Newly established security outfit, Ibom Community Watch (ICW), has reported the arrest of over 18 suspected criminals for alleged burglaries during the yuletide season in Uyo, the capital of Akwa Ibom State.

The SSA to the Governor on Internal Security/Waterways, “Commander” Isantim Kenneth Okon revealed that the suspects targeted shops left unattended as owners moved to the Christmas village to sell their wares. The ICW’s surveillance efforts in Uyo led to the apprehension of the suspects, who were subsequently handed over to the police for investigation.

He explained that the suspects, aware that most shop owners had locked their shops to trade at the Christmas village during the yuletide, took advantage of the situation by burgling the shops in their absence and attempting to steal the goods.

Okon elaborated that due to the ICW’s surveillance efforts at various locations in Uyo, the suspects were apprehended and promptly handed over to the police for investigation.

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He also highlighted that in 2023, unlike previous years, incidents of rape and theft in the Christmas village significantly decreased as ICW personnel assumed security responsibilities in the area, effectively deterring criminal activities. He emphasized that the agency collaborates closely with other security forces, particularly in intelligence sharing.

“During the yuletide, we used to witness cases of rape, car theft, and other crimes, especially at the Christmas village. We heard stories of how some individuals would forcibly take advantage of others. To counter this, we instructed our recruits to secure the area, and this measure has yielded significant results; we have heard fewer such incidents.”

Additionally, he noted, “ICW apprehended over 18 suspects who attempted to break into people’s stalls as individuals had moved to the Christmas village. We apprehended them and handed them over to the police for further investigation. This is purely a security matter and not a political affair.”

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He further emphasized, “When criminals strike, they do not consider political affiliations; thus, security concerns everyone.”

Acknowledging that all ICW recruits would undergo profiling, Okon urged the public to dispel any notions of political bias within the organization and to recognize that the recruits are not affiliated with cultist groups. He stressed that the outfit is purely focused on security and encouraged everyone to participate in security matters.

In response to concerns about political affiliations and the nature of the recruits, Okon stressed that the ICW is solely focused on security matters and encouraged community involvement in safeguarding the area.

Meanwhile, the Director of the Centre for Human Rights & Accountability Network (CHRAN), Otuekong Franklyn Isong, commended the state government for enacting laws to address internal security issues. Isong urged the ICW to address various security threats, including vandalism, cultism, and trafficking, and emphasized the need for ongoing training of recruits. Additionally, he called for the establishment of a human rights desk to address public complaints and suggested extending the agency’s presence to university campuses and addressing agricultural issues related to cattle rearers.

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Isong also appealed to the governor to provide additional resources, including more gunboats, to enhance maritime security and to consider establishing a cattle ranch to address open grazing concerns. Finally, he affirmed CHRAN’s commitment to oversight the activities of the security agency in ensuring diligence and effectiveness.