Community turns ghost town as police arrest 40 youths for setting woman ablaze
The Netim community in Akamkpa Local Government Area of Cross River State has reportedly turned into a ghost town following the arrest of no fewer than 40 youths in the community in connection with the death of a mother of four, Mrs. Martina Okey.
According to the community head, Ntufam Augustine Orok, the woman was set ablaze by the unruly youths in July over purported witchcraft.
Orok said that in April, suspected gangsters, without proof, accused the late Okey of killing a certain youth.
He said in June again, the youths after accusing the woman of killing two youths in an accident through witchcraft, dragged her out of her house and burnt her to death.
But since the incident happened, the clan head said the police have been on the trail of the community youths and have arrested about 40 of them, a development he said has forced others to flee the community.
He said: “There are reports on social media that the murder of Mrs. Martina Okey was done by the entire youths of Old Netim community, which is a wrong conclusion.
“When the incident happened, some of our youths were in their farms, several were even in Calabar, and some of them in neighbouring villages far away from here, so the claim that all the Old Netim youths participated in the killing is not true.
“It is the young men that go to the farm but with all of them clamped into detention, there is hardly enough food to eat in the past month.
“We produce garri, plantain, okra, vegetable and palm oil, and traders as far as from Akwa Ibom State usually come here to buy those items. Through that, we make money to pay our children’s school fees and buy drugs, but because of that, they no longer come.
The clan head disclosed that following the negative publicity, traders who usually thronged the community to buy foodstuff stopped coming.
“Under our watch, the Old Netim community will continue to partner with Cross River State Government to maintain peace, which is the bedrock of development, and we pledge our unalloyed loyalty and support to Prince Bassey Otu government,” he said.
Secretary of the Old Netim Clan Council, Ntufam Linu Mbey, said recalcitrant youths against the development of the community killed the woman.
“They carried out the act so as to give our community a bad image, and unfortunately, the police are not restricting arrests to just the culprits but every youth in the community, which is the reason we are crying out, and calling on the authorities to carry out investigation and release our youths who are innocent.
“Most of those who carried out the act have escaped but the police are arresting our youths, who are innocent. The release of the youths is imperative because of the hardship the innocent families are passing through. Old Netim, the hub of business in Akamkpa Local Government Area, known for its peaceful nature, is now desolate.”
The chiefs and elders of the community appealed to the Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Zone 6, and the State Commissioner of Police to release the youths in their custody and go after the real perpetrators of the act, who are now at large.
They promised to cooperate with the police to track down the real culprits.
The Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, Cross River Police Command, Ms. Irene Ugbo, said the matter was still under investigation.