Udeme Utip – Uyo
BUSINESS operators at the Oron Beach Market, which is obviously the main economic nerve centre of Oron nation have, for the past two weeks, been languishing in agony following the continued closure of the water ways and beach market by men of the Nigeria Navy due to the activities of sea pirates.
Visit to the beach by InsideNigerDelta revealed that the open stalls at the beach, which were hitherto occupied by the traders, have been deserted and few of the traders were seen displaying their wares including fish, crayfish and other goods on the dusty streets of Oron beach road.
It was also observed that boats did not berth at the beach on the orders of the Navy officials posted to the Oron water ways.
The family head of Idua Asang, in Oron where the beach market is located, Obong Edet Okon Ekpong, who narrated the ordeal of the people to InsideNigerDelta, said the military and civil authorities were taking the people of Oron nation for granted by occupying their area for over two weeks without any explanation.
The chief, who said the community had taken steps to report the illegal occupation to the police authorities; Naval Base at Ibaka and Department of State Security, warned that if the occupation continued, the people might be forced to fight back.
‚ÄúWe have gone with the chairman of Oron Local Government Area, Mr Omar Esin, to the Police, Navy and SSS officials, but from what I can see, they are not ready to do anything about the situation. Both the Navy and our politicians are not willing to take steps to deal with the real issues; rather, they are punishing us‚Äù he explained.
According to him, the occupation of Oron waters by the Navy began on the 9th of September after a Navy official, travelling from Oron to Calabar by boat, was attacked and probably killed by pirates.
‚ÄúI was in my house that morning when we learnt that the pirates attacked the boat conveying the Navy official and took him away. I don‚Äôt know if he was killed, but the driver of the boat jumped into the water and escaped. Since then, we have not known peace‚Äù, Ekpong stated.
He, however, expressed regret that indigenes of the area, for the past two years, had suffered severe losses as a result of pirate attacks and nothing has ever been done by the police, Navy and SSS sent to protect the water.
‚ÄúIn the past two years I have witnessed a lot of attacks by pirates. Our people have lost their lives and property as a result of each attack. In one incident, a woman, who wanted to protect her money, put it inside her child‚Äôs napkin while travelling and as the pirates met them, they found the money there, they took the money and threw the child into the ocean and he drowned.
A man in the boat, who hadn‚Äôt money, had his wrist down to the fingers severed by the pirates. On many occasions, our people, who jumped into the river trying to escape from the pirates and were unable to swim consequently getting drowned. No military or Navy personnel did anything about it‚Äù he lamented.
Ekpong stance in the matter is that the Navy and Military officials should go after the pirates who abducted one of their officers and leave the traders to do their businesses since it was their turn to face the music.
‚ÄúWe cannot be made to suffer for the failures of the security agencies. This beach is the only source of livelihood of our people. So, we challenge the Navy to go and arrest the pirates and allow us do our businesses in peace. When our people were killed, nobody did anything about it‚Äù, he lamented.
Traders in the market, who spoke to InsideNigerDelta on condition of anonymity, noted with regret the attack of the pirates, saying they had lost millions of naira as a result.
‚ÄúIn the past two years, there have been coordinated attacks by the pirates on our lives.
‚ÄúThere is no bank at this fishing port, so we carry cash. Each time our traders are travelling, they attack and take the entire money, running into several millions of naira. Also, once they find a boat that has just been acquired worth not less than N3 million, they throw everyone occupying it into the river and take away the boat.
‚ÄúSo, this is how we have been losing lives and money. We took our complaints to the military officials, the Army sent its men to help us, but the Navy people did not allow them to operate saying the water belongs to them. So, we‚Äôve continued to suffer and this time it has affected Navy‚Äù, one of the traders stated.
The traders alleged that after the attack on the boat conveying the Naval officer, who was abducted, Navy officials in their numbers invaded the market and disrupted all forms of businesses in the market and at the beach.
As a result of the closure of the beach by the Navy, the traders said boats could not berth in Oron and when two boats decided to berth at Okobo, the pirates attacked, stole everything and threw the occupants of the boat into the ocean.
The traders urged government not to ignore the activities of pirates in the area reasoning that they had stolen so much money and could use that to acquire ammunitions to attack the country.
When contacted, the Commander in-charge of Information, NNS Jubilee, Ikot Abasi, directed InsideNigerDelta to another officer in Calabar who could not be reached on telephone.
Also, all attempts to get the Oron council head for his reactions proved abortive as he was not in the office when InsideNigerDelta visited and repeated calls to his mobile phone were unattended to.