From Isaac Job, Uyo 

Residents of eight villages in Mkpat Enin Local Government area of Akwa Ibom State have deserted their communities for kidnappers who have terrorised the villages in the last two years, killing, maiming and abducting many victims in the area. 

The villages are Ikot Abasi Akpan, Ikot Obio Nso, Ekpuk, Nyadiong, Minya Ntak, Ikot Ekpenyong, Ndon Uyo and Ikot Esen. 

It was gathered that the kidnappers have formed a strong gang from neighbouring Etinan Local Government area and kept a secret cell in Ikot Abasi Akpan and the forest within the locality where victims are caged for ransom. 

According to sources in the community, victims of kidnapping in the last one year include a Catholic Priest, Rev Father Alphonsus Uboh, a medical doctor and health workers in the hospital located in Ekpuk, schoolteachers, businessmen and prominent indigenes who visit the villages from their stations in the cities. 

Investigation reveal that a medical doctor was abducted in the theatre while carrying out surgery in the community cottage hospital in Ikot Abasi Akpan, as the hoodlums stormed the hospital in a motorcycle convoy and whisked him away. 

Another victim was a popular television evangelist and founder of Solid Rock Kingdom Church, Apostle John Okoriko. He was abducted in the church premises while conducting counselling, but later regained freedom after four days in captivity. 

Other victims include a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Chief Cletus Okodi, from Ikot Obio Nso and the pioneer General Manager of Atlantic FM Radio, station late Macaulay Ufot who was abducted and killed in the kidnappers den. 

An indigene of Nyadiong village who pleaded anonymity said some of the victims were killed by the kidnappers in their custody as negotiation for ransom from relatives was ongoing. 

He mentioned the kidnapping incident where a distributor of beer and other drinks in the area was kidnapped and caged in a particular house in Ikot Abasi Akpan village. But, unfortunately, he noted, the victim died in their custody. 

“The list of victims is endless in the last two years. But more than 28 prominent personalities across Mkpat Enin Local Government and neighbouring council areas have been abducted so far 

“Last week, soldiers stormed the village and set the building ablaze while the kidnappers escaped to unknown hideout within the community.

“Now the road from Ekparakwa to Ekpene Ukpa bridge leading to Etinan Local Government area have been deserted because of activities of dare devil kidnapping squad that terrorise the communities in the last two years. 

“We no longer sleep in our houses. The kidnappers are moving freely in the villages with sophisticated weapons. Nobody even discuss them because you don’t know their agents and gang members.”

He said kidnapping incidents occur daily in the village as nobody knows who will be the next victim. 

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“Still within this week, a prominent politician, (names withheld), who was campaigning for Mr Udom Emmanuel, was kidnapped on his way to the farm. 

“He was waylaid by kidnappers using one tricycle and motorcycles. They abducted him and put him into the tricycle while those on motorbike escorted him with their weapons to an unknown destination,” he said.

It was gathered that the politician was rescued by soldiers as they mobilised, combing the bushes and uncomplicated buildings before the hoodlums scampered. 

Sources also disclosed that the soldiers first arrested the girlfriend to one of the kidnappers. He said the kidnappers quickly called the relatives of the victim to plead with the soldiers with a promise that they would release the politican in exchange for the girlfriend in the soldiers’ custody.

It was further gathered that the soldiers immediately agreed to the kidnappers bargain by releasing the girlfriend and dropped her at the negotiated place while the kidnapped victim was also dropped at an agreed location by 10 pm the same day. 

A business woman abducted in Ikot Abasi Akpan told the reporter how she was blindfolded and dragged from her shop on motorcycle to a thick forest before she was released after collecting a ransom. 

He said Prof Iniobong Udo Idem, who escaped the kidnappers by the whiskers was trailed within the community before he noticed some movements around him and escaped. 

The Vice Principal of Community Secondary School Nyadiong was not lucky recently when the kidnappers blocked him near the school. 

An eyewitness who pleaded not to be mentioned disclosed that though the Vice Principal escaped, his phone, bags and other personal effects were collected from him. His whereabouts have since remained unknown. 

Our findings revealed that the kidnappers are using primary school classrooms, abandoned buildings and a thick forest within the area to hide their victims and demand ransom from relatives. 

The victims refused to mention the amount of money paid to secure their freedom.  Activities of the kidnappers have affected students of Akwa Ibom State College of Education , Afaha Nsit, particularly those from Ukanafun and OrukAnam Local Government Areas because they use Ekpene Ukpa Ekparakwa road on weekends. 

“We can’t travel through the road again. We now use Onna or Eket to Ikot Abasi Road before we can travel on weekends. It’s a serious issue. Security agencies should rise above this challenge. 

However, the police in the state have said that they are on top of the situation in Mkpat Enin villages where kidnappers are holding sway. 

Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) in the state SP Odiko Mcdon disclosed that discreet investigation is ongoing to fish out the dare devil kidnappers. 

“We are aware of what is going on in the area. We are working. Very soon it will be over,” he assured.