Last April, the Nigeria Police, Akwa Ibom State Command arrested 17 suspected cultists in Inen, a large community in Oruk Anam Local Government Area of the state in connection with the death of one Ofonime Uduak, during a clash between Debam and Iceland cult groups.
For months, this Annang community has not known peace because of the social nuisance of these rival cult groups. Today, the troubled area has become a ghost town. For the Cambridge English Dictionary, a ghost town is a town where few or no people now live.
Residents of Inen community have deserted their homes as a result of frequent attacks by the two cult groups locked in a silly supremacy battle for eight months now.
Shaken citizens in the area are crying out for help from the Governor Udom Emmanuel administration that appears to be treating the cult menace in the state with kid glove.
Former Police Spokesman in the state, Frederick Nnudam, a Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP), in a statement that April said the high command in the state ordered a special operation in the area to immediately investigate and arrest the suspects.
‘’On Monday, April 27, 2020 at about 1045 am, the Police Command received a disturbing report of a rival cult clash between “Debam” and “Iceland” cult groups at Mbiaso and Ikot Etim communities in Inen Clan, Oruk Anam Local Government Area.
The clash culminated in the death of one Ofonime Uduak ‘m’ and Iniobong Kufre Silas ‘m’. While the whereabouts of one Ikpongiforo Etim ‘m’ and Etang Alex Effiong ‘m’ is yet unknown.
‘’Following the report, the Commissioner of Police immediately ordered a special operation in the area under the command of Area Commander, Etim Ekpo, ACP Eze Chijoke, and assisted by O/C Anti-Cultism, SP Daniel Etim.
‘’The teams involved in the operation are drawn from Etim Ekpo Area Command, Oruk Anam Division, Anti-Cultism, Anti-Kidnapping Squad, and Operation Thunder.
‘’The special operation is yielding results. So far seventeen suspected cultists have been apprehended and more suspects will be arrested in the coming days as investigation and the operations continue. Normalcy has been restored to the affected communities’’, the police said.
To ensure total decimation of the cult groups, the police commissioner, according to Nnudam, secured the partnership and cooperation of the Paramount Ruler of Oruk Anam, J.J. Obosi, and other stakeholders during a security meeting held on Thursday, April 29, 2020, at the Palace of the Paramount Ruler where the paramount ruler gave a royal proclamation directing his people to give useful information to the police.
That initiative is yet to yield any peaceful fruit five months after.
However, Inen is popularly known as Inen Ekeffe. It Is one of the nine Clans in Oruk Anam local government area, and numbered as the one among the nine Administrative Areas of the Oruk Anam with its people speaking the Annang language.
The Annang ethnic group is primarily within eight of the present 31 local government areas in Akwa Ibom: Abak, Essien Udim, Etim Ekpo, Ika, Ikot Ekpene, Obot Akara, Oruk Anam, Ukanafun, and three of the 17 Local government areas in Abia State: Ugwunagbo, Obi Ngwa, and Ukwa East.
The proper name for the Ika of Akwa Ibom is Ika-Annang. Based on 2018 estimates, there are more than four million Annang speakers in Akwa Ibom, Abia and over a million speakers living outside these states.
Inen clan is however, subdivided into 19 towns and villages and among them as their major towns include; Ikot Ibritam, Ikot Ekpuk, Ikot Etim 11, Etok Inen, Asakpa, Okukuk, Ikot Eduep, Oku Uruk, Etok Nkwo, Mbiaso, Ikot Offiong, Ikot Akpaya, Ikot Eteye, and others.
It was gathered that what started as a clash for supremacy between the two rival cult groups has escalated forcing indigenes to abandon their homes taking refuge in neighbouring villages for fear of possible genocide in the area.
Sources say over 60 persons have been killed, many declared missing by close relatives, and scores are receiving treatment in various hospitals in Akwa Ibom.
Wife of Friday Ufenang, who was shot in the church vestry during early morning prayers last Sunday said her husband survived by God’s mercy after surgeries on the head to extract bullets. At the moment, she needs more than N500,000 for other operations to get her husband back to life again.
Another victim; a retired police Inspector, Okon Josiah Udoh, is taking treatment in an undisclosed hospital in Uyo for injuries he sustained when cultists attempted to kill him in the area.
An eyewitness says the case of the retired police officer was very pathetic given his health conditions before he was attacked by the hoodlums.
He said the retired police officer had relocated to the community and was bedridden with a stroke at the time when the bloodthirsty cultists started killings in the village, explaining that the officer penetrated the cult groups for three weeks begging them to stop further killings but instead of obliging, they resorted to giving him matchet cuts.
The way things are in the area, social and religious activities have been totally crippled. This is a matter of serious concern to Victor Johnny, a resident in the cult war spot. ‘’Last Sunday no church in the community held a worship service after an elder was shot in a church vestry during prayers. All the churches closed down and members attended service in neighbouring villages’’, he said.
Another resident, Friday Emmah, a poultry farmer currently taking refuge in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, says he escaped death by the whiskers in the hands of the cultists. ‘’They first invaded my poultry farm and removed 200 chickens at different occasions out of my 600 birds, leaving only 400 in the farm and later broke the windscreen of my car.
‘’When I observed that the cultists may descend on me any moment, I quickly auctioned the remaining birds in the farm, gathered my family and fled to Rivers for safety. While hiding in Port Harcourt, the hoodlums sent a message through my younger brother that I should give them N200,000 or they will burn down my house in the village. In my reply, I told them to go ahead and set the house ablaze if such action would cause them stop killings of innocent people.”
Emmah said the following day the “bad boys” went to his house in the village breaking all aluminium glasses as they were angry with his response.
He is urging Governor Udom to rise to the occasion and avert the impending anarchy reminiscent of the incident in Ukanafun Local Government Area in the past where cultists later turned to militants holding the area to ransom for many years before the amnesty deal by the government.
Commercial motorcycle operators at Ikot Ibritam junction, the headquarters of Oruk Anam, are not willing to carry any passenger to Inen community.
“Oga even if you give me N1.00 million, I will not carry you to Inen. I don’t want to die. My wife and children are too dear to me’’, one of the motorcycle operators told our roving correspondent.
Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Odiko Mcdon, a Superintendent of Police (SP) has confirmed killings, and general insecurity by residents in Inen community, saying the command is aware of all the atrocities by cultists in the area.
“The command is very angry over what is happening in that community. We have set up a special team to tackle cultists there. Many have been arrested. Operations are ongoing in the area. We intend to involve stakeholders in the community to unravel those behind all the killings there. For those arrested, they will soon be charged to court’’, he said.