By Effiong Ayang
A chieftain of Eket and first Acting Senior Divisional Officer of the area, Mr. O.P. Ekereuwem, had warned his people, the Ekid people, not to lay claim of any Ibeno land, stressing that the Ekid people were tenants to Ibeno.
This was part of a rejoinder on the recent press conference issued by Itid Afigh Ekid Union (AKA Eket Patriotic Platform) by the Joint Council of Mpono Nnito Ibeno and Ulok Ulok People’s Assembly on Wednesday at Upenekang Youth Hall.
The group, in a statement signed by the Joint Council Chairman and Secretary, Elder (Hon.) Chief Ikoedem Ekong and Pastor Tom Samuel Afia, warned that no part of Ibeno belongs to Eket, adding that BUA Refinery is located in Ibeno.
The group said “In 1971, precisely on the 28th September, Mr. O.P. Ekereuwem, Ag. Senior Divisional Officer, an Eket man, in a letter captioned TEMPORARY HUTS IN ENCLAVE CUT FOR MKPANEK’ with Reference ‘OUR REF. SEK.466/s.1/ Vol.111/746. warned the Ekid tenants in Ibeno as follows: “ It has come to the notice of this office that those of you that have constructed some temporary huts in the enclave cut of(sic) from the Stubbs Creek Forest for Mkpanek have erected sizeable huts of more than two rooms…. I am here to inform you that with the permission given to you by Mkpanek, no one is allowed to build any structure of more than two rooms (bedroom and sitting room) in the area under discussion. Any extra room you have set up has to be negotiated between you and the Mkpanek people. I have been assured by the people of Mkpanek that they will treat all tenants (sic) fairly. I therefore advise you to co-operate.” Till date, Ekid people living on Ibeno land build temporary huts and we have been treating them fairly. But, as their practice, they are now claiming ownership of Ikot Nsung, Akpa Urua Ikot all in Odorokuku. Facts a sacred.”
The people of Ibeno local government area have described the people of Eket local government area as land grabbers whose history of identity can only be traced back to Ibeno which they said, Eket people departed as dissidents of war.
The group revealed that “the people of Eket, being the wild Ibibios, as they have also recently claimed,” have on several occasions engaged in manipulative, divisive, crafty, insufferable and over grasping machination to claim Ibeno land.
The group also noted that Ibeno will not tolerate any trespass of its land and vowed that Ibeno will defend BUA’s activities, its personnel, both local and expatriates.
The statement stated that “Before the communal crisis between Ibeno and the Ekid people in 1993, these same drums of war were gonged by them. Just before the war began, they had issued a statement in a State radio broadcast in 1993 that they have given Ibeno a Quit Notice and that the whole of lbeno was their land; we were asked to go to the Atlantic Ocean. Little did we know then that before that broadcast, the people of Ekid had laid ambush around Ibeno, waiting for the imminent order to attack. It is with this same experience, reminiscent of 1993, that we regard the recent brazen and audacious Quit Notice which the Ekid people have issued to BUA GROUP, a prospective investor.”
“While we repeat that these people have always been on hand to kill prospective projects not minding how their selfish and baseless attitude affects the general good which those projects have the potentials to bring to the entire state, we wish to state the people Ibeno will not fold their hands to watch the over excesses of Ekid people. We hope that the government of Akwa Ibom State, and especially, the Governor, has paid attention to the continuous insults, threats and disdain meted out against Ibeno by the Ekids these past months.”
“To this end, we wish to sound it as a warning that: (i) No part of Ibeno land belongs to Eket. (ii) BUA Refinery is to be located in Ibeno. (iii) Ibeno will not tolerate any trespass to its land. (iv) lbeno will defend BUA activities, its personnel, both local and expatriates. (v) lbeno will never take arms against Eket, but we will not fold our arms and watch the activities of miscreants in our land. (vi) If one leaf is taken from Ibeno into Eket, we will enter and collect twelve leaves. (vii) We will equally not permit one BUA personnel to be hurt or killed by Eket the course of carrying out their legitimate construction work in Ibeno, which will be a blessing to Akwa Ibom State and Nigeria as a whole, (viii) The people of Ekid will ignore our warning at their own peril. They have boasted that they were going to finish us off in 1993 before the government intervened, perhaps this may be the opportunity to carry out this their long awaited yearning and desire. May they dare!”
“We know that the real problem of the Ekid people is the fear of the unknown because they have nothing to offer in this great State other than making people to believe who and what they are not. But we also know that there is no developmental strides carried out anywhere in the State that will not have a constructive and positive impact on all members of the State.”
“The skittish and erratic behaviour of the people of Ekid cannot therefore be explained except that they have considered themselves the untouchables, or that they have the exclusive right to fermenting trouble. That will not continue to be the case going forward. Let this be a warning!”
“The people of Ibeno, being fishermen, were always assisted by the Ekets as ‘firemen’ from time immemorial. These were not exactly slaves though their status was not too far different. They were those who would fetch firewood and dry the fishes which were brought back by the fishermen. Most of these firemen were people of Eket origin.”
“They lived as servants, always close to their masters, mostly always behind the houses of diligently and reverently. Our people of old treated them decently knowing that their services within the scheme or chain of their business was invaluable, but each fireman knew their status.”
“Many prominent Eket people like the late U. I. Esuene, Senator Etang Edet Umoyo, the current Paramount Ruler of Eket Local Government Area. His Royal Majesty E.C.D. Abia, all lived in Ibeno where they grew up with their parents who were firemen from where they also attended the prestigious Ibeno Central School, the first primary school with full boarding facilities established by Reverend S.A. Bill.”
“Till today, most of the firemen working in lbeno are Eket people. There are all around our families. Over the years, these people who were firemen grew in number and began to lay claim to being members of the villages where they were serving. In one of such scenarios, in Esuk lkim Ekeme, a Gazetted village in Ibeno with a certificated village head, is where the supposed Ine Akpautong is. We challenge Esit Eket to show us the map of Akwa Ibom State showing ‘Ine Akpautong.’ The manner with which the Paramount Ruler of Esit Eket received his title is not the purport of this press release.”
“The question whether the Paramount Ruler of Esit Eket is from Ibeno as asked by the presenters of that press conference may sound funny, but in it too lies the absurdity they have found themselves when they attempted to plant a chief on a non existing village. Again we can only laugh at their dejected act of foolishness.”
“The Ekid people have a way of always attempting to rename Ibeno villages or even Ibeno lands with funny nomenclature or twisting those names in their dialect. For instance, very recently they have attempted to remane Ikot Nsung as Iko Nsung, but not one Ekid man alive can tell the origin of that name or how that place came to be known as Ikot Nsung. Whereas Ibeno does not only know the history but the creek passing through that place has been called Akpa Nsung by lbeno from antiquity. We shall however not disclose that history here.”
“The Ekets have been citing phantom cases upon cases but have never produced the ratios of those cases and what the courts actually said. In their usual desperation we know that there is nothing they cannot tweak to favour but when one considers the substance, it would be far from what they made it to represent. Besides, in none of the suits mentioned were Ibeno a party.”