How Messa Military Base in Ikom is terrorizing the residents

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When there is a military base in a community in Nigeria, the residents and business owners feel safe and secure, but, in Cross river state, residents closed to Mesa camp in Ikom wish for their nightmare to end.

The sub-military base, located 3 minutes from the market, is for the highest bidder to terrorize the community residents. Anyone who dares to challenge them is beaten to a stupor without repercussion.

Note kept by Nicholas to remind himself after he was slapped by the soldiers from Messa Military base in February
Note kept by Nicholas to remind himself after he was slapped by the soldiers in February

Edeh Chidubem Nicholas manages a phone shop, Cee Edison phone, at Mile 2 by Okrika Market and has had several encounters with the soldiers.

In February 2022, the soldiers, led by one of the officers known as James, but fondly called "Fire", were hired by an aggrieved customer to teach the staff "a lesson" and stormed the shop.

What happened?

A female customer had bought a Techno Pop 5 phone but later returned it, citing a fault and demanded a replacement.

Nicholas told Standard Gazette, "we collected the phone to send the phone to techno Carlcare so they can rectify the fault, and we gave her a time frame (two weeks) to return for her phone.

"Two weeks on, the phone wasn't back yet; we pleaded with her and her dad for one more week. On 21 February 2022, exactly two weeks and three days since the customer returned the phone, some army men from Messa camp came in with the customer and kidnapped my staff, beating and locking him inside their car trunks."

Nicholas summoned the courage and went to the military base to release his staff. He saw what he described as "filthy". His staff, Prince Phil, had been subjected to inhumane treatment. "He had been stripped naked with just his boxers on," the office manager detailed the ordeal to SG.

"They had beaten him with a cutlass, forced him to roll inside dirty muddy water, and that changed the colour of his skin, bruised and swollen eye," Nicholas said, "the staff was exhausted and felt defeated."

The officer in charge told Nicholas that the girl's father had reported the case to the camp. Nicholas calmly informed the thuggery military men that they had taken his staff, leaving three customers unattended. He expressed concern about what could have happened if the customers had decided to steal as no one was available.

"One of the army men that came to the office with them stood up and slapped me. The slap was second to none," Nicholas said.

This time, his phone had been seized, and the "thugs in military uniform" demanded that he pay N40,000 - N20,000 each to bail himself and Prince Phil.

"I later managed to contact one of the senior officers at the barrack, who called them to let us go."

Angry Nicholas then sent a series of tweets to the military handle explaining his ordeal but never had a response.

Prince Phil told Standard Gazette, "The soldiers dragged me on my belt as if I had stolen something. I was just a sales attendant, but that didn't matter. They took me inside the car boot and drove me to Messa camp."

"They didn't ask me what happened, I was not given a chance to explain, but they dragged me like a common criminal. In their office, their boss asked me, and I explained. Their boss said I wasn't responsible because the manager should be responsible," Phil, who is now in his one-year compulsory service - National Youth Service Corps, told our journalist.

"I was seriously ill because I was beaten with machetes. I was ill for three days," Phil sadly disclosed.

The Thugs strike again:

On Friday evening, two residents were on their way home from work and ran into the draconian soldiers.

Divine Isaac, 21, and her friend, Precious, 20, work at the same Cee Edison Phone. They ran into the soldiers at 6.40 on 12 August 2022 and had bruises to tell their stories.

Divine and Precious back after they were flogged by irating soldiers yesterday from Messa Military base
Divine and Precious back after they were flogged by irate soldiers from Messa Military base on Friday 12 August 2022

The duo met a man by the roadside on a motorbike, flashing his light toward upcoming road users. "We thought about crossing to the other side of the road, but there was a vehicle coming behind us, so we just maintained our lane, working towards the man; we got to where he was and standing next to him, I told him to please dim his light and then passed," Divine narrated.

That was another mistake. The Messa soldiers hate to be corrected. Divine's action had infuriated the soldier, who immediately "walked towards us and told us his boss was calling me and I went with him, then I noticed he was military personnel.

"They asked us if we were the only persons passing along the lane for us to tell him to dim his light. Before I could explain, the boy with him slapped me and ordered the other boy to take us inside the market park and immediately seized our phones."

The thuggery soldiers ordered their victims to run while the soldiers slapped and beat them "like criminals," "When we got inside the market, they asked us to sit on wet ground, flashing lights on our faces and asking me who my dad is and what gave me the courage to tell him to dim his light and dared us to call whoever we wished to call," Devine told this reporter.

The duo was released from their nightmare after Divine sighted a familiar face, one of the officers who called his colleague to the side before they were allowed to leave.

The lack of repercussion has fueled the continuous attacks on the residents of Ikom as top military officers turned blind eyes to the atrocities of their officers.

Precious, 20, told The Gazette, "It was so shameful, and I felt really bad yesterday."

Nicholas still remembers his ordeal. The assault has left a mark and a motivation to be rich and powerful in Nigeria.

The office manager "felt sad, powerless and disappointed in my country, Nigeria." "I wrote something down after I was slapped twice. It is in my file now to serve as a motivation to make money and be powerful and influential. I was trained to turn setbacks and problems into motivation.

Many Nicholas, Phil, Divine and Precious in Ikom had to endure the pains caused by those in the position to protect them.

Messa camp has remained a terrorist ground, with powerful over-zealous officers and blind and deaf senior military officers who turn bad days into nightmares.

In October 2021, residents of Nde Community in Ikom Local Government Area were brutalized by soldiers from 245 Recce Battalion, Afi Barracks and Ikom Local Government Area.

The attack prompted residents and monarchs to seek protection from the state government. Their offence was that they protested the eviction of Fulani herdsmen from their communities after many of their farmlands and crops were destroyed.

In what seems to be a pattern, a resident claimed the soldiers allegedly attacked, flogged and brutalized about 10 youths, leaving them severely injured.

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