The coastal communities in Oron local government area of Akwa Ibom state on Tuesday saw hundreds of men, women and youths staged a peaceful protest against incessant attacks and killings by suspected militants.
The protesters comprising boat owners, fish and crayfish sellers and fishermen said their sources of livelihood have been threatened by insecurity occasioned by the activities of gunmen in riverine areas, Thenationonline NG report.
They called on Federal and State Government to intervene on the incessant killings of boat owners suspected militants.
Some Boat Owners, Fishermen and Crayfish traders, regretted that security agents drafted to protect their waterways could not salvage the situation, even as the killings and robbery attacks worsen by the days.
A boat owner, Mr Effiong Ating, lamented the robbery attacks on our fishermen and boat drivers were alarming these days.
Ating said Sea pirates waylaid their boat drivers on the high sea, killed them even after collecting their boats from them.
“Most of us pay for the boats in installment. And you can imagine the agony we experience when the Sea pirates now waylay our boat drivers, collect the boats and even kill them.
“The situation makes me feel so sad. Even many of our people especially the youths are withdrawing from the fishing business because of the insecurity at the sea”
Addressing newsmen after the protest, the Village Head of Udua Assang community in Oron LGA, Chief Iniko Offiong, lamented the constant injustice by the militants has made it impossible for fishermen and boat owners to carry out their daily businesses.
Offiong said that the killings has been going on over the years and that the waterways was no longer safe as security agencies no longer come to their rescue.
He said that the activities of the militants have affected the economic fortunes of the residents of the fishing communities.
“The harassment on the sea as been going on for many years. We no longer have peace and we are suffering from hunger because boat owners and fishermen are scared for their lives.
“The sea pirates do collect our boat, engines and other valuables which cost millions of naira. We have tried our best to put a stop to the harassment but to no avail. Many boat owners have been killed by sea pirates.
“We have decided to call on the Federal and State Government to come to our aid. I am begging for assistance so that our waterways can be safe again. We are law abiding citizens of Nigeria, so we need the government at all levels to help us,” Offiong said.
President of Boat Owners Association, Mr Samson Oluwasegun disclosed that the militants not only killed boat owners but also kidnapped and raped women in the process.
He appealed to the security agencies posted to the affected riverine areas to set up strategic measures to ensure that the militants were caught and persecuted to serve as deterrent to others.
“The militants have always been a problem to us. They rape our women, they kill our drivers and our conductors. They steal all our goods. We do not work at night.
“We work during the day and this militants would still cross the sea and steal from us. Even during the market days, our women are scared to come out due to what is going on.
“As I am talking to you, one of our drivers was killed last night by the militants and his body is still lying at Ibaka. They collect his boat and killed him. We are crying to the nation to come to our aid, we need help.
“I am a stranger here but I am given the opportunity to be the President of Boat Owners and that is why I am calling on security agencies to do something. Our women are scared. We need joint task force to rescue our men, women and children because that is the only thing that can rescue us. It is beyond marine capacity.
“This militants came all the way from Bayelsa State and I know that some indigenes here are equally involve in carrying out this injustice. A thief can not come in without an indigenes. The waterways are not safe,” he said.
One of the protesters and a crayfish seller, Mrs Mmayen Ifiok, expressed displeasure over her inability to successfully carry out her business due to the activities of the militants.
Ifiok said “We have suffered a lot. Whenever we go to the fishing board, the militants would stop and collect our fishing boat, engine, money and every other items we use in fishing.
“That is the reason we are crying out to the governments for help by sending security agencies that would protect us at the riverine area. We are tired because many of us have been killed by the militants.