Tony John, Port Harcourt
The people of Bille in Degema Local Government Area of Rivers State are not happy at all. The uncertainty surrounding the whereabouts of two of their sons have caused them sleepless nights.
The disappearance of the two persons occurred recently, after police allegedly invaded the kingdom. The natives have raised the alarm over the invasion, alleging that they were brutalised during the unprovoked attack.
Daily Sun gathered that during the raid, police whisked away 12 youths. They claimed that two out of the persons arrested by the police could not be found in any cell within and outside the neighbourhood.
Bille is one of the coastal areas of Rivers State. The area has always suffered attacks by sea pirates. In recent past, the community lost prominent sons and daughters after dispossessing them of their belongings.
Chairman of Bille Kingdom Chiefs Council, Alabo Bennett Okpokiye-Dokubo, said: “Owing to an enrapture of fracas after a dispute resolution meeting over resources sharing formula between Bille kingdom in Degema LGA and Krakrama community in Asari Toru LGA, chaired by the Secretary to the Rivers State Government, Dr Tammy Danagogo, on January 17, 2020, 12 Bille youths, who were allegedly involved in the fracas, were arrested by men of Anti-Cultism Unit of the police.
“They were subsequently tortured; as two youths, Oguru Diri and Brown Birena, were brutally inflicted grievous machete injuries on their right hands. The whereabouts of two others, Mr Taminotonye Johnson Die and Mr. Endurance Johnbull, allegedly arrested alongside 10 others, remain unknown.”
He noted that the youths were brutalised with machete cuts. He wondered why the police would maltreat the suspects in such manner: “Our worry is why the partisan actions of the police in a matter involving two contending parties?
“The Anti-Cultism Unit of the police after the arrest of our youths, inflicted grievous machete injuries specifically on the right hands of two of our youths, among the many others they arrested just to create the semblance that the sustained the injuries during the fracas.
“We wonder why must the police take upon itself to intentionally and brutally injure the youths from Bille, who incidentally did not sustain any injury until after they were arrested?”
He said the concern of community was on the whereabouts of two of the persons arrested by the police. He urged them (police) to disclose the whereabouts of the two persons:
“What is puzzling us at present is the whereabouts of our youths, namely, Mr Taminotonye Johnson Dei and Endurance Johnbull, whom the police arrested together with others on the same day, Friday, January 17, 2020.
“Since then, we have painstakingly searched through the several police detention cells in Port Harcourt with no trace of them. Neither have the police said anything contrarily that these two persons are not in their custody.”
The monarch stated that Bille Kingdom wants the two missing persons back dead or alive. He also demanded that police should administer medical treatment to the wounded persons as a matter of urgency. He warned that failure of police to produce the two missing persons, and the healthcare treatment of the injured sons, would lead to instituting a suit against the force:
“We demand the police to immediately produce or release Mr Taminotonye Johnson and Mr Endurance Johnbull (dead or alive) to us. We demand the police to give first hand medical assistance to the two youths they intentionally injured.
“We emphasise failing these, Bille kingdom will resort to all known legal measures to demand the police produce the missing two youths and as well give proper medical care to two youths they brutally injured.”
However, wives of the missing persons, Mrs Songo Dei and Mrs Emilia Johnbull, demanded the police to release their husbands to them alive. They claimed that they accompanied their husbands to the meeting venue on that day.
Embattled wife of Dei, Songo, lamented that her husband was hale and hearty, when she followed him to the venue of the meeting. The wife said she had no premonition of any danger and begged police to release their missing husbands.
She pleaded: “We are saying the police should release our husbands alive because we left them on that fateful day alive. We accompanied them to the venue of the meeting. But, we were sent back because women were not expected to attend the meeting; just for us to hear later that our husbands had been arrested. We have searched various units and divisions all to no avail of their whereabouts.”
When contacted, the police spokesman, Nnamdi Omoni, declined knowledge of the allegation.
He told Daily Sun that what the community should have done was to lodge their complaints at the state police command headquarters, Moscow Road, Port Harcourt, for appropriate action:
“I am not aware of such a development, because they have not come to see us at the headquarters. It is not enough to begin to complain in the media.
“They should be able to come to us and state their complaint, so that we take appropriate actions in that circumstance.”