By Daniel Dafe, Abraka
Human Rights Defenders (HURIDE), Ebonyi State chapter, has expressed disappointment over what they described as a “shocking circulation” that said 55 out of the 66 Uffiom war mercenaries arrested Saturday afternoon by army at Okpoduma village of Uffiom community in Ohaukwu LGA of Ebonyi State and handed over to police have escaped from police custody.
In a statement on Sunday, HURIDE signed by Sampson Oko Nweke; HURIDE Chairman, Chinasa Awo Okeree, Publicity Secretary, Barr S. N Ekigbo, Head, Legal Department, said “the arrests were made following the protracted communal war between Uffiom people and Ezza People in Effium which has claimed hundreds of lives and properties worth billions destroyed.”
According to the statement, “the suspected machineries who were caught wielding guns and charms were said to have been hired from Jukun, Igala, Cross River, ETC to kill Ezza people and destroy their homes.”
“An eye witness narrated that after the arrest of the suspects and recovery of the arms and charms, the GOC and the team proceeded to Nwekendiagu village in the community for same operation while the suspects were handed over to the police by the GOC for movement to police headquarter, Abakaliki for further investigation.
“But immediately the team left the community, it was gathered that 55 out the 66 suspects escaped from the custody while their whereabouts have remained unknown,” HURIDE said.
The statement continued: “Against this backdrop therefore, the Human Rights Defenders (HURIDE) Ebonyi State chapter is rising in utter condemnation of this ugly development which is capable of steering up a fresh crisis in the state.”
The group called on the state governor, Engr Dave Umahi to do the needful, adding that they will hold the police responsible, as they demanded that all the arrested mercenaries must be accounted for.
“If any of them escapes, it will spell compromise, betrayal of public trust for the police and can aggravate the already heightened tension in the state,” the group opined.
“HURIDE is making it bold and clear that any attempt to hide the identities of the arrested warlords or set them free secretly without trial must be resisted. We are giving EBONYI State Police Command and the government of EBONYI state 24hrs to come out clean on this heavy allegations because HURIDE cannot allow the lives of innocent Ebonyians sacrificed continually on the altar of business bargains.
“However, if the police and Ebonyi state government maintains silence till the end of this ultimatum, HURIDE may be forced to believe the circulating insinuations alleging that Ebonyi state government in collaboration with Chief Cletus Ibeto and Clement Odah has a hand in this war that has claimed hundreds of human lives and rendered many homeless because of the limestone and other mineral resources discovered in Ezza-Effium community,” the group averred.
“If established to be true, HURIDE will mobilize at least two thousand Ebonyians for a volcanic peaceful protest and will remain on the streets of Abakaliki until the right thing is done,” they said.
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