By Chidi Nkwopara
THE relentless war against criminals in Imo State since the assumption of Mr. Mohammed Musa Katsina to head the State Police Command as Commissioner, has again paid off with the unearthing of fake brewers of all manner of bottled wines and spirits. Some of these fake brewers were traced and picked up from Owerri municipality, Ezinihitte Mbaise and Aba, Abia State. Ordinarily, people would say that Katsina was dabbling into the jurisdiction of the National Agency for Foods, Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, but Katsina thinks differently. He fights crime wherever he finds one.
Barely four hours after launching what he code named Operation Merry Christmas, nine persons were arrested in Atta, Ikeduru Local Council Area of Imo State, for mixing poisonous concoctions, branding it palm wine and selling it to unsuspecting innocent citizens. The suspects included Mrs. Aita Okereke, 40, Mrs. Ngozi Agim, 32, Mrs. Eke Gift, 26, Mrs. Queeneth Omeka, 39 and Mr. Charles Eke, 35.
Other persons nabbed in connection with the fake palm wine production included Mr. Oliver Agim, 42, Mr. Ugochukwu Obed, 34, Mr. Ikechukwu Omeka, 40 and Mr. Timothy Okereke who is aged 43.
Vanguard Metro gathered that with the exception of Ugochukwu Obed and Ikechukwu Omeka, who hail from Ogwa in the Mbaitoli Local Government Area, all the other suspects hail from Atta in Ikeduru Local Government Area of the state.
The build up to the arrest of these alleged fake brewers was sustained. The arrest of the perpetrators was also a shocker to especially the villagers and lovers of palm wine.
Before their eventual arrest and detention, there had been several reports of serious health challenges for people who consumed palm wine purchased from Eke Atta Market and some adjoining communities, including vomiting. Most of them ended up in various hospitals and were subsequently treated for food poisoning. This raised a serious concern in the community.
Some credit must be given to Atta Patriots, a youth organisation in Atta, Ikeduru, which played very significant roles in unearthing the fake brewers.
Speaking to journalists, the Chairman of Atta Patriots, Mr. Lambert Nnorom Jnr, fumed that the illicit brewers had caused a lot of health hazards to the people of Atta community and even beyond.
He confirmed that “there had been several reports about people who ended up purging and vomiting after consuming palm wine purchased from Eke Atta Market”. According to him, a man was recently hospitalised and treated for food poisoning.
Speaking also, another member of the organisation, Acho Ezirim, recalled with grief that all those who consumed palm wine at a recent traditional wedding in Atta, suffered from vomiting and purging. These health problems were ultimately traced to the fake palm wine brewers.
Following very credible information, the Atta Patriots swooped on the premises of the fake brewers. They recovered several gallons and drums containing over 5,500 litres of the concocted local drink. The Patriots equally recovered fermented cassava, saccharine and sugar, which served as raw materials for the fake brewers.
Armed with their findings, the Patriots quickly invited the Ikeduru Divisional Police Officer, DPO, Mr. F. O. Chukwu, who subsequently moved the suspects to Iho for interrogation. The suspects were later moved to the State Police Headquarters, Owerri.
A man who consumed the fake drink and cheated death by whiskers, Mr. Japheth Eziukwu, was very bitter that a lady nurse, who was a member of the gang, escaped arrest.
He recalled that he was vomiting and purging after consuming the fake palm wine and bought drugs from a shop owned by the fleeing nurse, oblivious that she was not only a member of the dreaded gang, but also contributed to his health problem.
As at the time of going to press, it was not clear if officers of the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, had taken over the matter from e police and when the suspects would be charged to court to face the full weight of heir alleged crime.
“Policing the state is not for the police alone. The public is hereby enjoined o assist the State Police Command with useful information that would aid in tracking down unrepentant criminals”, the Imo police boss pleaded.
It would be recalled that shortly after his assumption of office, CP Katsina launched what he called “Operation Puffader”. Another design of this crime fighting strategy was to take the war to whosoever decides to make life and living difficult for the citizenry.
It is equally not in dispute that kidnapping and armed robbery have since reduced drastically to a manageable degree since the arrival of the no-nonsense cop.