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19 Aug 2017

Community worries over whereabouts of youths arrested by soldiers

The families of three men allegedly arrested by soldiers at Ibelebiri community in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State have called on the relevant authorities to make known their whereabouts.
They lamented that 15 months after the men were picked up; they had yet to hear anything from them.

The names of those taken away were given as 35-year-old Bobanimibofa Clinton; 37-year-old Ebikeme Mathew and Bobayenimibofa James, said to be in his 30s.

The three indigenes of Ilebiri were picked up by men in uniform, described by community folks as soldiers in May, 2016.

Some indigenes claimed that armed men, dressed in military uniforms, had stormed Ibelebiri community in Ogbia area of Bayelsa about 1am on the fateful day, picking up the three persons after the operation.

Mother of Ebikeme Mathew, Madam Celina Mathew, lamented that life had not been the same again since his son’s disappearance.

Celina said she had to battle with stroke in addition to feeding his (son’s) five children.

She stated that she had experienced one tragedy too many with her husband, an inspector in the police, allegedly killed in Isiokpo, Rivers State by fellow policeman on special duty some years ago.

Wife of Mathew, Mrs Celestina, maintained that her husband was an innocent man who was arrested unjustly.

For the spouse of Bobayenimibofa James, Mrs. Tari James, the family is still at a loss about the whereabouts of her husband, 15 months after he was arrested.

Mr. Tubokeyiba Clinton, elder brother of Bobanimibofa Clinton, appealed to the authorities to take them (youths) to court if they had actually committed any crime since he and members of the community had yet to know the reason for their being picked up.

Chairman of the Ilebiri Council of Chiefs, Chief Godpower Ogoli, urged the government to ensure that the whereabouts of the three arrested persons were made known.

Community members said from further findings, that were told the three men were picked up by the Nigeria Army Intelligence Corps during the one-hour operation and whisked to Abuja, though their whereabouts remained shrouded in mystery.

The Environmental Right Action and Friends of the Earth Nigeria, in a field report released after visiting the community, said there was a complete agreement by community folks that the arrests were made in the dead of the night.

The Coordinator, ERA/FoEN, Bayelsa State, Mr. Alagoa Morris, who signed the report, contended that from group’s observation, no relation or fellow community person actually knew why they were arrested, where they are being detained or have had access to any of the arrested persons.

The ERA therefore asked the relevant agencies of government to investigate the incident, which occurred on May 25, 2016 at Ibelebiri and ensure the confidence of the people in the security agencies.

It said no innocent or law-abiding citizen should have cause to feel that his/her fundamental human rights would be trampled under feet by the military.

The ERA/FoEN stated, ‘’The military should prosecute all those accused of crimes against the nation and laws of the land, including these persons taken away from Ibelebiri community of Bayelsa State if there are evidences against the accused persons.

‘’However, it would be improper to arrest and detain on mere suspicion and allegation without facts to prove the case beyond reasonable doubts. The Federal Government should decongest our prisons and all detention centres by releasing all those without culpable reasons to be in captivity.

‘’In connection with the above, security agencies should follow up all arrests with further investigations so as to ascertain whether earlier information received before and after arrest tallies. This will go a long way in preventing scenarios whereby innocent persons would remain at detention centres or even die without the knowledge of relations.”

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