Death of six pupils sparks off protest in Akwa Ibom

Scores of youths in Eket, Akwa Ibom State, rampaged through the town on Wednesday to protest the death of six pupils in a fatal road accident.

The deceased were pupils of Kingdom Heritage Nursery and Primary School, Eket.
Eyewitnesses said the pupils, whose identities could not be ascertained, met their untimely deaths when their school vehicle fell into a ditch on Eket-Ibeno Road, last month.

They said before the school driver lost control of the vehicle, he tried in vain to dodge many bad spots on the road.

The eyewitnesses said apart from those who died on the spot, other undisclosed number of pupils sustained severe injuries and were rushed to a nearby hospital.

It was learnt that the deaths of the pupils sparked off Wednesday's protest as youths felt the pupils would have lived if the road was in good order.

One of the protesters, who craved anonymity, said because of the dilapidation of the Eket-Ibeno road, many road mishaps had taken place there.

He said the road had paved the way for frequent cases of kidnapping, armed robberies, as criminals usually capitalised on the bad road to waylay innocent road users and residents.

He said due to the situation of the road, youths in the area had given the relevant authorities several ultimatums to rehabilitate the road.

He said unfortunately, their appeals and threats to the authorities and major stakeholders had always been ignored.

Youth President, Afaha Eket, Mr. Emmanuel Sakey, lamented the poor state of the road, saying the bad roads claimed the lives of those "innocent" children.

He said the communities had been experiencing accidents on many roads in the areas on a daily basis, saying that many pregnant women had had miscarriages.

"Why we are demonstrating this morning is because of the way government is treating us. If you look between Eket and Ibeno, you will see that we don't have road here. For a number of years, we have been suffering from this road and many other roads in this area.

"We have lost many school children to accidents apart from the six which happened recently. There have been frequent cases of kidnapping, armed robberies and more as the hoodlums seize the opportunity to lie in wait for road users.

"We are aware that an oil firm had paid for the construction of the road, but it is still a deathtrap."
Eket community leader, Mr. Nsini Eduok, said he woke up in the morning to see youths block the road.
He said he did not see anything wrong with the youths' action, insisting that if the right thing had been done, the accident, which triggered their protests, would not have occurred.

He claimed the community had complained to state government and other bodies about the deplorable state of the road but they had kept adamant.

He said, "I have just been informed that the youths are protesting against the bad roads leading to where the resources of this country come from. The condition of this road is worse than any other roads in the country.
"The rehabilitation of the road was given to FCC Nigeria Limited but we were told the government asked them to stop. Why they did that, we cannot actually say.

"Since then we have not seen any sign that this road is going to be done.

Police Public Relations Officer, Akwa Ibom Police Command, Dickson Etim, said it was only one pupil out of eight that were in the school bus that died, against six as given by the protesters.

He added that seven others sustained different degrees of injuries, stressing that the accident occurred when the children were going to school.

"When I heard of the accident, I called the DPO in the area and he confirmed to me that it was only one person that died against six given by the protesters," Etim said.

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