*From David Uka, Abakaliki*
Hundreds of people from Akpoha community in Afikpo North Local Government Area of Ebonyi State,have besieged the premises of the Ebonyi State Police Command 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 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 later learnt that they came on the orders of the Ebonyi State Government.
“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 their 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 pummeled, embarrassed, intimidated, mangled, and unlawfully arrested. There were no human rights observed in Akpoha.They came with army, chasing civilians .
“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, ASP 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 the matter was in dispute. She however declined to comment further to issues surrounding the matter.