It was jubilation all round on Saturday, 27th February 2021 at Obazuwa village, Ovia North-East Local Government Area of Edo State, midsouth Nigeria when the elders and generality of the people received members of the community arrested by the Police to the Force Headquarters in Abuja. The arrest was the result of a petition written by one Barrister Patrick Isiekwene on behalf of the Ijaws of Ikoro village in the same locality.
In the said petition, the Ijaws claimed that Pastor Festus Osayemwenre Egharevba, secretary to Obazuwa, had on 1st December 2020 called one Michael Ama Sibete on phone and made threats to him. They further alleged that Obazuwa youths barricaded the main road leading through the village to Ikoro on the 18th December 2020, forcible entry, threatening violence amongst other charges.
It was also alleged that that the police team investigating an earlier petition by the people of Obazuwa against Ikoro and Evbolekpen communities for conspiring to sell or lease her farmland to a foreign firm and illegally mining her mineral resources had compromised its integrity.
Newsmint correspondent recorded: "When we got to Force Headquarters, I was the main target of Ijaws' petition. They alleged that I threatened one Michael Ama Sibete on the 1st December 2020 on phone.
Pastor Egharevba admitted: "I indeed called the said Sibete but not on that day. I phoned the ijaw man on the 30th November 2020 to protest his previous day's violent entry into Obazuwa at almost midnight under armed cover and shooting. This was despite his assurances to negotiate with us to lease our land for sand excavation and help him get out of the hook he found himself on his criminal investigation regarding the burrow pit he forcefully occupied. To the Glory of God I recorded the conversation between us and it was he who threatened me," Pastor Egharevba narrated.
We authoritatively gathered that the plot was to present the network call log showing the Man of God actually calling Sibete at that time. Since he was the one who made the outward call it could be believed that he really carried out the threat.
Hear him further: "I would have been in difficulty to prove him wrong since I was the one who called him: what would have been my excuse for calling? It would have been a strong point for them to say that my villagers and I have been conducting ourselves in a way or manner that could cause a breach of peace or conduct likely to promote inter-communal war."
Pastor Festus Egharevba briefing members of Obazuwa community at a reception organized for them.
The Anointed Servant of God, who is a prayer warrior, global intercessor and the author of 'Root Out the Enemy', a book on prayer warfare and self-deliverance, said the proactive recording of his telephone conversation with Mr Sibete destroyed the very foundation of Ijaws' arsenal.
They see him as a real threat and formidable obstacle to their long desire to overrun and occupy Obazuwa land just as they did to the Binis of Ikonoke in 1986. He told the audience that an audio recording of Sibete's earlier admission that Utugberu quarry site belongs to Obazuwa during negotiation and not Ikoro did the damage to prove Ijaws the assailants.
The Ijaws also alleged that Obazuwa youths blocked the only access road leading to ikoro at Obazuwa. Briefing the elders on this, another person arrested by the Abuja Police, Mr Monday Osayande, narrated thus:
“Yes, we admitted to it for safety reasons because they attacked us with guns for twenty-four hours from the 18th to 19th December 2020. There was no rescue forthcoming from the police because of the hangover of the nationwide #ENDSARS protest. It was the blockade which prevented the Ijaws from coming into or going out of Ikoro that made them to withdraw and started sending emissaries to us from their elders.
Mr Osayande further stated: We equally told the investigators that the DSS and Police were aware of the blockade which we never denied to the authorities. It was a strategy to quench their firing strength because they cannot survive long as Obazuwa is their supply route. I mean our action was capable of stifling their social and economic life. It was a good strategy and they quickly surrendered."
Obazuwa representatives did not only defend themselves but further produced other documents to show Ijaws as the constant aggressors. For instance, there was a court judgment on 27th March 2020 where six Ikoro Ijaws were sentenced to five months imprisonment for an attack on some Obazuwa men on the 3rd June 201 while measuring land for an Edo State special model secondary school without provocation.
Three Obazuwa men were seized and abducted to Ikoro. They were tied to their egbesu shrine, flogged mercilessly with cutlasses and sticks, and were about to be burnt to death when police came to their rescue. Obazuwa is still licking the wound that the Ijaw unmerited attack inflicted to lose the gigantic project that was later relocated to New Era College in Benin City.
Another documents was Edo state government declaring Godwin Oguyeibo wanted for his illegal pereship of Olodiama clan. He is the one the Binis believed to be financing Ikoro's forays into Obazuwa. They also claimed that Ikonoke is between Obazuwa and Ikoro, so shouldn't have crossed to assert ownership on their land. The ijaws during the Abuja exercise struggled to allege that Ikoro and Ikonoke are one whereas a government gazette recognized them as separate entities.
At the end the Obazuwa trio of Festus Egharevba, Monday Osayande and Sunday Ogbeide were bailed late and the police promised to visit the communities for on-the-spot assessment.
Newsmint learnt that well--meaning Binis rallied round their own in solidarity at Abuja to ensure they got administrative bail that day though late. The Ijaws were making frantic efforts to ensure they got detained. Only God knows what would have happened further if their evil machinations had come to pass. Obazuwa citizens were however happy for the way the Police authorities treated them with fairness and professionalism.
Sources at the Louis Edet House, Abuja revealed that the allegation of compromise against the team at the Zone 5 police headquarters, Benin City where initial petition by Obazuwa originated was not proved. But Force Headquarters police promised to come down to Edo State to carry out further investigations.
Newsmint witnessed the Obazuwa returnees being hugged by elders and youths alike in the open-air reception for being worthy ambassadors.
Elders and members of Obazuwa community at the reception held for the arrested members.
However, this media body is of the view that recurring pattern of the police arresting suspects from states and taking them to Abuja to quiz for offences that can be handled by the authorities in the states or zones need to be reviewed. It has been a regular feature for complainants who have the financial muzzle to go direct to Force Headquarters to arrest suspects simply to punish their victims.
Suspects face great risk in vehicular movement through accidents and attacks from robbers and kidnappers in a poor road network in the country. At least complaints should ordinarily emanate from the division which has jurisdiction over almost perceived offences. The police hierarchy should adequately equip the stations with personnel and materials to deal with all forms of crime. This was what the British colonialists emphasized but which the independent Nigerian politicians failed to build on.
The state or zonal police formations are administrative entities to deal with complaints that arose from dissatisfaction experienced at lower levels. If there be need for a matter to go beyond the zone, a team can be assigned to come down to the state that will spend the required time before heading back to Abuja.
The system should be periodically evaluated and developed for any police officer who is out of his or her jurisdiction to be housed comfortably. We know police have these facilities like guest houses but has deteriorated over time due to neglect and abandonment.
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