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Yam dealers in Rivers decry police brutality


Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi

Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi

HAUSA yam dealers based in Eleme Local Council of Rivers State have decried police brutality and massive arrest of their members at the weekend in the area.

Some of the dealers who escaped arrest told journalists in Port Harcourt that the police took away about 50 of their men.

Speaking under the auspices of Yam Dealers’ Association in Eleme Local Council of the State, Chairman of the group, Abdulahi Awaje, said a combined team of police, army, Air force and Civil Defence men came and disrupted their off-loading operation and beat up some of them before whisking away 50 of their members.

Meanwhile, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) in the State, Ahmed Mohammed has confirmed the massive arrest of the northern yam dealers, saying the victims are currently under interrogation and would be released if not found guilty.

Awaje narrated: “ We saw some buses on Saturday and a Hilux pick-up loaded with security agencies, army, police and Civil Defence, Air-force and combined task force. They came and ordered us to kneel down. Some of them came with guns and started shooting sporadically, asking us why we are still in Rivers. We said we are living here, we don’t want to go back to the north because it was time to vote, that we want to cast our votes here because we registered in Rivers State.”

The Chairman lamented, that the security agencies, not satisfied with their answer, asked them to leave Rivers State to save their lives or they would have themselves to blame.

He alleged that the police action might not be unconnected with the fact that the yam dealers may vote in favour of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the March 28 and April 11 elections.

He said: “The security agencies warned us to leave the State. Sadly, in the morning time, I checked on our people and found that almost 50 members of our union were not there, they have been taken away.”

While appealing for the safe release of their colleagues, Awaje noted that the security men also took the money made from sales on the said date.

Also speaking, the Chairman of non-indigenes in Eleme Local Council, Adebayo Abdusalam decried the police brutality on the law-abiding northern yam dealers.

“I received a distress call by the northern yam dealers in Eleme. When I got there, what I saw was very devastating because some of them that were not even carried away were badly injured and manhandled. We had to take them to the hospital”

Abdusalam noted that his people were not common criminals but law-abiding traders and pleaded for their safe release.

He said: “As the Chairman of the non-indigenes, I am only appealing to the relevant authorities, because these are not common criminals as some people would want us to see them. May be the yam sellers were only attacked by criminals, but from the way the operation went on, it was a professional thing. They came in government vehicles.”

In his reaction, caretaker chairman of Eleme Local Council, Orji Ngofa said he was shocked at the development, describing the directive given to northerners in Eleme to vacate Rivers State during the election period as “the height of political desperation.”

“First and foremost, these people are Nigerians and they have a constitutional right to do business and reside anywhere and vote where they registered. We don’t think it is right for them to be forced to go home.”

He said the northerners in question had been residing and doing business in the local council for over 20 years and it would be unfair to force them home.

When contacted, the State Chairman of PDP, Felix Obuah said, “PDP is not a law enforcement agency to order the arrest of the yam dealers.”

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