There is tension in the communities of Mkpat Enin Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State following the persistent kidnapping and killing of innocent individuals in the area.
The latest was the kidnap of a catholic priest, identified as Rev.Fr Alphonsus Uboh, at the premises of his parish located at Ikot Abasi Akpan along Ekparakwa Etinan road in Mkpat Enin LGA.
It was gathered from the community that about 18 persons have so far been kidnapped between November 2021 and May of this year.
An eyewitness, who pleaded anonymity, told journalists that the gunmen arrived at the church premises at exactly 7 p.m. on Sunday in a motorcycle convoy, and whisked the priest away on their motorcycle after shooting sporadically into the air to scare away the people.
It could be recalled that a similar case within the community happened recently, where the founder and President of Solid Rock Kingdom Church, Apostle John Okoriko, was abducted at his residence but later regained freedom after spending four days in the kidnappers’ den.
The communities where the nefarious activities of the hoodlums take place include Ekparakwa, villages along Ekparakwa/Ikot Abasi road in OrukAnam Local Government Area as well as Ikot Ebak, Ikot Akaam, Ibekwe Akpan axis in Mkpat council areas of the state.
Speaking to journalists in Ekparakwa on Sunday, a youth leader who pleaded anonymity said more than 18 persons were abducted in the communities between November and April adding that the area is not safe at the moment.
He listed other victims to include shop owners, civil servants such as teachers, nurses and local businessmen in the area.
He recalled that a medical doctor at Health Centre Ikot Ekpaw; a neighbouring village to Ekparakwa was whisked away at gunpoint while attending to a patient in the theatre in February this year.
The Youth Leader disclosed that residents of the area especially in Ikot Akaam could not sleep in their houses at night while some fled for fear of being kidnapped or killed by the gunmen.
He mentioned a deep pothole area after the former Happel company yard before the sharp corner to Ikot Ebak village as a very deadly zone where the gunmen hide to waylay their victims adding that many people have been killed on the spot.
He said the situation became worst when motorists diverted the bad spot on the road to another bypass in the village and the gunmen also relocated to the road killing innocent commuters who resisted them in their robbery.
“One day a woman who deals in palm oil returned from the market. Unknown to her, the gunmen had laid ambush on the diverted road, they intercepted her robbed her of N700,000 cash and killed her,” he said.
Another Youth Leader who refused to mention his name for fear of possible attack disclosed that Ikot Ebak, Ibekwe Akpan Nya and neighbouring villages in OrukAnam local government areas have become the centre of kidnappers in recent times.
He said the climax of their operations was when the founder of Solid Rock Kingdom Church Apostle John Okoriko was abducted in his residence a few weeks ago.
Continuing, he said after the man of God was released from the kidnappers’ den, two persons were shot dead in the community last Wednesday.
“Even last week Wednesday, after Apostle Okoriko was released, the gunmen returned to the village and killed Okoriko’s friend and one of his relations in an early morning raid.
“The kidnappers have converted the bush in one of the primary schools to their hideout where they caged their victims,” he said.
In a telephone interview, the Akwa Ibom Police Public Relations Officer, Odiko Mcdon confirmed the abduction of the Catholic priest and other activities of gunmen in the area and promised to work on the criminals.
“We have received that report from the area and we are working on it,” he said.