The efforts of Governor Udom Emmanuel in partnering with security agencies towards a peaceful Akwa Ibom has again yielded positive results as over 200 leaders and members of respective cult groups in the Etim Ekpo and Ukanafun axis of the State, Tuesday dropped their weapons in exchange of peace.
In a great show of emotions, they went on their knees and prayed for forgiveness from the Governor and from God, for all the pains they brought to their people over the years.
They all prayed for rehabilitation and empowerment to enable them start meaningful means of livelihood, saying that their surrendering brings them hope.
The cultists took time to complain about their plights that had made them take up arms and cause instability. Their complaints range from poor social amenities, lack of government attention in their communities for several decades, lack of good public schools and lack of employment opportunities.
They maintained that politicians over the years abandoned them after using them to attain their political aims, and without good jobs, their frustrations drove them into criminal activities.
One of them, who gave his name as Mentor said he haled from Ukanafun and wished the Governor to right the wrongs of past administrations that failed to look into their plight.
“We don’t have a village head, we don’t have any youth leader, and we didn’t have anyone to talk to us. I am sure Your Excellency will provide these for us so that we can stay together and support him for second term,” Mentor added.
Victor Frank said he was from Ikot Udobong, Etim Ekpo local government area, and that he had lived in the bush for several years in the course of the clash.
He said he was happy that peace had been restored through the Governor’s intervention.
He appealed to the Governor to intervene in restoring freedom to some of their members who had been apprehended earlier in the spirit of forgiveness, pledging their readiness to sustain the peace.
“For this great feat, we promise to stand with the Governor, and ensure he succeeds in his second term so that he can continue to bring development to our communities,” Mr. Frank said.
Another repentant cultist, Utomobong Aniekan Sunday AKA Small Money, said he regreted being part of the clash that led to the destruction of live and property in his communities, as well as the closing down of economic and social activities.
Utomobong said further, “we had to sound the gong and invite all our members to answer to your amnesty call and we have surrendered our weapons, we have nothing to give to you but peace and we want all our people who ran away to come back and let’s live together again.”
Others who also spoke amidst tears before the Governor included Goodluck Emmanuel nicknamed Small DPO from Ikot Udo Obo, who appealed to the Governor to help in rehabilitation of the destroyed markets and power supply infrastructure in his community.
Ifiok Ukpong, AKA Gymnast said he hails from Ikot Ukpong village of Ukanafun Ward 2, and his ward has suffered persistent neglect in terms of appointments while Faith Friday Benson from Ikot Etim AKA Fine Face thanked the Governor for coming to their rescue.
An emotional Governor Udom Emmanuel who said he was saddened by the condition of the repentant militants, recounted how difficult it has been for him to bring development to their areas because of insecurity.
“I wanted to bring a world bank assisted project to Ukanafun, but those people preferred to go elsewhere. At the moment, because of you people, no contractor accepted our offer to come and execute a project in Ukanafun.”
He thanked them for embracing the reconciliation and rehabilitation meeting, and also called on the said ‘Overcomer’ to come out of the bush like others and surrender before Thursday morning.
He warned them from listening to any politician who may come back to re-introduce them into cult related activities, saying that it would not augur well for such people.
“I promised you people that the day you come out, nothing will happen to you. Have I not kept my promise?”
While telling them that they owe God prayers of forgiveness, he assured them that as a man, he has forgiven all of them.
“Those of you who have his number, call him and tell him that I want him to come and see me with all his six AK-47 and I will collect it and use it to protect him,” the Governor added.
He advised the Commissioner of Police to come with them to government house for dialogue on how to move their communities forward.
The principal actors of the cult groups were introduced by the State Commissioner for Police, Adeyemi Ogunjemilusi who said the cultists having surrendered had turned a new leaf and were willing to be rehabilitated and re-integrated into the society.
The event took place at the Central Primary School, Ikot Akpan Nkuk in Ukanafun local government area,
However, the Etim Ekpo sector led by Overcomer, who is also known as Englishman, who refused to surrender was given 24 hours by the Commissioner of Police to surrender his weapons or risk being fished out by the police.
He assured that the clemency was opened to him if he complies with the directive, adding that he had appealed to him previously, hence the ultimatum.
Governor Udom Emmanuel who was making his fourth visit to the area within the year, was accompanied by the deputy Governor, Moses Ekpo, the National Legal adviser of the Party, Emmanuel Enoidem. The Secretary to the State Government, Emmanuel Ekuwem, Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Udo Ekpenyong and the chairmen of Ukanafun and Etim Ekpo local government areas.