Eight pupils, who were returning from a primary school in Ikot Abia-Enyie in Nsit Atai Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State recently, drowned in Atang river.
The river is said to have partitioned Ikot Abia-Enyie village into two; with all the facilities in the area – a health centre, a primary and a secondary school, located at the other side of the river.
The chairman of the village council, Chief Etop Umanah, who conducted newsmen round the area on Friday, said the pupils drowned in the water following the downpour which led to the river overflowing its banks.
He stated that it was the custom of the village to wait for the pupils and women at the bank of the river during the schools’ closing hours whenever there was a downpour.
He noted that it was unfortunate that before the men from the village could get to the river to rescue the pupils, the water had already carried them away. He added that their corpses were recovered three days after.
He revealed that in the preceding year, three pupils and a pregnant woman died in the same river, noting that as the pupils tried to come back from school, the pregnant woman was trying to make her way back from the health centre.
“This village, Abia-Enyie, lost eight children to Atang River this year as they were returning from school following a downpour which aided the river to overflow its bank. Last year, we lost three pupils and a pregnant woman in the same manner.
“The village is one village; it is split by this river. All the facilities of this village – a health centre, a primary and a secondary school – are all sited at the other side of the river. We cannot stop the children from going to school,” he said.
The Commissioner for Rural Development, Mr. Ekong Sampson, told journalists that the Akwa Ibom State Government was ready to end not only the pupils’ death, but all the deaths associated with Atang River.
According to him, it pained the government to see Akwa Ibom children perishing in a river.
Sampson assured the people that the government would embark on remedial measures to end the carnage before work on the bridge would start.