By Our Editorial Team
The land of Cross River State is very beautiful and so is the ineffable munificence which the Creator has so graciously endowed the ethnic nationalities, tribes and people which he has created and placed there.
The many bodies of waters, lush and green forests stretching from the southern part of the state through central and some fringes of the north, the beautiful grassland of the north with its beautiful and wave-like rolling hills with their imposing figures comprising the Ukworogung, Ukwutia and Ukworotung massive hills to the Ukorshie, Ukwel-Obudu through to the Ulanga hills right to the nation’s tourism pride, the famous Obudu Ranch Resort, nature gives the landscape of the State a unique position in Nigeria.
Apart from the wonderful landscape of the state which is so blessed to possess all the prevailing climates in Nigeria, except the arid, including a temperate one found in the ranch, the various indigenous groups/natives of the area have been nationally acknowledged as the most friendly and accommodating group of persons in the country, just as they are among those with very rich culture and tradition in Nigeria.
The willingness of Cross Riverians to embrace others is unmatched, just as their rich traditional foods and recipes are noted and praised throughout the country. In fact, Ekpang Nkokwor (A kind of cocoa yam/water yam porridge with rich ingredients), Afang (African Salad), Ikong (Vegetable), groundnut and bene-seed soups among other dishes of the state are delicacies which visitors who come to the state and have a taste of any of them will keep remembering for a long time, if not a life time.
The highly secured, peaceful and beautiful environment of the state, especially Calabar the Capital city of Cross River state is what had given it the famous nick-name: “Come And Live And Be At Rest- CALABAR.
You could return from a party, club or from a journey between 1am-3am and walk home without anybody molesting you on the way, or following you to your house to point a gun at your head or chest. But all that is now history.
A rich and enviable history which those who had enjoyed those blissful days in our state till barely a year ago, will have their hearts bleed that, our children and grand-children may not after all enjoy the same peaceful state, if nothing is deliberately done to bring back those lost days.
Indeed this rich history is currently not only being threatened but on the verge of being completely swallowed up by armed robbers and the” Scolombo Boys”, a gang of armed murderous young boys and girls, who operate both day and night with impunity, political/ritual killers, kidnappers, rapists and a dangerous political environment where blackmailing/character assassination among so many other vices have become prevalent.
Several persons have lost their lives, some their valuable property and even their loved ones to these combined evils that now besieged the state, especially the state capital, Calabar.
Kidnappers and politically motivated heads hunt and ritual killings are now rampant as assailants visit schools, homes and stand by the roads side to forcefully snatch away peoples children purely for rituals or to use them to bargain for ransom from parents.
What is really happening to our state, and why have the bandits taken control of the state, and all seems to be helpless and hapless?
Recently, robbery incidents have been on the increase with many innocent persons as well as policemen killed in ensuing gun battles. Dozens of robbery incidents have been reported since the last quarter of 2014 and there is a marked increase in the trend in recent weeks.
The Speaker, Cross River House of Assembly, Hon. Larry Odey, the Peoples Democratic Party flag bearer in the Southern Senatorial District, Chief Gershom Bassey and some other persons were lucky to have escaped the assailants’ bullets, while the governor’s personal chef was not so lucky as he was brutally murdered by dare-devil gunmen in his home in Calabar.
Kidnappers/political ritual killers reportedly visited the University of Calabar staff school for the purpose of grabbing some kids, but for some vigilant persons who noticed the strange faces and alerted the school security who later put the kidnappers on their heels. Recently a 15 years old female student of Pinn Margaret Secondary School, Atakpa, Calabar South was kidnapped on her way to school and taken to Akpabuyo but was later rescued.
It is reassuring that in a recent courtesy call on the governor of the State, the Assistant Inspector General of Police, AIG in charge of Zone 6, in Calabar, Tunde Ogunsakin and the Governor himself did openly accept that there is an upsurge in the level of crime in the state.
The AIG informed the governor that he had directed the Commissioner of Police in the state to re introduce ‘Stop and Search’ operations as a measure to mop up illegal arms and check rising crime level.
While we have a full appreciation of the imperative for the re introduction of ‘Stop and Search Operations’ to curb rising crime level like the AIG said, we in CrossRiverWatch must nevertheless, caution that such stop gap measures impinge on the fundamental freedoms of citizens and are completely out of sync with modern policing particularly in a tourism hub like Calabar and must be quickly returned to the shelf once crime level subsides.
We will further challenge the Police in Cross River to rediscover what went wrong and intensify their effort in ensuring the restoration of the peace and tranquility that our state is known for.
We in CrossRiverWatch have confidence in the capacity of the Nigeria Police to curb the ugly trend in Cross River and rid the state of criminal elements and that is what the generality of the people will expect from them as we get closer to the general election.
In our opinion, we also strongly feel that the state leadership and the wealthy political class cannot extricate themselves from the rising crime level.
Most of the arms that these criminal elements wield were handed to them by the politicians to carry out political violence and the touts still enjoy protection from the powerful politicians. Again, the so-called “SCOLOMBO BOYS” and girls that are today thorns on our flesh are said to be products of some political class in the state who are allegedly using them for nefarious political activities.
The Scolombo boys nuisance which has its roots in the abandoned street kids in Calabar began festering only about three years back when relevant authorities blatantly refused to nip the influx of homeless kids into Calabar streets despite appeals from well meaning individuals, the media and civil society organizations in the state.
Interaction with these urchins has shown that most of them are not from Cross River State but from neighboring States. The state at some point threatened to ‘deport’ the homeless children to their ‘home states’ while the State Commissioner for Social Welfare, Patricia Enderly has repeatedly fronted lack of funds as the reason for government’s inability to shoulder its responsibility for the kids as enshrined in the Child Right Law. Some of the urchins are already pregnant for their fellow Scolombo boy friends’, a trend that will only continue to swell their numbers and increase the associated problems.
CrossRiverWatch therefore calls on the state government to urgently take proactive measures to bring to an end the Scolombo boys/girls threat as well as the unacceptable level of crime in the state.
The people of Cross River state and other Nigerians living and carrying out their legitimate businesses in the state deserve absolute protection both for themselves and for their families and businesses.
Let this reign of terror come to an end. This is what we demand from the government and the various security agencies; this is what Cross Riverians and other Nigerians in our state equally demand!
Surely, what is happening in our state is an aberration. It is alien to our culture, tradition and everything the people of the state are known for nationally and globally. These are certainly not in our character. Let us stop them before they destroy our values and our prime position as the number one tourism destination in Nigeria. The state government and the security agencies owe us the responsibility to ensure this and this they must do!
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