By Joseph Atainyang
The police in Akwa Ibom State, through the Etim Ekpo Area Command, on Wednesday, January 31, allegedly invaded and arrested citizens in a private business premises at River Joy Travel & Tours in Utu Nkor of the area without provocation.
The invasion led by one Inspector Denis was reportedly carried out through the orders of the Area Commander, ACP Emmanuel Yakubu, around 11 am.
A statement issued by Etim Ekpo Youth Vanguard for Empowerment, Peace and Development, said the random arrest was made with two Siana vehicles: “a carton colour with registration numbers KRD 336 DU, and a white colour with no plate number, but with a police inscription on the body.”
The statement endorsed by the group’s chairman, Chief Sylvester Okon Udoh; and the secretary, Pastor Sunday Etim Jonah, said the arrest was made because a private motor park was operating in the premises.
The group said the commercial motor park was at a piece/parcel of land acquired for that purpose by a widow, Mrs Patience Erikan, who took over her late husband’s agency with the company to continue with the business.
The statement said, “The police harassed, beat, and arrested drivers, passengers and passers-by who were found at and around the premises on their arrival. Those arrested and detained included Mr. Uwem Friday Benson, Mr. Kubiate Abasiakan Esua Ikor, among others.”
According to the statement, the Etim Ekpo Local Government Transition Committee, through the office of the secretary of council, Dr. Alphonsus Ekanem, served a notice dated January 12, on the park’s management on January 25, 2024.
The letter had directed the relocation of the River Joy & Tours Commercial Park from their previous location at Utu Etim, claiming they were operating from government land, and above all that the council had built and completed a motor park for their use.
Despite a petition to the Commissioner of Police, Akwa Ibom State on the threat to life, property and business of River Joy Tours Travel & Tours Ltd, and the matter being duly assigned for investigation, they were allegedly forcefully ejected from the said property by the LG authority through deployment of thugs on Monday, January 29, 2024.
The statement reads in parts, “They beat and maimed whoever they met at that premises, some of whom are currently receiving treatment in various hospitals.
“One such victims is Samuel Brownson Ekwere. He is currently undergoing an eye operation which was badly damaged during this invasion.
“This incident was duly reported by the injured at the state police headquarters in Ikot Akpan Abia and is currently receiving attention.
“Several local businesses have reported instances of arbitrary police intrusions, undermining the trust between citizens and law enforcement agencies.”
Meanwhile, concerned citizens, business owners, and community leaders are demanding immediate action, including establishment of clear guidelines, training for law enforcement agents, and transparent oversight mechanisms to prevent unjustified invasions.
While calling for immediate release of victims, the Etim Ekpo Youth Vanguard seeks mutual respect and adherence to the principles of justice to restore trust in the local policing.
Contacted for his reaction, the Etim Ekpo Area Commander, ACP Emmanuel Yakubu, told WatchmanPost reporter that he was not the right person to answer his questions. He directed the reporter to the Police Public Relations Officer of the State, SP Odiko McDon for clarification.
On his part, the State PPRO, MacDon did not respond to calls sent to his phone on Thursday morning.