About five persons are said to have lost their lives this month at a diversion by Ikot Ebak village in Mkpat Enin local government council in Akwa Ibom due to the activities of criminals.
Investigation by The Lens online, revealed that the criminals are lurking around a road diversion on the dilapidated Abak-Ekparakwa-Ikot Abasi federal highway.
The road was diverted following the ongoing excavation of soil on a 200m stretch by the contractor handling the rehabilitation of the highway, China Civil Engineering Construction Company, CCECC.
According to residents of the area in question, the gangsters have resorted to robbing and kidnapping unsuspecting commuters that thoroughfares Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Cross River axis of the region.
The absence of security officers at the bushy diversion according to them encourages this pastime as the narrow community road which would have served as alternative route for motorists is in a deplorable state due to the sudden increase in vehicular traffic.
Inhabitants of the area who have been complaining about the activities of these criminals told The Lens correspondent that hundreds of unsuspecting commuters have fallen prey to their antics because of ignorance of the terrain which is exploited by the criminals.
They cited an incident where a kidnap victim who recognised one of his abductors was killed after the sum of N200,000 was allegedly collected from him.
Again, they said two other abducted commuters were killed by their abductors on Thursday last week because abductees could not part with an undisclosed sum of money demanded by the hoodlums.
They have also complained about the timing of the excavation work by the contractor because of the rain. Engaging in road construction and excavation during the rainy season in their estimation would make the work more tasking and taking longer period to finish.
Residents harped on the need for adequate information as well as deployment of security personnel to the diversion point. In addition, they called for a more motorable diversion or alternative road to allow unhindered flow of traffic.
Already some drivers on that route have resorted to using the longer but safer Etinan-Onna-Ikot Akpaden road as they could no longer guarantee the safety of their passengers on the Abak-Ikot Abasi route.
The state Police Public Relations Officer, MacDon Odiko did not confirm the deaths saying that such report is yet to reach the Command.
The Federal Comptroller of Works in the state Engr. Nkereuwem Ukpong after several unanswered calls to ascertain the progress and schedule of work on the road, merely replied to a text message that, “I am just from the site, the contractor is working.”
The poor state of the Abak-Ikparakwa-Ikot Abasi highway would continue to compound the woes of commuters connecting Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River states just as the Calabar-Itu highway, another federal road passing through Akwa Ibom and Cross River.
Also, with no concrete assurance from the Federal Government and the Police on plans to either conclude rehabilitation works soon or provide a functional diversion and secure it, the hope of commuters for respite on the section of the road is remote.