As the sun began to lose its optimism after a long sunny day, residents of Usan Atang in Obot Akara Local Government of Akwa Ibom State began to feel the comfort of cooler weather.
Emmanuel Adeneye, who has been nicknamed the Okocha of Usan Atang, a community in Obot Akara, sits in front of his phone charging shop.
Emmanuel would have loved to better his talent, but Obot Akara has no single sports centre that encourages residents to participate in sports despite the funds budgeted for the construction of a sports centre recently.
“We don’t have a good pitch when it comes to sport, we don’t even have anything in this local government that is related to sports. There is nothing like pitch here, we only do local football,” Mr Emmanuel told UDEME.
In order to provide a sporting environment for the people of Obot Akara, just like some other Local Government in Akwa Ibom state, the government in 2022 budgeted N 200m for the construction of a sporting centre in the Local Government. The project is aimed at engaging the youths and eradicating the growing and disturbing crimes facing members of the community and its neighbouring communities.
However, after observing the site, UDEME observed that the project had not been completed. Attempts to get the actual amount released for the project proved abortive after an FOI (Freedom of Information) request to the Akwa Ibom State Accountant-General on the 8th of August 2023 was not replied to as of the time of writing this report.
Despite the unaccounted millions budgeted to engage the youths in Obot Akara, many have deserted the Local Government, while others take turns in criminal activities.
Sporting Centre, the Antidote to crime in Obot Akara.
Obot Akara has become a nest for all kinds of crimes in Akwa Ibom. In general, Akwa Ibom state ranks the most dangerous state within the Niger Delta region according to a report from the ICIR .
Residents say youth who engaged in crimes would have excelled in sporting activities had there been facilities.
Mr. Ubong Itorobong, the youth leader of Mbiaso Community in Obot Akara informed UDEME that the majority of the criminals in Obot Akara are the youths who have nothing to do and have been left idle.
“Very young good looking men have gone into robbery, disturbing the peace of the community, that’s because they are idle and don’t have anything to keep them engaged” The youth leader, who looked really concerned, over the rising issues in the community said and continued ;
“If only we had better sporting equipment’s in this local government, it would have eradicated some crimes, but now, young men who should be engaged in things meaningful join cult and engage in stealing” He concluded
Meanwhile, in 2018, when the crime rate and rape cases at Obot Akara became rampant, community members stood up to the criminals.
Mr. John Ubong, another youth in Obot Akara told UDEME that despite the fact that the community is still living as though nothing happened as far back as 2018, everyone still knows that soon, with the increase of crime, the communities will face the same fate again if nothing internally and lasting is done to remedy crime.
If not robbery, then rape
Obot Akara is a Local Government area where the female gender are not allowed to stroll around the community at night and they are discouraged from coming out early. This is because of the rampant rape cases recorded.
Miss Utiebeabasi Eyang, a secondary school student in her SS 3 who wishes to leave Obot Akara after her secondary school education told UDEME that the issue of rape has become a normal incidence in the communities. Although Miss Utiebeabasi informed UDEME that she had not been raped, she described her fear whenever the news of rape is announced
“Raping became very simple, in fact, they do it on a daily basis, girls are scared in this community, we no longer ask who hasn’t been raped, but seek to protect every girl” she said with timidity written all over her face.
Lack of Sports facilities sacks old community habits
Some years ago when the little facilities in primary schools were still conducive for players, Obot Akara Local Government had unity games which featured both the young and aged. In the unity game, the elderly united with other elderly to play amongst themselves, but now, with the absence of sporting equipment in Obot Akara, the community members live in isolation. No one cares for anyone anymore.
Due to the growing importance of sports in rural development, sports have been included in the 2030 global agenda for development. The United Nations, while addressing the importance of Sports on rural unity, integration and development, stated that Sports has become one of the cheapest means of achieving unity, and peace within a community.
The construction of Obot Akara Sports Center project was nominated during the Udom Emmanuel governorship administration; however, the former governor of Akwa Ibom state despite completing the Uyo Township Stadium and Eket Stadium left the Obot Akara Sports Center uncompleted.
An official of the state government who introduced himself as the Public Relations Officer to the Akwa Ibom state Ministry of Youth and Sports but insisted on remaining unmentioned, told UDEME that the government hasn’t released funds for the project.
“It has not been implemented, and that is it, money has not been released for the project and that is why it has not been implemented” she said.
This report was produced under the UDEME project of the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID).