‘’I have not taken my bath, shaven nor trimmed my hair since I was taken and this is the only clothes that I put since I was captured,’’ says a freed official of Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC abducted more than two months ago in Akwa Ibom community.
Otobong Sylvester Ukpong, the INEC official seized on June 5, 2018 was said to have been blindfolded and taken by two gunmen on motorbikes into an untended bush in Ikot Akpan Eyara in Ukanafun local government area.
Narrating his ordeals in the hands of his abductors, Ukpong kidnapped while he was going to work at INEC Office, Ikot Akpa Nkuk, headquarters of Ukanafun local government area said “They only removed the veils from our eyes in the night where you cannot understand the geography of the area.’’
Ukpong who was of the nine persons rescued by Joint Task Force at Ikot Akpan Eyara in Ukanafun spoke to journalists on Saturday, August 18 at Akwa Ibom Police Command Heaquarters, Ikot Akpan Abia in Uyo remarked ‘’We were fed only once a day with garri and soup, beans and rice.’’
According to him, “There is no farming activity around the bush that we were kept and they (the criminals) erected a canopy in the bush and always cooked the meal there and served us. Throughout my stay there for about two months, I was not allowed to talk to anyone and that is why I find it difficult to talk because my throat is not clear.
“Each time the kidnappers left for operation, they would ensure two heavily armed men were left to guard the den, but on the day, Saturday, August 18, 2018, when the JFT stormed the place, the one that guarded the camp got the signal and went to see what was coming.
“Before he could rearrange himself, the soldier fired first and him (the militants went flat on the ground, consulted his charms and amulet and disappeared before the JTF came to rescue us,” he recounted.
Addressing the press, Mr. Adeyemi Ogunjemilusi, the Commissioner of Police (CP) in Akwa Ibom State, at the weekend confirmed the death of a Police Sergeant in the ongoing offensive against militants in Etim Ekpo and Ukanafun local government areas of the state.
Ogunjemilusi said the police action became necessary following the refusal of the hoodlums to heed the offer of amnesty extended to them by Governor Udom Emmanuel, who promised to rehabilitate and re-integrate them into the society.
The operation, according to him, has led to the rescue of one Otobong Sylvester Ukpong, a staffer of the Ukanafun area office of INEC, along with eight others including seven women seized at Ikot Inyang Abia community in Ukanafun.
“We lost one sergeant in the operation and recovered some riffles including police and military uniforms, charms and other materials,” he said, urging the people to assist the police with information to dislodge the criminals.
The Chairman of Ukanafun local government area, Mr. Uko Idiong and his Etim Ekpo counterpart, Mr. Udeme Eduo, who were on hand to identify the freed captives, lauded the gallantry of the JTF operatives in their efforts to restore peace to their troubled councils.
Idiong, said the seven rescued women were all seized from his village, Ikot Inyang Abia, by the gang leader simply identified by his operational name, Englishman.
He explained that “the wife of Englishman was arrested by the police because of the activities of her elusive husband, but Englishman had to call me on phone and accused me of ordering the police to arrest his wife, who is still being detained here in this Police headquarters.
“Because of the arrest of his wife, which I knew nothing about, Englishman said he was going to kidnap 25 women from my community and would only free them when the wife has been released by the Police.
“And to make good his threat, he came into the village and captured these seven women and told me these set of women are the first instalment,” he said.
Ukanafun boss lamented that he had since establish contact with some of their leaders with a view to brokering peace in line with State government plans to no avail. “Even one of them called me that they would be ready for the peace meeting but when we were all ready for them, they refused to turn up,” he said.
The militants, according to him, were among those chased out of Rivers State by the onslaught against hoodlums launched by Governor Ezenwo Nyesom Wike.
“They (the militants) are angry because the government of Rivers State has been able to grant amnesty and settled the ‘boys’ in that state, while Akwa Ibom State government would not want to do same and include them in the amnesty programme,” Idiong narrated.