By Emem Idio
OKOROBA—THERE is intense anxiety at Okoroba, a riverine community in Nembe Local Government Area, Bayelsa State, over the arrest and protracted detention by the police of six members of the town’s vigilante group, accused of killing a 23-year-old indigene, Opp Amond, three months ago.
The community claimed that the vigilante members were ordered by the Regent of the community, HRH Romani Ide, to recover the remains of the deceased, who got drowned while taking his bath in the village, but the family of the deceased pointed fingers at the vigilante members detailed to reclaim his remains.
The matter took a worrisome dimension when police detectives investigating the matter, arrested six members of the vigilante group, who recovered the remains of the deceased on the directive of the village head. Their prolonged confinement provoked the folks, leading to unnecessary destruction of property, including public amenities by angry protesters, who demanded their immediate release.
Indigenes defend vigilante members
Currently, the hostility is between the community and members of the powerful family with an influential top police officer. Concerned indigenes of Okoroba, in a statement by the head of Agum group of Houses, High Chief Alawari Ajayi and others, accused the said police officer of using his power to detain members of the community, stressing that the autopsy conducted at the Federal Medical Centre, FMC, Yenagoa, on the remains of the deceased, showed that he drowned and was not murdered.
They said: “The Bayelsa State Police Command investigated these matters and noticed that the cases were instigated based on malice and with intent to cow the people. It is obvious that the Police are acting the script. The Okoroba people are tax payers and the police are paid to protect every tax payer in Okoroba community. Why has the IGP refused to act on all the petitions of the Okoroba people on this issue?
Call for proper investigation
“We are aware that an assistant commissioner of Police is using his influence on the Police. We demand the immediate release of the community youths and the Inspector General of Police, IGP, should constitute a team to investigate the activities of the police officer and the youths. It is a fact that the police officer while serving in Zone 5, ignited the detention of people of the community without trial for several months. Is the Bayelsa State Police Command incapacitated or incapable of handling Okoroba matters? We call on the IGP to order proper investigation,” they said.
The community added: “We call on the human rights community to rise to the occasion to defend this flagrant violation of the rights of innocent and defenceless citizens. The police should be bold enough to charge these people to court if they have prima facie case against them. The question is can the police continue to detain these boys at the whim and caprices of the police officer?
Regent confirms victim drowned
The Regent of Okoroba Community, HRH Chief Romani Ide, who lamented the plight of the vigilante members, asserted: “These youths have been in detention since January till date without a charge proferred against them. The result of an autopsy on the deceased conducted at FMC, Yenagoa on the 22nd of April reveals that the deceased died of drowning and was not murdered as alleged. The police have refused to release these youths even with the autopsy results. As a community, we have perfected the bail conditions, yet they were not released, why the antics.”
Police keep mum
NDV contacted the Police Public Relations Officer in Bayelsa, but he declined comment.