Obinna Odogwu, Abakaliki
The people of Akpoha community in Afikpo North Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, on Thursday, besieged the premises of the state’s Police Command, in Abakaliki, to protest the alleged unlawful mass arrests of their kinsmen and an expatriate by a combined team of security operatives.
The protesters, who were mainly aged men and women, alleged that the security agents invaded their community, arrested and whisked away anyone they caught over a “lawful mining deal” they entered into with a mining company, Asphalt Construction Ltd.
The company had paid the sum of N19 million to the people of the area as a compensatory payment for a piece of land acquired it acquired for purposes of mining stones (quarry business) which leased period was 25 years.
Leader of the aggrieved villagers, Mr. Emmanuel Mba Isu, alleged that the combined team of security operatives including the police stormed the community, harassed and intimidated the villagers especially women and the elderly.
“Security operatives loaded in three Hilux vans stormed the village and started arresting the residents.
“We have met with the Police Public Relations Officer with our lawyers. But they said that there is a petition from some persons in the community alleging that the company did not obey government’s rules. We asked: which government’s rule was that?
“We gave them our agreement with which they got there licence from the federal government. If they breached protocols, will that warrant the police to arrest the villagers? Should that not be government versus the company?
“My people were pummelled yesterday, embarrassed, intimidated, mangled, and unlawfully arrested. There were no human rights observed in Akpoha yesterday. They came with army, chasing civilians yesterday.
“I doubt where the dignity of the Nigerian Army is. They chased women, pregnant women, and helpless civilians over a lawful business; a business that was lawfully done. These people have their license from the federal government”, he alleged.
When contacted, the police spokesperson in the state, Mrs Loveth Odah, said that they arrested 16 persons including a Lebanese. She said that the arrest was a result of a petition authored by some stakeholders of the community over the business deal alleging that the land in matter was in dispute.