Communities in Etim Ekpo and Ukanafun councils in Akwa Ibom State have cause to rejoice as peace returned to the LGAs after three years of militancy.
Consequently, residents have begun the process of rebuilding their homes even as militants are reuniting with their loved ones. The peace process followed the Amnesty Programme put in place by Governor Udom Emmanuel which saw over 200 militants and cultists laying down their arms and accepting government’s olive branch.
Until Tuesday, October 9, Etim Ekpo and Ukanafun LGAs were no-go areas. Militants and cultists held residents by the jugular.
Many villages became deserted as residents fled. Properties valued at several millions of Naira were destroyed while more than 200 persons, including security operatives, were killed as the militants and cultists held sway.
Hostage-taking for ransom became a recurring decimal while local administration in the areas almost collapsed and schools were shut down. The reign of impunity and terror was such that peace talks by government, security agencies, stakeholders and even church leaders did not produce any fruits.
The situation forced Governor Emmanuel on March 12 to sign into law the Cultism and other Violent Behaviour Prohibition Order 2018. The governor, who drew his powers from Section 70 of the Criminal Code Law, Cap 38 Volume 2 law of Akwa Ibom(2000), noted that only three councils had security flashpoints, adding, however, that the law was binding and will be enforced in all the 31 local government areas of the state.
One of the leaders of the repentant cultists, Mr Unyime Ibanga, alias Overcomer, identified unfulfilled promises by government as one of the reasons for their violent lives and called on government to ensure they abide by the promise to rehabilitate them so that they would not be tempted back into the former ways of life.
He said: “We are ready to partner the state government. Before, government was not close to us, but, today, we are being treated as important people, and, in that process, we will team up with the state governor, but government should reintegrate the youths because something happened before we decided to strike. We have decided to embrace peace, but government should always call us whenever there are further issues in the communities”.
Meanwhile, residents of the flashpoint communities can now return home after relocating as a result of the activities of the rampaging militants and cultists.