Mysterious Deaths At A’Ibom River - Villagers Worry

Residents of Ikot-Abia Enyie community, Nsit-Atai Local Government Area, Akwa Ibom State, have expressed outrage over what they described as “sacrile-gious deaths and heart-rending calamities” in the community in recent time because of the overflow of River Atang. Chair, Ikot-Abia Enyie Village Council, Chief Etop Umanah, who spoke on behalf of the villagers, said that eight primary school children returning from school drown-ed in the river, penultimate week.

The people, who have been thrown into uncontrollable mourning since the incident appealed to the state government to provide a permanent solution to the yearly catastrophe by sand-filling the river bank or putting barbed wired fence round the river.

The river is located in the middle of the community, but public utilities such as health centre, primary and secondary schools in the town are located on the side of the river, while residential houses are mostly on the opposite side.

11 children, pregnant women perish

Chief Umanah bemoaned that apart from the eight primary school children who perished recently, the people mourn every year the loss children and pregnant women to the river. He said the pupils drowned following the heavy downpour that led to overflow of the riverbank.

According to him, the youths of the village usually wait to assist the pupils and women at the bank of the river during the schools’ closing hours whenever there was downpour, but on this ill-fated day, before they could get there to rescue the pupils, the water had already swept them away.

Umanah recalled with nostalgia that in the preceding year, three pupils returning from school and a pregnant woman, who was returning from a health centre perished in the same river.

His words, “The River is in the middle of the village, all the facilities of this village – a health centre, primary and secondary schools are all sited at the other side of the river while most of the villagers live in one side.”

“Since we cannot stop the children from going to school, we usually position some youths at strategic points to assist them and the pregnant women to cross over to this side whenever it rains, but unfortunately on this day, before they got there, the children had drowned,” he said.

Govt to take remedial measures

Reacting to the tragedy, the Commissioner for Rural Development, Mr. Ekong Sampson, assured that the Akwa-Ibom State government would do something to put an end to the calamities caused by overflow of Atang River.

According to the commissioner, it was painful to the government to see Akwa-Ibom children perish in this manner. He assured that government would evolve remedial measures to end the carnage before starting and ending work on the bridge.

In his words, “That is why I have chosen to come here by myself; I am really touched by what I have seen. We will make every effort to bring infrastructure to this community and every other rural space in the state. Our approach is to go there and see things by ourselves in order to have a first-hand purview of their problems.

“The state government is committed to transforming our rural space because we all come from villages. The state government is committed to recreating the villages; we are committed to making lives better for those who live in our villages. We shall give government an update about what we have seen here,” he asserted. (Vanguard)
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