Leadership crisis has again sparked off vandalisation of at least four houses and destruction of household items in Iwukem, Etim Ekpo local government area, Akwa Ibom State.
The head of the community, Eteidung Francis Linus Uyo, has fled after his house was vandalised on Saturday 9th September.
Family houses of a foremost State High Court Judge, Justice Ntong Ntong, were vandalised by a mob.
Aluminium glass windows were destroyed in the family houses of Justice Ntong and the village head.
Iwukem is a border community in Akwa Ibom sharing boundary with Azumini, Abia State.
In February this year, part of a-3 bedroom bungalow and household items belonging to the treasurer of Iwukem youths association, Ms. Ndianaobong Gabriel Udoaka, was set ablaze by unknown persons.
Ms Udoaka, who conducted journalists around her house said the inferno razed her bed, clothes, dinning table, chairs, dinning set, generator among other things.
“The window was open, so the person set the fire in my house through the window. I was not around. So before I could come back, my house hold items were all gone”, she said.
Chairman, Iwukem village council, Chief Innocent Udo Etukuko, said an assailant poured fuel around his house at night sometime in February in a bid to set his house ablaze but ran away when on sighting someone.
Inidgenes said Iwukem has been facing protracted crisis following the village head’s refusal to answer queries from the village council bothering on why he was arrested and committed to correctional centre.
When asked what led to the latest crisis in the community, Chief Etukuko, said he and other family heads were in police detention when the incident occured.
“I am not aware if people’s house were set ablaze because I was not around. I and other family heads were meeting here to mediate in some cases brought to us by our subjects when we were surrounded by policemen and arrested. They handcuffed all the chiefs and the youths that were here, on trump up charges levelled against us by one John Philip Udoaka, a former Secretary of Iwukem village council.
“We were in detention on Saturday and Sunday. We were bailed on Monday. While in detention, the police came and told me that houses have been vandalised and burnt because of the chiefs that were arrested. So I had told them well, I’m here in the cell in your station, so I wouldn’t know what is happening there.
“The said John Phillip Udoaka is the architecture of all the problems in this community. In 2020, John had a problem with the village head which led to the his (village heads) committal at the correctional centre. That’s was why I was appointed the village Chairman.
“When the village came back, the village invited him to respond to some questions bothering on why he was incarcerated. He refused to heed that demand, and that has been a problem.
“In the latest case, John went and told the police that I and Chief Mfon Brown and a list of youths in Iwukem ambushed, beat, stabbed him until he was unconscious. This never happened. His allegations are unsubstantiated. This was not the first time he did. In February, he wrote frivolous petition against youth of this community, alleging that they kidnapped one Ubokutom Akpanowo. That made the police to invade the community and arrest many youths.
“So, I shoud think that the whatever happened was a reaction against the arrest of chiefs and youths because of John’s petition.”
Mrs Emem Friday and Madam Idongesit Friday Ntong, said the youths fired gunshots that left holes on the zinc of the roof, broke aluminium windows, part of the perimeter fence in the compound.
“They were chanting, ‘give us our chairman'”, Madam Ntong said.
The village council chairman, Chief Innocent Udo Etukuko, Chief Mfon Brown Ebong, family head of Nto Udo Ekpo and Chief Idongesit Udoaka, head of Nto Owo Iko family, called on the State Government to intervene in the crisis in the community to avoid further escalation that might lead to loss of live and more property.
They called on the Commissioner of Police to ensure that proper investigations should always carried out on petitions before effecting arrest.
“The police have also contributed to this crisis. They are fond of invading this community and arresting people indiscriminately on baseless petition without investigation. Every community has leadership, if someone says something happened in a community, we think the police should reach out to the leadership of the community and work with the community to investigate the allegation”, Chief Udoaka said.
“The police should not allow anyone to use them to destabilise our community”, Chief Ebong added.
“We want the State Government to wade into this issue. We have a forum called Iwukem General Assembly comprising all indigenes of this community. The forum meets every December. We want the government to come in, meet with the community through the forum, there they will know what the community wants that will help to resolve this crisis” the chiefs said unanimously.