Judex Okoro, Calabar
Worried by the state of insecurity in Calabar, Cross River State capital, some traders and business moguls have started relocating their shops, offices and families to nearby Akwa Ibom State.
Investigations by Daily Sun revealed that Cross River, especially Calabar, is facing the worst form of security challenges including outright harassment by street urchins, robbery, gangsterism, cultism and kidnapping.
It was further revealed in the last seven months about 20 persons have been kidnapped in Calabar metropolis and millions of naira paid as ransom and in some cases victims lost their lives in the process.
Most of the people abducted include Igbo traders and contractors, medical doctors, big time transporters, electrical merchants and hotel operators just as shops, warehouses and private residences are robbed at daytime and in the odd hours of the night.
When Daily Sun went round some major streets within the metropolis, it was discovered that some big companies including Nigeria Bottling Company, NBC, Nigeria Breweries, NBL, Coco-Cola have closed down their depot offices in Calabar and moved over to Uyo over alleged insecurity.
In the same vein some contractors and private investors in the area of hospitality industry and fast food are discreetly relocating to Uyo while operating skeletal services in Calabar.
It was learnt that some group of Igbo traders, ‘Onye Agala Nwaneya’ and led by one Chief Uzowulu AKachi, have been moving down their shops to Uyo as government can no longer protect their lives and property in Cross River.
The group, mostly spare parts and electrical and electronics dealers, are scared of the incessant kidnapping of their members by the hoodlums, who end up extorting huge money from the victims as ransom and in the process ruining their business and life time savings.
In an interview with the leader of Onye Agala Nwaneya, Chief Uzowulu AKachi, he said Igbo traders and businessmen have passed through hell in the hands of armed bandits and kidnappers as millions of naira have been wasted paying ransom to different kidnap gangs that operate in the state.
Lamenting their woe, he said: “A week hardly pass without one Igbo man being kidnapped in Cross River state. We are now leaving in a state of fear and uncertainty. Our shops are raided at will; our private residents are invaded at night and valuables as well as cash carted away. We end up losing our life investments and savings.
“So, we had to come up with an alternative and that’s by relocating either to our various states or nearby friendly Akwa Ibom state. I can tell you that it has been very rewarding as at least 30 per cent of our members have moved to Uyo.
“We are negotiating with the state government over there and we are getting favourable responses. Certainly by end of this year, the majority would have relocated with their families. Uyo is our new haven,” he stated.
Also expressing their plight one of the officers of the Phone dealers Association, Mr Ifeanyi Uwakwe, said: “There is hardly any big mobile phones shops that have not been robbed in Calabar for up two times. At my shop at Mayne Avenue by Goldie I was robbed two times two weeks ago and phones and accessories worth millions of naira carted away by the hoodlums.
Bemoaning that Calabar has lost its peaceful nature-statue, he called on the state government to beef up security around business axis an d protect shops to restore confidence among investors, who are gradually finding new solace in Uyo in Akwa Ibom.
Expressing dismay at the incessant kidnap and robbery attack on Ndi Igbo in the state, the President of Igbo Community Calabar, ICC, Prof Emeka Okwueze, said: “It is very unfortunate that we are the victims all the time even when we go about doing our businesses and contributing to the economic growth of the state.
“I do know that the state government has invested in security through Homeland Security outfit and others. May it is not enough so there is urgent need to beef up considering the fact that the primary responsibility of every government is to protect lives and property.”