BY ETIM EKPIMAH
There has been a let up in violence in Ikot Ubo, Ikot Usop, and other communities in Ikot Abasi Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State. The residents of the areas had lived in fear of robbery until the police came to their rescue recently.
CRIME DIGEST learnt that the alleged leader of the suspected robbers – Jafe – had relocated to Ikot Abasi from Rivers State. Almost immediately, he had begun to teach the youths of Ikot Abasi LGA how to use various types of firearms and engage in armed robbery.
Initially scared by the development, the residents of the affected communities had been forced to keep off the streets as from 5.30 pm.
The police were said to have acted on a tip off from a victim of the suspected criminals, who was robbed of N250,000, and shot two times. The man managed to flee the scene of the crime, though his assailants thought he was dead.
But the victim regained consciousness in the hospital and sent a message to the police, informing them about the hideout of the robbers.
Without delay, the police swung into action and arrested four of the suspected criminals.
An Ikot Abasi resident told CRIME DIGEST that residents were baffled by the manner with which the robbers operated.
He said, “The robbers knew everyone that came into any of the villages. They seemed to know how much everybody brought home. For example, in the case of an attack on a pastor’s wife, the women’s wing of her church had organised a fund raiser in which they realized the total sum of N20,000.
“That night, the robbers knocked on their door and threatened to open fire if the pastor failed to surrender the money to them.”
A taxi driver and native of one of the communities, Bassey Etim, said he always avoided the area whenever the robbers were on the rampage.
Etim said that at 6 pm every day most people living in the area were too scared to venture outside their homes and churches were forced to cancel their vigils and early morning services.
He said, “I always leave Ikot Abasi for Uyo between 4.30 pm and 5 pm every day. And I didn’t go back there till the next day.
“The robbers though that commercial vehicle operators were rich people. They don’t want to be told that there are no millions of naira to be grabbed. So, some of us that are natives of the area have decided to stay away for some time.
“Funny enough, the criminals know everybody’s name. They know when you come in and go out. They know every visitor who comes in. In circumstances like this, where will someone hide? The only remedy is to keep off the areas for sometime.”
A pastor in The Apostolic Church, Ikot Ubo, Mr. Okon Umo, said he was not excited when he learnt that the four suspected robbers who attacked him were arrested.
The bandits were said to have attacked the pastor in the church house on Thursday and dispossessed him of N150,000. The money was meant for payment of his children’s school fees.
But Umo declined to identify the criminals who are still in police custody. He said, “I cannot go and identify them. We are God’s children; and we will leave every battle for God. If the armed robbers believe it will benefit them to attack and make God’s chosen ones uncomfortable, then let God judge them.
“My children are at home. I know they will go back to school someday. It may not be this semester because it takes me a long time to raise money for their fees. We don’t produce anything in the church and our incomes are very minimal. It’s evil for somebody to steal the little one we have saved to send our children to school. But it is not we they are mocking. They are mocking the One that has sent us to do His will.”
A senior police officer in Ikot Abasi told CRIME DIGEST that the police in Ikot Abasi had informed the Police Headquarters in Ikot Akpanbia, Uyo about the arrest of the suspected criminals.
But the state Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Etim Dickson, said the police were not aware of the arrests.
He said, “When I get the details of the incident, I will let you know.”
Meanwhile, in Uyo, the state capital, the security personnel stationed at a branch of a new generation on Aka Road, engaged a gang of robbers in a shootout and killed two of them on July 27, 2012. The slain criminals were said to have robbed the bank of N10m alongside two others who abandoned the loot and fled when the security men shot at them.
An eyewitness described the kind of firearms that the robbers used during their operation as ‘frightening.’ He said that while the operation lasted, the neighbourhood was like battlefield.
He said, “I’m surprised that robbers could operate in an area like Aka Road, not to talk of robbing a bank. The police are everywhere, but I cannot say if they were alive to their responsibilities on that day.
“The police had barricaded the road with drums on both sides and all the main entrances to the city were blocked by the police, yet robbers persisted in their activities.
“It was either that the policemen were not working or they were chasing after something else.”
The public relations officer of the Akwa Ibom State Police Command, Mr. Etim Dickson, confirmed the incident.
He said the apparatus the police had put in place in the state would make any robbery operation to be unsuccessful.
“Two of the robbers have been killed. We are on the trail of the remaining two. We request the public to volunteer useful information that can lead to the arrest of the fleeing bandits,” he said.
He urged the public not to panic, but to go to the police immediately they suspect any strange movement.