An environmental activist, Okwori Onaji, has been arrested by the Benue State Government over a protest in the Owukpa area of the state.
The activist was arrested and physically assaulted by men of the Benue State Vigilante while trying to protest the illegal mining of coal in the community by Dangote Company.
The activist was accused of possessing an AK-47 weapon and an axe by the vigilante.
However, a rights advocate, Andy Obeya, dismissed the claim, adding that Onaji was organising a press conference when he was arrested with placards and other materials for the event.
He said, “Dangote group has been mining coal without recourse to environmental safety standards and proper compensation to the community.
"Okwori has been complaining about the indiscriminate and illegal mining that was ongoing in Owukpa, his community. The coal mining activities have paralysed learning activities as the only school in the place is no longer safe and is almost being consumed by the coal mining programme.
"We asked Okwori to go ahead as an advance team to mobilize and plan ahead of our planned documentary and press conference since the Commissioner of Police has refused to approve our request for Police protection and approval for protest. Because we had originally planned for a peaceful procession to advocate on behalf of the community.
"Okwori had met with members of the mining community to discuss the planned press conference and mobilized people to be part of the program and I did speak with some members of the community who are critical stakeholders of the people.
"On the said date, Okwori was arrested by the local vigilante group at Ukwo area where he had gone to wait for other team members and the media.
"They labelled him a thief, handcuffed him, tied him up and tortured, then later handed him over to the police. The police didn't allow the media team and other professionals working with him to even have any access to him.
"They claimed at first that he was seen with a bullet. Later on they claimed it was an AK-47. And now an axe. His relatives who slept in the same house told us that he only left the house with a banner and placards and had nothing else on him. One of them is an eyewitness.”
Obeya demanded the unconditional release of Onaji, who he argues was exercising his constitutional right as a Nigerian citizen when he was arrested and framed up for what he did not do.