate the community through land grab, an exercise she said started even in the 70s when members of the paramount ruler’s family took the Akpabios land and gave it to the Cross River Basin Authority without caring about compensating the family.
The popular gospel films producer said the family would continue to press for justice until the killers of her brothers would be brought to book, stressing that her mother died primarily because “she kept asking about what had happened to the murderers of her sons; she asked when they would eventually be arrested.”
A human rights activist and lawyer, Mr Festus Keyamo, who spoke at the funeral said he would continue to press on till justice was done on the murder of the three brothers. He said he had sent petitions to several agencies, such as the relevant committees in the Senate and House of Representatives, the Director-General of SSS and the Inspector General of Police; and that he was waiting for the police to finish their investigation on the matter before he would proceed to the court.
“Nobody has been charged to court yet because we are waiting for them to conclude their investigations. But we are suspecting a grand cover-up by top personalities in the state.”
Akwa Ibom State Government had already set up a panel of inquiry into the murder of the Nkari Three. The panel was headed by Mr. Nsima Ekere, the immediate past deputy governor. It is not known whether it had completed its work before Ekere resigned. The state Commissioner of Information, Mr. Aniekan Umanah, told our correspondent that it was purely a security matter, adding that he was not privy to the report.
The state commissioner of police, Mr. Umar Gwadabe, told Daily Sun that the matter had been taken over by force headquarters, Abuja, saying his command did not know the extent of investigation. But Gwadabe insisted that the police were wrongly accused in the matter as none of his men was found to have been involved.