A human rights group, Talakawa Parliament on Tuesday condemned the continued detention of its four Edo community leaders at the Police Force Headquarters in Abuja.
The group said the leaders from the Uzebu community in Edo State include Fedelis Owen (secretary, Uzebu community), Martins Obakpolor, Sunday Ogbonmwan and Victor Omorogbe.
Kola Edokpayi, speaker for Talakawa parliament said the quartet were arrested on March 29, 2021, while honouring invitation to the police headquarters at the nation’s capital.
While demanding the immediate release of the quartet, Edokpayi said, "Serious steps should be taken to investigate the allegations of Uzebu community leaders to avoid a mass protest."
The activist said the detainees’ predicament started following the petition they wrote to the police in Benin and Lagos over alleged brutalisation and demolition of their properties by Osakpamwan Eriyo, a chieftain of All Progressives Congress (APC).
Edokpayi said, "In a dramatic twist of events, instead of investigating the complaints of Uzebu people, the police from Abuja turned around and invited those clamouring that he (Osakpamwan) should be brought to justice over his oppressive activities."
Osakpamwan had denied the allegations saying that the community indegenes demolished his properties.
In a press release by Talakawa’s Parliament, the group threatened to protest if its members were not immediately released. It also enjoined the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki to wade into the matter, among other issues it raised.
“Gentlemen of the Press, Comrades in the Struggle for the emancipation of the plebeians, my brethren, you are welcome to the sanctuary of justice for this news conference organized by Talakawa’s Parliament on the stratum of oppression and impunity allegedly exhibited by the Former Edo State Youth Leader, Mr. Osakpamwan Eriyo.
"As critical stakeholders and the advocate of peace, justice, equity and good conscience, it will be a grievous sin against God and crime against humanity if we maintain grave silence in the midst of police brutality, unlawful detention and perversion of justice as if we have strong men with weak institutions in Nigeria.
"It was Dante who submitted in his Divine Comedy that 'The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in the period of moral crisis maintained their neutrality'.
"As an Organised Civil Society body whose ‘onus probandi’ is to fight against oppression, injustice and man inhumanity to man. We received complaints backed up with credible evidence from the Odionwere and Elders of Uzebu Community which bordered on an attempt by the former APC youth leader to use the police as agents of oppression, injustice and outright perversion of justice even though the constitutional responsibility of the police is to maintain law and order," the statement partly read.
It continued in revealing the unfolding events that led to their arrest and detention.
"The Odionwere and Elders of Uzebu Community narrated to us:
"That on the 28th day of February, 2021, the Former Youth Leader of All Progressives Congress (APC) Mr. Osakpanmwan Eriyo (alias Nomoless) allegedly led some heavily armed policemen and some youths to Uzebu community, Oredo Local Government Area, where they started shooting sporadically, which gave some persons injuries. As if that was not enough, they burnt vehicles and used bulldozers to bring down some houses in the community without any recourse to the law.
"That the matter was immediately reported at the nearest Police Station being- Evbuotubu Police Station and the Divisional Police Officer as well as the Area Commander swiftly went into the matter. Pellets and expired cartridges allegedly fired were recovered from the scene. The Commissioner of Police immediately called for the case file to be transferred to his office for immediate action.
"That when the matter got unnecessarily complicated, the elders of the community then put up a complaint at the office of the Assistant Inspector General of Police, Zone 5 and Force Criminal Investigation Department (F.C.I.I).), Force Headquarters Annex, Alagbon , Lagos where the Homicide Section took over the matter.
"That Mr. Osakpanmwan Eriyo (alias Nomoless) was promptly notified and invited to Lagos but failed to honour the invitation and instead of reporting himself at the Force headquarters Annex, Lagos where he is wanted, he ran to arrange with the Police at the Monitoring Unit of the Force Headquarters, Abuja to stop the invitation and took over the matter to probably scuttle investigation.
"In a dramatic twist of events, instead of investigating the complaints of the Uzebu people against Osakpanrnwan Eriyo the police from Abuja turned around and invited some of the indigenes of Uzebu community who have been in the vanguard of clamouring that he should be brought to justice over his oppressive activities and upon their arrival at the Force Headquarters, Abuja on the 29th day of March, 2021, they were immediately arrested and detained till date.
"Some of the indigenes of the Uzebu community invited and arrested by the police are Fidelis Owen (the Secretary of the community), Martins Obakpolor, Sunday Ogbonmwan and Victor Omorogbe," the statement read further.
Edokpayi in the statement urged Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki and erstwhile Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu to look into the matter in ensuring the freedom of their leaders.
"We have taken our precious time to scrutinise the attached evidentiary documents and found credit in them so a formal petition was transmitted to the Governor of Edo State, Governor Godwin Obaseki to wade into the matter to avoid breakdown law and order in the community and we are optimistic that the needful would be done.
"We are using this medium to call on the Inspector General Of Police, Alhaji Mohammed Adamu (now former police IG) to call the officers of the Monitoring Unit of the Force Headquarters, Abuja involved in this barbaric act to order and henceforth monitor the activities of the Monitoring Unit.
"What the indigenes of Uzebu community arrested by the Police Fidelis Owen (the Secretary of the community), Martins Obakpolor, Sunday Ogbonmwan and Victor Omorogbe be released immediately and serious steps taken to investigate the allegations of the Uzebu Community people to avoid mass protest against the Monitoring Unit as the Rule of Law must prevail,” the statement said.