•Mr. Ati Robert, Bilagorogbene Mein Cluster chairman seized over alleged chieftaincy/land disputes
•Cluster board activities stalled
•Lawyer petitions Police, DSS, FOC; demands unconditional release
By Emem Idio
YENAGOA — THE take into custody of the chairman of the Bilagorogbene Mein Cluster Foundation Board in Ekeremor Local Government Area, Bayelsa State, Mr. Ati Robert, by men of the Nigerian Naval Ship, NNS, Warri, Delta State, is allegedly creating tension in the area.
It was gathered that Mr. Robert was arrested men of the NNS, Delta, alongside his father, Chief Robert Deboh, on January 12, at the Sagbama High Court premises in connection with land and chieftaincy disputes in Bilabiri II community.
Indigenes, who spoke to NDV, lamented that efforts to trace the whereabouts of the seized chairman proved abortive, as the navy neither allowed access to him nor released him on bail, a situation they said has created serious confusion in the community, and frustrated the activities of the cluster board and community in the absence of the chairman.
While calling for his immediate and unconditional release, in a petition to the Bayelsa State Commissioner of Police, State Director of the Department of State Services, DSS, and the Flag Officer Commanding, Central Naval Command, Yenagoa, counsel to community, Chief Gideon Elebe, stated: “As a form of manoeuvring strategy to keep their opposition out of circulation, one of the parties in dispute invited the naval officers to strengthen their case over who is rightful occupant to the stool of the Ebenanawei of the Kingdom.
“It is the contention of this law firm that in as much as the naval ships are conferred with the powers of arrest of any person suspected to have committed an offence or offences, the said power shall not be abused by hiding under such power or the guise of such power to infringe upon the constitutional rights of the citizens as guaranteed under the 1999 Constitution, particularly in this case where our client is unlawfully arrested and detained in your custody till date without arraignment or handover to the police for investigation and prosecution as required by law,” he stated.
Unlawful arrest and detention
“This is particularly important as the NNS, Delta Command, Warri is not within the jurisdiction of Bayelsa state, which action may be viewed as an avenue to unlawfully arrest and detain innocent citizens and perpetually detain them for settlement of scores between one party against the other in total negation of the rights conferred by the Constitution of Nigeria and also constitutes gross abuse of powers accorded to the Nigerian Navy as conferred by statute.
“We are not unaware of the role of your office in handling security matters in relation to maritime security and appeal to you to use same wisdom to intervene in this case of abuse of powers. It is in the light of the above development that we most respectfully appeal to you sir to use your good office to cause immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Robert from your custody in the interest of justice,” he said.