By Jonathan Ugbal
OBUDU: The Police in Obudu has arrested one Ifeanyi Ijekwu, a former staff of Lilleker Bros Nigeria Limited for stealing water installations in Obudu local government area of northern Cross River State.
Mr. Ijekwu whose residence is a two minutes walk away from the water treatment plant of the Cross River State Water Board Limited (CRSWBL) in Obudu main town, was arrested on Wednesday following a tip off.
“He is one of the many staff laid off by Lilleker in Obudu and they are the major challenge here because they know how to fix these things and remove them as well as their value,” said a government official, Emmanuel Akwagiobe.
But, the Police are yet to comment on the arrest as the Divisional Police Officer in Obudu, SP Eyu Lifu and the state command’s spokesperson, ASP Irene Ugbo did not take their calls.
The arrest followed months of surveillance after complaints by both consumers, CRSWBL and Lilleker of theft of water installations.
A search in his residence at 27, Ogoja road in Obudu revealed items and tools he had allegedly stolen and uses for stealing CrossRiverWatch gathered.
“Several items were recovered from his house and he is currently with the Police,” said the youth council President, Benedict Agba who said there is cause to believe he may be connected also to the theft of armored cables in Obudu.
Meanwhile, the seizure of armored cables gathered by youths in Obudu urban following alleged theft of the cables after a bulldozer had unearthed them is breeding controversy.
Mr. Agba told CrossRiverWatch that the youths upon noticing that some people were stealing the cables decided to gather every inch unearthed by bulldozers and other road construction machinery and keep them safe pending when the government will reinstall them.
He said the help of Tiv manual labor regarded as the cheapest was enlisted and several meters were removed with CrossRiverWatch gathering that the Obudu Urban youth President, Unimke Illeti kept in an apartment in town until Mr. Akwagiobe convened a meeting and the cables were moved to the Police station last week Friday.
Some youths accused Mr. Akwagiobe of having ulterior motives and wondered why he will request they stop removing the cables; an allegation which Mr. Akwagiobe said was false and rather a jab thrown at him for questioning the motive behind the storage of the cables in a private apartment and the fining of an armored cable thief.
He said that: “A boy was caught stealing this armored cable and he was arrested and the youths came in and asked him to pay back what the cables were worth.
“I reliably gathered that he was told to pay NGN600,000 so that they (youths) will give NGN311,000 to water board being the cost of the cable and keep the leftover.”
Mr. Akwagiobe said this angered the youths and pointed out that another boy who was accused of stealing the diesel meant to power the plants supplying power to street lights moves around with the youths to help them remove the cables, a situation he said looked phoney.
But, Mr. Agba said the boy was asked to pay NGN311,000 not NGN600,000 as Mr. Akwagiobe had said with the money to be given to the company to replace the cable.
The cables conduct electricity to the street lights and Mr. Akwagiobe said the youths cannot arrest and as well become judge, jury and executioner and called on the Police to arraign every defaulter in Court.
Mr. Agba also agrees to this.
CrossRiverWatch has reached Lilleker and the department of public utilities, Governor’s office Calabar, for comments.
CrossRiverWatch Ikwen Atuaka contributed to this report
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