By: Kenedy Johnson
Before criminals came to town
Situated along the dual carriageway linking Itam Junction to the rest of Ibiono Ibom Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, Ikot Ambang used to be known for being a very quiet and peaceful community. It is not hard to locate the village because of its contiguousness with Itam Water Tank, Ibom Specialist Hospital and the ever-busy Akwa Ibom Transport Corporation (AKTC), among others.
Even with the presence of the ultra-modern motor park in the area and ancillary businesses that attract a large number of people to the area, residents of Ikot Ambang were largely immune from armed robbery, gang wars and sundry crimes which plagued other parts of Uyo capital city.
But things have since changed and for the people of Ikot Ambang and the surrounding communities; it is no longer at ease because the area is now a hotbed of almost every crime in the books.
Residents, especially at the outskirts of the village are now easy targets to armed robbers, pickpockets and petty criminals and gangs but point of sale agents suffer more under the enveloping reign of crime.
A resident threat
While it is difficult to know the exact number of attacks and those who perpetrated them, almost everyone in Ikot Ambang knew about one young man who constantly dispossessed them of valuables with the force of arms. His name was Malachy, a young man from Use Nten, another village in Ibiono Ibom Local Government Area.
Malachy was a terrorist, a thief and much more. Many people believed that he had magical powers that enabled him to disappear after committing heinous crimes. In 2021, Malachy was constantly bullying residents of the community and stealing from them. Witnesses, community leaders and even security sources have confirmed that Malachy not only stole but was also involved in killing and destruction of properties. Unfortunately, he was never caught because anytime people mobilised and gave chase, he disappeared into thin air.
Malachy didn’t operate alone. Many have said that he had an accomplice called Wisdom. Wisdom wasn’t your idea of what a wise person should be. He was the opposite because instead of exhibiting traits like empathy, intelligence and smart choices which can be associated with wisdom, he was enmeshed in crime and other abominable acts.
Despite their tricks and charms and arms, the Police in 2022 succeeded in arresting not only Malachy but also his accomplice, Wisdom. The community heaved a sigh of relief when the two crime lords were taken off the streets but it wasn’t for long before they returned and inflicted more pains on the people. The police could not explain how the duo got back to the community but it was just a matter of time. And time was indeed ticking and very fast.
The next time Malachy and Wisdom were caught trying to rob someone in broad daylight, enraged villagers mobilised and attacked them. When the dust settled, Malachy was dead but Wisdom had narrowly escaped. With the death of the notorious criminal, there was reprieve in Ikot Ambang. Petty traders and point of sale (POS) payment operators started doing their businesses freely.
However, on July 4, 2023, Wisdom reappeared and started attacking people in broad daylight. He went about robbing POS operators while shooting sporadically. During the one-man operation, Wisdom came face-to-face with Jessica, a middle-aged lady who had gone to withdraw money from a nearby POS operator.
Recounting what happened, a witness, who pleaded not to be named said, “On meeting the lady (Jessica), Wisdom snatched her handbag containing cash and other valuables. He didn’t stop there, he shot at her several times and disappeared leaving the woman helpless and bleeding profusely.”
No police report, no treatment
Someone was said to have contacted her immediate family and they came and took her to Handmaid Hospital located not far from the scene of the attack. The hospital authorities rejected her immediately they found she had bullet wounds. They would not even administer basic first aid on her, insisting that those who brought her must produce a police report. Her family had no police report and time was running out.
Desperate, the family moved her to the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital (UUTH) and again, she was rejected by the federal tertiary healthcare facility which should be aware of a law that prescribes that patients with bullet wounds should be treated.
It only took the intervention of the state Police Public Relations Officer, Odiko MacDon for the hospital to attend to the woman whose life was slowly ebbing. Mr. MacDon had to personally speak to the doctor on duty before any meaningful action was taken. But there was another problem. No bed space. When a space was finally created for her and doctors attended to her, Miss Jessica’s life was just hanging on a thread.
During an emergency surgical procedure that followed, a total of 32 pellets were extracted from her body. A miracle she survived, thanks to God and a jolly-good PPRO and health officials.
While Miss Jessica was lucky to have survived because of the direct intervention of Mr. MacDon, many victims of armed robbery and violent attacks have lost their lives due to the unwillingness of healthcare practitioners to treat them. They often rely on a non-existing law to justify their unprofessionalism.
The crime of neglecting gunshot victims
For those who don’t know, former President Muhammudu Buhari had in 2017, signed the Compulsory Treatment and Care for Victims of Gunshot Act (2017) into law which is binding on all states in the Federation.
Section 1 of the law states, “As from the commencement of this Act, every hospital in Nigeria whether public or private shall accept or receive, for immediate and adequate treatment with or without police clearance, any person with a gunshot wound.”
However, Section 2 (1-2) is very succinct, “Every person, including security agents, shall render every possible assistance to any person with gunshot wounds and ensure that the person is taken to the nearest hospital for immediate treatment.
“Accordingly, (a) a person with gunshot wounds shall be received for immediate and adequate treatment by any hospital in Nigeria with or without initial monetary deposit, and
“(b) a person with gunshot wounds shall not be subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment or torture by any person or authority including the police and other security agencies.”
The law also prescribes a 15 year jail term for anyone whose action (s) leads or causes substantial physical, mental, emotional and psychological damage to gunshot victims and a minimum of five years jail term without an option of fine.
Businesses are shutting down
The resurfacing of Wisdom and the attack on innocent persons has underlined the level of insecurity not only in Uyo Capital city but also across the state. In Ikot Ambang and neighbouring communities, POS operators who are the closest sources of cash are no longer doing business.
People are now afraid of displaying their ware in the local market and farmers who used to bring their produce from far and near to the area have boycotted Ikot Ambang for fear of coming under attack by the notorious flash robber.
But the question is, where is Wisdom? Why is it impossible for the police to arrest and prosecute him? Or why did the police free him after he was captured with his partner in crime, the late Malachy?
It is the inability of the Nigerian Police and the judiciary to administer the criminal justice system in the country that has largely encouraged the growing trend where citizens take laws into their hands by lynching suspected criminals.
Sometimes the brutal “law” of the street also victimises innocent people, which calls on those in charge to take all reasonable measures to ensure that criminals are apprehended, charged, and sentenced appropriately.
Help for Ikot Ambang people
It is a sad commentary that a community in the heart of Uyo Capital City, just a few kilometres from the Itam Divisional Police Station, is being harassed by criminals and nothing is being done about it.
That is why every effort should be made by security agencies to secure not only Ikot Ambang but the entire state. Life is already so hard, businesses are closing shops and poverty is walking on two legs everywhere. Currently, Akwa Ibom leads the South-south region with the highest number of multidimensional poor people. That is not great news.
People like Wisdom should be taken out of the streets so people can engage in their legitimate businesses without fear of molestation. This is not too much to ask from Governor Umo Eno who is the chief security officer of the state and security agencies who are paid to maintain law and order.
Let Ikot Ambang and Akwa Ibom people breathe.