Who are you?
My name is Aniefiok Mfioko from Ikot Akpa Idem in Ukanafun. I am a one-time vice chairman of Ukanafun local government council.
Why Are you living in Abak?
On December 8, last year, I was the chairman, planning committee for the formal reception of Ukanafun local government chairman at Ikot Akpa Nkuk. He and his counterparts were sworn into office by Governor Udom Emmanuel on December 8. By 6 p.m, I returned to my village. In my compound, I was emotionally devastated and disturbed. I told my wife that I wanted to go out, though she objected to the idea. I left for one of the churches in the village. I did not know that later my wife had gathered my children and left for a vigil in Qua Iboe Church adjacent to my compound. While I was in the church at 9.45 p.m, my wife called to inform me that our house had been torched by unknown persons.
I instructed my wife not to go not take my children there after all material things could easily be replaced. The next day- December 9, I returned home by 8 a.m. to see the havoc perpetrated against my family. Behold! I found that everything was burnt. All my property- two generators, two motor cycles, electronics, upholdstery chairs, and household equipment were reduced to rubble. Even four of my goats and a dog were killed. My water tanks, eight-room apartment, poultry farm, oil palm distillation machines and my wife’s provision store were vandalised. In fact, I lost property worth N10 million.
To my chagrin, I discovered that the suspected criminals did not steal or take away any property from my compound rather they only burnt all. Perhaps, they had come to kill me and members of my family. When I realised that we were not safe, I ordered my wife and children into my car, the only property left with me. On December 9, last year, we decided to leave though I did not exactly where we were heading to. As we were going, we decided to settle in Abak.
I have eight children. Two of my children are graduates, two are Higher National Diploma (HND) undergraduates, two are National Diploma students while two are in the secondary school.
Has normalcy returned to your village?
We are pressing for peace to return to the village. In the heat of the crisis, my village was no-go area though it is still being deserted. I can only return home when security to our lives and property is guaranteed and peace prevails in the village.
As an internally displaced person, what are you doing for a living?
I used to hear that God orders the steps of people. But now, I have tested and seen awesome God providing for us on a daily basis. My friend and some church members paid the rent for the one-room apartment we are living in Abak. You cannot talk of comfort when you do not have money to rent a comfortable accommodation for your family. So, a family of eight are living in one room.Occasionally, friends I used to assist when I was doing well would dash in and show me favours.
I am a hardworking person. In the village, I was a farmer. I will struggle to hawk pure water and other items to make both ends meet. I cannot sit down and fold my hands. I must engage myself in one thing or the other. I will drive taxi cab to earn money.
How long do you want to stay in Abak?
Though I am staying in Abak, I still liaise with and mobilise people for peace to return to the troubled village. Unfortunately, governments- federal, state and local- of the day are not sympathetic to the cause of human beings. The member representing Ukanafun in the state House of Assembly is not help to us. Has he sponsored a bill in the house for the stoppage of the crisis rocking the area? Is he living there? Does he know names and location of villages in Ukanafun apart from his village? I have lost faith in our representatives.
As God asked Abraham to leave his land for unknown place, so has the cult war forced me to relocate to another place where I am homeless. What is happening is that the power-that-be in Ukanafun local government area do want to resolve the crisis. The only person who has tried a little is Udo S. Ekpenyong, the immediate past commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs. Nobody has talked about it nor condemned it. Nobody has summoned any security meeting to seek ways out of the quagmire. If it has been done, I would have known and would have been invited. Our leaders are novice, leaders without commanders.
Is Ukanafun safe for fleeing indigenes to return?
Ukanafun is not safe for people to return. Who says the area is safe? Since the beginning of this year, there is no public school. Our children have not sat for May/June West African Examinations Council examination in the area. On May 27 this year which is Children/Youths Day, our children did not take part in the march past and other activities. Public schools are not in session except few private nursery schools are in operation. All the shops are closed. Akpan Assiek Market that was booming, part of it was razed and it is a ghost of itself. The level of insecurity in Ukanafun is high. Nobody sleeps and feels comfortable in the area.
How Many Ukanafun indigenes are living in Abak alone?
If you had given me a day’s notice, I would have invited all of them to be here. There are more than 500 Ukanafun indigenes residing in Abak. In Ikot Ekpene, there are many. In Uyo, you cannot count.
What advice do you have for perpetrators of the crimes?
The hoodlums are not from Jerusalem, they are Ukanafun indigenes. For example, the hoodlums who attacked me hail from my village. They are young boys. At times, I will call them to know why they indulge in the crimes, but they could not advance any cogent reason. They just indulge in the crimes without knowing the implication. They were trained to carry guns.
The boys were infected by environmental influence. They used to stay in Rivers State and joined militants in the struggle for resource control. In our place, there was the resource struggle was not militant in nature. The Rivers State government has gotten proceeds of the struggle, yet turned round to send our children packing. The boys came home armed with guns to vent anger on their helpless parents and innocent persons at home. They returned and started attacking people doing legitimate businesses indiscriminately.
I want parents to be actively involved in upbringing up their children in the fear of God. Those criminals do not have the fear of God and they lack conscience- they could kill, maim, rape and steal.
Let the state government and local government send them for skills acquisition. There is a proverb which says that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. Many of them are idle- doing nothing. Go to the council which is the closet to the people, yet the chairman and councillors are not living at home. The people do not feel the impact of the government. When you are not close to the grassroots, you may know their problems talk less of proffering solutions to their challenges. And if the people feel estranged from the government, there is bound to be trouble as we are embroiled in now.
Will you advocate amnesty for the hoodlums?
I am an individual, but overnment knows what to do to quell the crisis. The boys know what they want. If they want amnesty, let them come out, lay down their arms and advocate for it. And government may consider such if it is genuine. They cannot hold their guns and demand for amnesty at the same time.
What is your appeal to the state government?
I want the state government to come to our rescue. I am one of the internally displaced persons. It is not easy for a person of my own status with large dependants to live in exile due to the crisis.
Though I have been hearing the news on radio or reading about the State Emergency Management Committee (SEMA) on the pages of newspapers, I want the agency to come to our aid.