From Kanay Jubal
Stranger things may have happened, they say, but the discovery of the corpses of eight Cameroonian refugees in their Calabar Road home in Ikom, a suburb of Cross River State, on Saturday, July 25, 2018, shook the town, struck fear into the hearts of refugees and set tongues in the unassuming town wagging.
According to very reliable sources, even though the corpses were discovered on the said date, it is understood that they had been dead for about three days or so.
Even more heart-breaking is the fact that the dead included a grandmother, her daughter, an infant, a toddler, another daughter (who was pregnant) and three teenagers.
The father of the babies, who lives in Danare, a village in the hinterland from where he could easily return to Cameroon who was in tears, told Neptune Prime that he did not hear of the deaths, until someone came on bike back to inform him, because there is no network in the locale where he resides.
According to the father, who gave his name as Atim, the deceased included Excellence Atim, Rejoice Atim, Ntah Patricia, Ntah Oyong, Ntah Agnes (pregnant), Confidence Eban, Ntah Sophina and Ntah Elizabeth (grandmother).
Ikom is a border town in Cross River and is quite easy to access for Cameroonians who are fleeing the violence in the southern part of their country and for Nigerians who wish to go over the boundary to do brisk business.
When Neptune Prime visited the scene, wails interrupted the eerie silence as the ambulance conveying the remains made its way past the crowd which had converged on the area.`
Given the nature of Ikom, it did not take long for the news to be the talk of the town and the crowd thickened as the curious and the shocked continued to throng to the place to seem for themselves.
The cause of death is largely unknown, but theories have been bandied around since the bodies were discovered.
While some say they died of food poisoning, other suggest that Nigeria’s porous boundaries may have allowed some spies to cross over the border, wipe out the household and get away with it because.
According to them, the phones belonging to the adult in the house were without their SIMs when they were found.
According to a Cameroonian medic (who can simply be referred to as Enow) who works with the Comprehensive Health Centre, the reasons could not be far from carbon monoxide poisoning or food poisoning.
Enow was one of those who loaded the corpses into the ambulance, so they could be taken to the morgue t the Holy Family Hospital Ikom, where the autopsy would be carried out and cause of death certified.
“When we got there, the bodies were in different positions. About four of them were in a lying position the baby was on it mother’s lap and, even someone was sitting on a chair when tragedy struck.”
He explained, “The situation can be guessed, but we cannot say anything at this point.”
While the District Police Officer of Ikom called for calm and warned those bandying theories about to hold their peace and stop spreading panic, he insisted that nothing could be known, until an autopsy is conducted.
“These things have to be investigated before anything can be said, I have nothing to say about the cause of death.
All I want to say is to assure all refugees that they are safe and secure and not harm will befall any of them.
They are a part of us and no one can do them harm as they dwell among us, but we have to follow the official channel to find out the cause of death.
I want to advise those who are saying all sorts of things and causing panic to desist from it, it is not in the interest of anyone to say things they are unsure of he counseled.
In his response, the Medical Officer of Ikom local government, Dr Odigie Obeyce, said there were signs that pointed to carbon monoxide, but nothing could be confirmed.
“Nothing can be confirmed for now, but there are signs that it could have been carbon monoxide poisoning.
I think they may have moved their generator to close to the house and shut the windows, so they had limited supply of oxygen, given that the space was too small for all eight of them.
“Whatever the cause, it is sad. But these are my thoughts for now. When the autopsy is done, I will contact you. I should not be saying these things, but because of the theories bandied around, we must not let tension brew, so I have to say what I think for now.”
It is almost a week since the tragic occurrence and no word has been heard of the [probable] cause of death.