The sounds of aerial bombardment and heavy artillery shelling have died down, but the shrill and woes of refugees camped in make-shift facilities are begging for solution in Essien Udim Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State.
This followed a combined operation by military and other security agencies to flush suspected ‘miscreants’ from nine heavily affected villages and three partially affected ones in Essien Udim, displacing and rendering thousands homeless.
The Nigeria Air Force had on Tuesday, April 6 launched aerial bombardment on the affected villages to flush out suspected members of outlawed Independent Peoples Biafra (IPOB), an action that has swelled up the rank of Internally Displaced Persons in the area.
The affected villages are Ntak Ikot Akpan, Ukana Uwa, Ikot Udo Ekpat, Ikot Otu, Ikot Afanga, Nto Nsek, Ikot Abia, Ikot Ankan, Ikot Ukpong Etor, Ikot Ada Utor, Nsasak, and Ikot Akpan Essiet.
The Internally Displaced Persons are camped at St Ann Cathedral, Ikot Ekpene; Civic Centre Atan, Ikot Okoro and St Brigid Parish, Urua Akpan.
Though Nigerian Army said on Wednesday, April 7 that those killed during the military operation were ‘hoodlums,’ it did not mention the number of persons killed.
“The operation was successfully executed and resulted in the dislodgment of the criminals while fleeing hoodlums were neutralised by the Air Component,” the army spokesperson, Mohammed Yerima, a brigadier general, said in a statement.
Mr Yerima said normalcy has been restored in the area, and that people could now go about their businesses.
About 5,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) have been registered so far in the four camps, the man in charge of registration said, Premium Times reported.
The Chairman of Essien Udim, Anthony Luke, said in a statement that nine communities were “seriously” affected by the security crisis in the local government area.
Luke recalled ‘’In the past few weeks, a dangerous criminal gang have launched attacks on various security agents/agencies which have sadly resulted in the loss of lives of their personnel, even as the bandits carted away ammunitions.
”The rave by the gang which began in Essien Local Government Area on February 22, 2021, saw them attack a police patrol personnel and their vehicle at Ikpe Annang junction, along Ikot Ekpene-Uyo Road and a repeat of a similar havoc on the Nigerian Customs personnel at Nsasak junction, along Aba–Ikot Ekpene Road. Amongst other dastardly act, the hoodlums later set the Essien Udim Divisional Police Station at Nto Nsek ablaze in another insane round of unprovoked attack.
”By their criminal activities such as extortion, intimidation, robbery, and general abuse of the fundamental human rights of the people, the situation degenerated to a point that people were living in fear.
According to him, ”Yesterday, a combined team of Military and other Security Agencies in the State conducted a clearance operation at Ntak Ikot Akpan to flush out the miscreants who have been perpetrating havoc in the Local Government Area.
”The operation, which deployed both land and aerial onslaught on the hoodlums and the hideouts by the security personnel, was very successful as the criminals were dislodged.
”The nefarious activities of the hoodlums lead to the displacement of people from their homes as lives and property across Essien Udim Local Government Area were unsafe,” he said.
”Again, the military operations also sent shivers through the spines of the people, who for fear of being caught up in the cross-fires, have become displaced too.
”About nine communities have been seriously affected while three are partially affected by the security situation.’’
”I have visited our displaced persons to encourage them, give them hope and assure them that they will be we catered for,’’ he noted.