Three secondary school students, two boys and one girl, drowned in Ibeno beach at Mkpanak community, Ibeno Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State on Saturday.
The victims said to be from Upenekang community in Ibeno Local Government Area, were students of Ibeno Grammar School.
An eyewitness, Mr. Asuquo Isangdighe, a photographer, said the victims had engaged in a road walk after which they dived into the river to have their bath.
Task Force Chairman of the beach Mr Samuel Christopher, who confirmed the incident said the students were returning from a cross country exercise
“The students that drowned were part of a team of students who went on road walk in the early hours of the morning. While some of them went home, others went to the beach to swim because I saw them with flags. I suspect the victims entered the water hoping they were safe. Unfortunately, even when you know how to swim, the water is not safe, especially when you venture into the dangerous spots in the water and by the beach. The high tide brought back the corpse of the girl about three hours later; while those of the two boys were returned on Sunday. The corpses have been buried by the water side by the families of the deceased according to tradition.”
Mr. David Akpakop, an indigene of Mkpanak, said that the incident was unfortunate and a sad development for the community. He, however, said people do not want to learn, wondering why the victims would endanger their lives by swimming in the beach.
“For now, the beach is not fit for swimming and on no circumstances should anybody swim,’’ he said.
He urged the local council chairman to collaborate with the state government to set up a task force to stop people from swimming at the beach. He also advised the state to set up a rescue team to save people from drowning at the beach.
The Ibeno Beach Management Chairman, Mr. Peter Akpan, expressed displeasure at the incident, saying he was not around when the incident happened.
“We don’t want this to happen to us again. We want government to be to come to our aid and invest in the beach to make it a proper tourist centre.
On what is being done to curb the incessant incidence of deaths at the beach, Akpan said:
“We have signboards at the entrance of the beach and in the beach, which reads that Ibeno beach is not safe for swimming. We have advocated that Ibeno beach is an ocean that is not fit for swimming,”
He also called on state government, stakeholders, spirited individuals, to provide life jackets in the beach in order to prevent people from drowning.
When contacted, the Akwa Ibom Police Public Relations Officer, SP Odiko MacDon, said he has not been informed about the incident. He however promised to confirm the incident as soon as he is briefed.