By Akanimo Sampson
In Akwa Ibom State, one of the big oil and gas states in Nigeria, with a profile of more than N7 billion internally generated revenue as at the first quarter of 2018, there is a community in Etinan local government area where school pupils are daily exposed to risk in their frantic bid to access basic education.
Following the recommendations of the Akilu Commission of Inquiry into the administrative structure of the then South Eastern State, Etinan local government area was created in 1976 out of the defunct Uyo Division with Etinan as its headquarters. The area is generally known for her agricultural and arts craft products, and forms one of the most peaceful locations in the country.
Etinan is also home to the famous Peacock Paints Industries and NIFOR zonal office, and within the local government area, is the village of Mbioto, hometown of the late state governor Obong Akpan Isemin and the village of Ikot Udo Abia, which was part of the route of the African slave trade.
Disturbingly, school children from four years old are daily exposed to harsh weather condition as they walk through swamps, get drenched before crossing a fishing settlement to where they acquire education.They suffer the risk of drowning in rickety boats across the rive
Two children were said to have been rescued when a boat mishap happened a fortnight ago leaving them severely injured, after being rescued by a skilled swimmer.
The Ikot Mfon/Ndiya River serves as the boundary between the two communities. It is where a popular Catholic Missionary identified as Rev. Father Fintan drowned while spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ as far back as the late 1800s. His tombstone stands on the river bank.
The children attend Goodnews International Nursery School, Ndiya Usung Inyang; Qua-Iboe Church Central School, Ndiya and Comprehensive Secondary School, Ndiya. But, the only educational institution available in Ikot Mfon community is the St. Francis Catholic Primary School.
Ikot Mfon is in Ward 2 of Etinan local government area. The rustic community has no social amenities like electricity and motorable roads. Since the community is cut off from the conjoined Ndiya community of Nsit Ubium local government area, she has no attraction to her local market, where petty traders gather to sell their wares.
The Village Head of the obviously neglected Ikot Mfon, Eteidung Oscar Ekanem, said “We don’t have government attention here. They only come here when they need our votes. But after every election, they would leave us and run back to Uyo, the state capital.’’
Ekanem lamented that “That river has consumed many persons. The whole of this Ward II does not have electricity. When they brought electricity here, we were crying daily because of our children. Please, tell the government to come to our aid.’’
Parents and guardians of the school children daily cough up N100, the transport fare needed to enable their wards individually to cross the river to acquire education.
Consequently, the deprived community is appealing to their Etinan State Constituency in the state House of Assembly, Aniefiok Dennis, a lawyer by profession, the local government Chairman, Cletus Ekpo, and well-meaning sons and daughters of Etinan to passionately rise to their need of development.
For those who know better, Etinan is mainly inhabited by the Iman Ibom people who are characteristically industrious and intelligent. They generally speak Ibibio language and have a rich cultural heritage. Some of the cultural societies found here are Ekpo, Ekong, Ebre and Idiong.
A greater percentage of the people are Christians though there are some forms of African traditional religion practised by few people. Their culture is reflected and displayed through dances, arts, and crafts. The main occupation of the people centres on farming and petty trading. Crops cultivated include yams, cassava, cocoyam and maize.
While small-scale manufacturing is also being carried out by the people, a number of them equally engage in palm-wine tapping, crafts-making, wood-carving, sculpture and baking.