Weekends in Ikom village, Ikom Local Government Area of Cross River State, are always busy with fishing, the major occupation of the villagers. It was not different penultimate Sunday as the villagers trooped to the river. Many were fishing. Some came to swim; others to wash their clothes.
In the throng were some Corps members, who chose to play handball at the bank of the river. But, a few minutes into the game, one of them got drowned in the river.
Onlookers wondered how the late Faith Nzube Enemuo got into the river. Initially, it was learnt that the Corps members were playing on the shore. CAMPUSLIFE gathered that one of them pleaded with his colleagues to move the game into the river.
“There were about 10 of them, who came to play handball on the dry land near the Ikom River. One of them suggested that they should move closer to the river, but the suggestion was opposed by other Corps members, including the late Faith,” a villager told CAMPUSLIFE.
But when her colleagues moved the game close to the river, the late Faith was said to have joined them reluctantly.
The ball fell into the river, an eyewitness said, and the late Faith offered to fetch the ball, which was moving faster away from the shoreline.
“The late Faith stood close to the river for a few seconds, after which she dived to bring the ball out. Her colleagues watched in excitement as she swam close to the ball. But, in a moment, she stopped and started waving her hands. They thought she was still playing, until they didn’t see her again on the water surface.”
When her colleagues realised what was happening, they signalled to the villagers, who were swimming in the river. After 10 minutes of frantic search, the rescuers could not find the girl. More villagers offered to help with canoes and fishing instruments, but they could not get her.
Two days later, the late Faith’s body was found on the Okuni Beach in the neighbouring village.
The other Corps members declined to speak with our correspondents when contacted.
The late Faith was a Batch “C” member of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) with state code number CR/12C/068.
She hailed from Nanka Village in Anambra State. A graduate of Social Studies from the University of Abuja (UNIABUJA), the late Faith was serving at Ikom Local Council before her death.
When CAMPUSLIFE got to Okuni Village, her body had already been evacuated from the beach and deposited at Emeka Mortuary, by Corps members with the help of policemen.
President of Okuni Community Youth Mr Emmanuel Nsor Alobi narrated how the villagers discovered the body. He said: “We were contacted on Sunday by the Divisional Police Officer that a girl got drowned in Ikom River. He urged us to keep vigilance at the river to observe possible passage of the body on Okuni Beach. I sent the information to other villagers to look out for the body.”
Alobi said the body was discovered at Okuni Beach in the early hours of Tuesday by an excavator, whose name was given as Pius Ogbonnaya. “He saw the body floating on the beach of Okuni while he was going for his business. Pius called my attention and he immediately notified the DPO for further actions. But before the police and officials of NYSC in Ikom arrived, other youths had assisted Pius to bring out the decomposing body,” Alobi said.
The Ikom Local Government Inspector of NYSC, Mr Ekerette Judah Udoekpo, said he was awaiting directive from the zonal inspector on what to do next.
The Corps’ Liaison Officer (CLO) in the local government, Danjuma Zira Khaly, said the incident was sad, confirming that 10 Corps members went to play handball at the Ikom River. He described Faith’s death as a “big loss to the NYSC in Cross River State.”
It is being rumoured that the late Faith was pushed into the river by yet unidentified person but a villager, who pleaded anonymity, debunked the claim. He said: “I was there when the incident happened. I don’t see any reason someone should lie about the issue. If anyone pushed her into the river, the first thing the people around would have done would be to hold the person. But she jumped into the river willingly to bring out the ball she was playing with her colleagues.”
A Corps member, who went to play at the river, Ifeanyi Gidofot, declined to speak with CAMPUSLIFE when contacted.
He said he had been under pressure to give out information since the incident occurred, saying he would not comment on it further.
The Police Public Relations Officer, Cross River State Command, John Umoh, said autopsy had been conducted on the body.