By Gabriel Enogholase
BENINâ€”IJAWS in Edo State have accused the state police command of constant arrest and harassment of their people,Â particularly youths under the guise of chasing kidnappers. They have consequentlyÂ given the state police 48 hours to release their youths or faced the consequences.
The Ijaws also threatened to embark on mass protest and make the state ungovernable,Â if their youths are not released, even as they ask the police to charge any of the youths found to have a case to answer before aÂ competent court of jurisdiction,Â instead keeping them in detention endlessly.
Lamenting the plight of Ijaw youths in the hands of the Edo State Police Command, spokesman of the Ijaw Youth Congress, IYC, Mr. Andrew Igiri, told Vanguard, yesterday that the latest of such arrest and harassment was the arrest of six youths from Gelegele but resident in Evbotubu Quarters of Benin by the police, last Saturday.
But in a swift reaction, the Edo State Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Peter Ogboi, described the allegation of indiscriminate arrested of Ijaw youths as false.
He told Vangaurd that if any arrest had been made, his office would have beenÂ briefed. He, however,Â warned the youths against taking the law into their hands, saying that the police would deal ruthlessly with anyone or group,Â who tried to foment trouble in the state.
However, Igiri alleged that during the arrest, the sum of N421, 000 and some telephone handsets were forcibly removed from the youths, recallingÂ that recently, policemen from the state command went to Ikoro under the guise of searching for kidnappers and arrested over 36 persons from the village, looted their property and raped their women.
He alleged that the youths were not released until they paid between N200,000 and N350, 000 to bail themselves from police detention.
According to him, â€œas I speak with you, the Ijaws of Edo cannot no longer walk the streets freely without looking over their shoulders. There are many innocent Ijaw youths arrested by the police without any just cause. We are not supporting any act of criminality and anyone found culpable of criminal offence should be taken to court of jurisdiction for prosecution.â€
â€œWe stand for justice and not prosecution. The Federal Government should blame the Edo State police command should the amnesty and post_amnesty programe fails in the stateâ€, adding that all former militants, who have accepted the amnesty programme are being arrested and labeled kidnappers.
â€œWe will no longer tolerate and watch the harassment of our people in Edo State in the hands of the police. The oppression and harassment of the Ijaw people must stop. This madness must stop for the sake of peace in the state,â€ he said.