There is anxiety in Oron and Mbo Local Government Areas and other adjoining villages in Akwa Ibom State as sea pirates numbering over 700 invaded and kidnapped five victims, carting away nine boats belonging fishermen at the weekend.
Our correspondent gathered that the pirates also made away with outboard engines thereby frustrating voyage on the Oron-Calabar waterway as boat operators and commuters feared for their lives. A source said that the pirates, who stormed the fishing community, shot sporadically to scare away fishermen and other people in the locality though the location where the boats and engines were seized was close to the Naval base.
An eyewitness who pleaded anonymity alleged that the assailants met no resistance from naval officers as the attack lasted for hours. He said after the operations, the pirates left behind a phone number for communication with the owners of the seized engines and negotiation of ransom. “Each engine is worth up to between N6 million and N8.5 Million while a fairly used one goes for about N3 Million depending on the horsepower rating.
“The pirates usually accept a ransom for seized engines but not in all cases as they sometimes sell the engines in other states in Nigeria and neighbouring countries,” he said When our correspondent visited the community, some open stalls at the beach were deserted while a few traders were displaying their wares such as fish and other goods.
A boat operator at the beach who identified himself as Bassey Effiong, said activities of the pirates have escalated in the area despite the presence of security agencies. “As you heard, Ibaka is not safe for us fishermen and people who come here for business. Sometimes we give the navy people some money for their upkeep but they cannot defend us.
“Even the pirates, some of us pay them to allow us to do our work, but they always come back to kill and sometimes take away our engines. I want the government to look into this and bring a permanent solution to this problem,” he remarked. A fish trader, Mrs. Utibe Matthew, said that she came from neighbouring community to purchase goods at Ibaka.
“I am disappointed because the quantity of crayfish and fish that is available is below what I expected. I have a stall at Akpan Andem market in Uyo, and demand is very high. Insecurity should be addressed for full-fledged economic activities to resume,” she stated in Ibibio language.”