In April 8th 2018 precisely, an old schoolmate of mine known as Mfon Ekpe was said to have lost two brothers on the same day to the beautiful Waters of the Atlantic which appears calm when in actual fact,very dangerous.
They were said to have visited the Ibeno beach as a family to have fun and catch up on all that had been going on in their individual lives before the tragic incident happened.
Ibeno Beach, a 45 Kilometers beach, located in Ibeno, a Local Government in the South area of Akwa Ibom, one of the States in South south of Nigeria is said to be the longest sand beach in West Africa Qoe Iboe River, occupying a vast Coastal area of over 1,200sq.km. Ibeno Beach stretches for about 30 kilometers from Ibeno to James town along the Atlantic coastline of Akwa-Ibom in Nigeria, sharing boarder with Eket, Esit Eket, Eastern Obolo and Onna local Government Areas. Located in the Mangrove swamp area, the area has rainfall all year with the peak being between May and September. History says that Ibeno Beach was first occupied by the indigenes of Ibeno from 1200 to 1500 BC and that it was where the Qua Ibo Missionaries from Scotland first landed in the 20th century, leading to the conversion of many to the Christian faith.
For years, The denomination, Qua Ibo Church was a widely known Church until for some reasons, the name of the church was changed to United Evangelical Chuch.
Ibeno also houses Mobil/Exxon QIT terminal where crude oil is processed for export purposes.
For now, Ibeno beach is not known to be under any licenced management but by individual effort with the support of youths. Although, it is said that Mobil has registered it's intention to partner with to the state government to develop the beach
The Ibeno beach is usually a beehive of activities during the festive periods especially, but on normal days and weekends, people can still be seen enjoying the serene environment. It usually records up to five thousand beach goers a day during the festive seasons and about five hundred on weekends. Ibeno beach is a beautiful tourist site for lovers of fun and tourists to unwind. The sea gulls and the splashing waves can be heard from a distance by the tourists whose safety the community ascertains during their stay there; largely aided by Exxon Mobil whose operational headquarters is situated there in Ibeno. When it comes to cleanliness, Ibeno beach is rated high and the tide of water has not been able to recede the sands of the beach till date. The beach is both gentle and turbulent depending on the season of the year. A lot of fun activities are lined up for tourists like Horse and Camel riding, boating and ralf activities, volleyball, Beach soccer and archery. One fact that a lot of people are not aware of is that Ibeno beach is classified under the Orange sand beach which is so identified because of the composition of the beach.
Now, back to the death incident.The Five siblings were standing by the waters after a great day of fun and play chatting, splashing water on themselves and trying to rinse off the sand on their bodies gotten from the games they were playing when the sand underneath their feet suddenly caved in, resulting in all five of them struggling for their lives in the deep wave of flowing waters. Three were able to make it out alive, but not the other two. Ubong and Francis Ekpe lost their lives to what has come to be known as a possible unstable subsurface. This was after one of the siblings to the dead brothers went in search of answers on what could have been the cause of the tragedy they experienced that faithful day. His search led him to professor Effiom Antia, the first professor of Oceanography in Nigeria, specializing in geological and physical Oceanography. Professor Antia has done several research on the Nigerian coastline since the 80s and says he believes that the unstable subsurface at the Ibeno beach location of the incident could mark position of a palaeochannel (An ancient fluvial or tidal channel) that later filled up by modern-day littoral sand transport processes. However, high Beach water table, Shoreward translation of the breaker zone with rising tide coupled with the actual breaking of the waves can accentuate liquefaction(non compaction) of the beach sand thereby increasing their propensity to collapse and cave in.
Individual research has revealed that a lot of beach goers are not aware of the fact that there are actually caution signs put at the entrance of the beach indicating that the water is not safe for swimming. it could be that the signs are inconspicuously put or they are not just looking. Others who have noticed the signs have never ever thought that playing by the shallow waters could be that dangerous.
Over the years, reported cases of deaths on the Ibeno beach like that of Victor Daniels, A Corps member serving in Akwa-Ibom State which happened on February 14, 2015, said to have gone to swim with friends but did not come out alive. Saturday, October 15th,2011, Anthony Tagon Adie, a 24 years old student of History and International Studies went to the beach with his colleagues as part of their student week activities but never made it out alife. Augustus Emmanuel Eboh, a survivor of the Anthony Tagon incident confirmed that their case was similar to what happened to the "Ekpe" brothers and one begins to wonder how come people are still not aware of these similar cases of deaths on the beach, even people who frequent the beach for fun activities. The death of the three students also in 2018 etc. These are just a tip of several reported cases of deaths, excluding those that did not make it to the news. To the indigenes, these drownings have become so frequent that it is now taken as a normal occurrence, but to the unsuspecting tourist, Should there not be more enlightenment on the dangers on that beach until something is done about it. Why are safely flags and Signs not conspicuously and strategically put to warn the unsuspecting tourist and help identify permanent and occasional hazards.
Why are there no restrictions during adverse weather? How is a beach of that magnitude and beauty without even one competent lifeguard and Emergency Response plan? Is it necessary to continue to allow avoidable deaths to the unsuspecting public? Should these deaths continue to make headline and fizzle out after a week or two with nothing been said or done by the Government or Management or even the Community Heads? Shouldn't the beach be made conducive enough for tourists from far and near? It has been said that ignorance on the part of fun-seekers on the beach has been blamed for the unfortunate cases of drowning and that visitors drown because they do not know the area well. Even if they are good swimmers, the strength of the waves usually overwhelms them. The points on the beach that are dangerous usually cave in when picnickers go there and they get swallowed up by the strong waves of the sea.
The place on the beach is known as the creek area. When the tide is high, non-indigenes should be advised to be careful and avoid such areas. No one should continue to weight in their thoughts if Ibeno beach is A TRAGIC OR FUN PLACE? This is indeed food for thoughts.