Several small and big businesses in Eket, Akwa Ibom State are closing down their operations due to increasing insecurity in the area, according to the chairman, Eket Business Forum (EBF), Chief Dominion Akpan.

Akpan, who disclosed this on Monday, said the recent abduction of ExxonMobil workers, incessant cultism, protests and other security concerns had made Akwa Ibom’s second largest city no longer conducive for business.

According to Akpan, “In July, the police had to rescue 19 ExxonMobil staff who were travelling from Port Harcourt for a crew change of duty at Qua Iboe Terminal. The abduction of the workers is very worrisome because it was said to have the blessing of some community leaders in the area. The suspected kidnappers reportedly draped sacks over their victims’ heads as they took them to their hideout but were rescued by the police.

“Cultism is also a huge blight on Eket. Eket, which has significant presence of workers of ExxonMobil, is among the four local government areas mostly affected by perennial cult-killings and related violence in the state.

“In June, three people were killed by cultists in the area. A contract worker with Mobil was among those killed. He was reportedly shot in the head at close range while drinking at a pub, somewhere in the city.”

He said the cultists had also been terrorising businesses and residents of the area before 20 of them were arrested recently.

“Also earlier this year, youths under the aegis of Nigeria Youth Initiative Forum (NYIF) in Akwa Ibom State threatened ExxonMobil demanding the employment of youths within the catchment area in contracting firms under the management of the multinational company or suffer disruption of their activities.

“The youths threatened to barricade the Qua Iboe Terminal road and the Mobil airstrip should the company ignore their demand,” he said.

The Eket Business Forum Chairman said many businesses were moving out of Eket to other parts of the state and in some cases, to other parts of the country.

He said many workers were also becoming jittery of moving around the community, while expatriates had to be heavily guarded by security operatives while commuting in the area.