Akwa Ibom State is gradually cycling back to the bloodletting era that headlined its politics between 2007 and 2015 with the latest assassination of a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain, Sylvester J. Ntefre.
Ntefre was allegedly killed by suspected kidnappers in Ikot Inyang, Ekparakwa Clan of Oruk Anam Local Government Area at about 8 a.m. on Sunday, May 15. He was a former PDP Chairman in the local government area, and served as Sole Administrator in Abak, Etim Ekpo and Oruk Anam Local Government Areas in the state.
Oruk Anam is the home local government area of a front line All Progressives Congress (APC) stalwart, Chief Don Etiebet.
Before the emergence of Udom Emmanuel as governor, Akwa Ibom was notorious as a political killing field. Lives of perceived political foes were snuffed out at will, and cultists had a free reign.
Apparently uncomfortable with the near state of anarchy, Governor Udom declared that his administration has zero tolerance for the killing menace in the state. Ahead of the 2023 politics, the administration sets up a group, Maintain Peace Movement to promote politics without bitterness and violence.
But, it appears violence is now returning to the hitherto peaceful state with vengeance.
Ntefre who served as Chairman of Akwa Ibom Local Government Service Commission was Catholic Knight. He had dressed up in readiness to go to church when suspected gunmen allegedly laid ambush for him.
”Not long, they dashed into his compound in Ikot Inyang, whisked him in company of one other person away in their black SUV car. When the abductors allegedly saw policemen at Ekparakwa junction, they diverted into nearby bush.
”The gunmen pumped bullets into Ntefre’s body and that of the other person in the bush between Ikot Inyang and Ekparakwa junction. They escaped and abandoned their wrecked SUV car”, a source said in the area.
The previous Sunday, a Catholic priest, Rev, Fr. Alphonsus Eboh, was abducted along Ekparakwa–Etinan Road. He later regained freedom after four days in the kidnappers’ den.
Three weeks ago, the General Overseer of Solid Rock Kingdom Church, Apostle John Okoriko, was kidnapped in his church premises at Ibekwe Akpan Nya in Mkpat Enin Local Government Area.
Local sources told Naija News that Ekparakwa-Mkpat Enin axis of Akwa Ibom is now prone to kidnapping activities as many persons who were allegedly kidnapped secretly, quietly paid various ransom sums to their abductors to regain freedom.
A source says the killing of the party chieftain may not be unconnected with forthcoming House of Assembly party primaries, while an indigene of the area claims that it has nothing to do with politics.
Spokesman for the Nigeria Police, Akwa Ibom State Command, Odiko MacDon, a Superintendent of Police, says he has not received official report on the incident but promised to react once the command is briefed.
“We have not received any report on this, I’ll communicate you as soon as I am briefed”, he said.
However, APC presidential aspirant and former governor of Akwa Ibom, Godswill Akpabio, has been busy denying that there was state-sponsored killings and kidnappings in the state during his administration
An estate surveyor and politician, James Iniama, is alleging that agents of the state, during the Akpabio administration were after his life immediately after the 2007 governorship election which he (Iniama) contested as a candidate of Action Congress of Nigeria, one of the coalition parties that formed APC.
Though he did not mention Akpabio’s name during an interview with PREMIUM TIMES, Iniama said Akpabio’s era as governor was the most unsafe in the history of the oil-rich state.
Akpabio succeeded Victor Attah as governor in 2007. He left office in 2015 after completing his two terms and was succeeded by Udom Emmanuel.
“From 2007, there is no street in Akwa Ibom that was safe anymore for residents. There was no business place that was safe for business the thing that became popular was kidnapping, assassinations, rape. So, that wasn’t anymore a society to live in, and for a wise person the best thing to do is get out of that environment.
“We have to stay alive. If I didn’t stay alive you wouldn’t be talking with me today. I can tell you I knew I was branded the first target for whatever evil that was in their mind”, Iniama said.
Iniama also said, “You know the number of people who were kidnapped, you know how many of our mothers were murdered and stripped on the streets of Akwa Ibom State? It is something of which this state should be ashamed we should go to God in repentance.
“How could you possibly strip my mother, murder my mother, strip her and leave her on the street? My mother, don’t forget, God had to tell Cain the blood of your brother is crying from the earth for vengeance. We are Christians there are things that should not be heard of us.”
While Iniama said he had filed a suit against the Akwa Ibom State Government which was finally settled out of court, ”because of the intervention of Akpabio’s successor”, he has indicated interest to run for the 2023 governorship election in the state under PDP.
Akpabio is insisting that Akwa Ibom was a safe place to live and do business when he was the governor.
“In those years what Akwa Ibom was known for was uncommon transformation that was unleashed by Governor Akpabio to turn a once civil service state to a destination of choice in Nigeria as individuals, government organisations and corporate bodies fell over themselves to hold their events in the state.”
He said Iniama’s claim is “political shenanigans taken too far”, adding, “It is a known fact that Akpabio as a governorship candidate in 2007, did not enjoy the support of the incumbent governor at the time whose preference was for somebody else. It was alleged that Iniama was supported and funded by the incumbent governor at the time.
“Iniama’s claim that ‘I had to relocate my family before the election because it wasn’t safe at all’ at a time he was supported by the State, exposes his political mischief’’, Akpabio said.
The presidential aspirant who defected from PDP to APC in 2018, said Iniama “should leave him alone and focus on his governorship ambition”.
A journalist in Uyo, the state capital, Ofonime Honesty, has faulted Akpabio’s claims that there were no state-sponsored killings when he was governor, claiming “the records are there, I can unearth them.”
Honesty mentioned the killing of a governorship aspirant, Iniekong Udonwa’s mother, the killing of a PDP chieftain, Paul Inyang and the killing of the paramount traditional ruler of the Ibibio, the Oku Ibom Ibibio, James Obot, as some of the unresolved killings that took place during Akpabio’s era.
“When the mother of a governorship aspirant, Iniekong Udonwa was kidnapped, I was with my boss back then, John Elijah who is now a barrister. We were heading to his (Udonwa) residence to interview him, when we received a call from one of Iniekong Udonwa’s personal assistants that the man was shot and the mother kidnapped.
“A couple of days later we heard the man survived and that the mother was taken to an unknown location, she was murdered and abandoned on the street”, the journalist said.
Honesty said he attended a press conference where Akpabio, after he left office as governor, was confronted by reporters on the killings that took place under his watch.
Akpabio, according to the journalist, said the killings were carried out by Niger Delta militants.
The journalist said he too almost became a victim when people he said were agents of the state government came after him because of a critical article he wrote about Akpabio’s wife, Uloama.
“I had to flee Akwa Ibom for a month or so,” he said. “It was even people inside the Government House who told me I should run for my life.”