Three families in the Obot Akara and Essien Udim Local Government Areas of Akwa Ibom State are in distress over the whereabouts of Uduak Akpan, Lawrence Akpan and Friday Jackson, arrested at different times and locations by security agents during a raid.
Uduak, who is a herbal healer and from Obot Akara LGA, is a father of a newborn and he had yet to see his child, while the two other victims are from Essien Udim council area, close family sources told Sunday PUNCH.
Speaking in an interview, Iniobong, brother to Uduak, said, “My brother lives in Atang Ibong in Obot Okara Local Government Area. He works as a sand collector and herbal healer. On 16 May 2021, his pregnant wife left for the church after asking him to bathe their two children. One of his customers came to tell him that his son was sick. He prescribed coconut water as a remedy for the ailment before taking him on his motorcycle to a nearby coconut tree. Soldiers came to invade the place when my brother was on top of the tree. Everyone ran away leaving him behind. The police ordered him to come down from the tree and arrested him.
“We went in search of him for several days before I got a call from an unknown number two weeks ago that he is in police custody at Ikot Akpan. The police said they can’t release him unless there is an order from Abuja. I call on the Federal Government to come to my aid and help me as his wife was delivered of a baby on Thursday, June 10, 2021.’’
Another victim’s relative, Paulinus Akpan, told one of our correspondents that his cousin, Lawrence, was allegedly arrested by soldiers three weeks ago and taken to an unknown destination.
Paulinus said, “My cousin resides around Nwa junction in Essien-Udim LGA. He works with a motorcycle and also cuts hair for people. The soldiers arrested him for almost two month now on his way out. He was arrested with the passenger on a motorcycle he rode but the passenger was later released by the army. I reported the case at the police station in Ikot Akpan Abia. I was told he is with them but I was not allowed to see him. I have not been granted access.”
In a related vein, Ekerete Jackson, elder brother to another victim, Jackson, told Sunday PUNCH that his brother was arrested by soldiers along Ika Road in the Essien Udim LGA of the state on March 30, 2021, when he was on his way to Port Harcourt, Rivers State, after a visit to his sick mother at Ikot Ukpong-Offiong.
He said, “My brother lives with our elder brother in Port Harcourt where he is learning a skill. He only came home to care for our sick mother and to help our father on the farm. On March 30, he left home to return to Port Harcourt. My brother boarded a bus at the Nsasak Park in Essien Udim LGA. The soldiers stopped the vehicle along Ika Road and asked my brother and another male passenger where they came from. They both replied to them. Then, they pulled off their shirts, blindfolded them and put them in their Hilux van. We got to know when my mother tried my brother’s mobile but it was switched off. My mother went to the park to ask for the last bus that left that day. The driver was called and he told them that some soldiers took two persons away from the bus. Then, my elder brother in Port Harcourt and myself returned to the village to find my brother.
“Surprisingly, On March 31, my brother’s mobile number went through. He told us that he doesn’t know where he is because his face was tied but that he is in a small room. He also said that someone was standing behind him. When he gave the phone to the person, he asked what we wanted and told us that those who arrested my brother had gone for an operation. The phone has been switched off since then. When I went to Ikot Akpan Abia police station, they took me round the cell to check for him but he was not there. I also went to Division C and the anti-kidnapping unit but he wasn’t there either. I don’t have anybody. I need the government to come to my aid.”
When contacted, the Akwa Ibom State Police Public Relations Officer, Odiko Macdon, said those in the command’s custody were linked to the killing of policemen and destruction of public property, adding that the court would decide the matter.
He said, “Those the police have in their custody are those linked one way or the other to the killing of policemen and destruction of public property. The Police don’t keep people. We will let the court determine if they have a case to answer.” (Sunday PUNCH)