…….appeals for release of Onaji

The Chairman of Ogbadibo Traditional Council, (Ada Ogbadibo) HRH Chief Emmanuel Odeh has debunked the alleged involvement of Owukpa Development Association (ODA) and the Onomo K’Owukpa in the arrest of one of their sons, Okwori Onaji by the Police over an attempted unlawful protest in Ukwo Owukpa in Ogbadibo Local Government Area of Benue State on Wednesday.

Onoji was arrested by members of the community vigilante group and handed over to the Police for purportedly staging an unapproved protest over alleged ‘illegal coal mining activities’ in the community.

In an exclusive interview with AFRIPOST EDITOR, Mr David Abakpa, Chief Odeh said that he did not know anything about the protest and the subsequent arrest of the suspect who has, since, been taken from the Otukpa Divisional Police Command to the state CID in Makurdi at the instance of the State Commissioner of Police (CP), Omololu Bishi.

According to Ada Ogbadibo, “I didn’t know anything about what they are saying. I am not aware of any illegal mining in Owukpa and I don’t know anything about the allegation of embezzlement of proceeds from the coal mining. The leadership of ODA only update me on the account balance of ODA. I am not one of the signatories to the ODA bank account and I have never, as the Onomo K’Owukpa, (Chief of Owukpa) approved any withdrawal from the coal mining proceed in the ODA account for personal use. God bears me witness, my son. I am innocent of every vulgar allegation against me and other community leaders are also innocent to my best of knowledge.

“I have not issued any statement on the arrest of my son, Onoji, because I don’t have details of the incident leading to his arrest. I wasn’t aware of the protest either until I called the Otukpa Divisional Police Officer (DPO) this morning.

“According to the briefing I got, the boy is being sponsored by a group of persons who want another company of their choice to take over the mining of the coal in Owukpa from the existing mining company.

“On the demonstration, it was the Police that briefed us in a security meeting that some group of persons were planning to stage a protest in Owukpa. There I told them that I had no idea of it and that I had to find out from my people. I called the youth leader, Hon Gabriel Igah, to confirm but he also denied the knowledge of such plan and I told the DPO exactly what he said. But the PDO advised that if that’s the case, then our youth leader should write to the CP debunking the information which the youths wrote and sent to Makurdi about five days ago.

“I heard from the Police about the attempted protest and I acted immediately to foil it. Even the DPO told me that the protest notice sent to the Police was not approved and that’s all I know about it. No person or group of persons have ever approached me or ODA leadership on the issue of the coal that was denied audience. So it is really surprising me the way some youths are going about it.

“In our last ODA meeting, the issue was discussed extensively in a transparent way. We invited the youths and those that came were given every detail information on the coal. The company is not even working because of the rain. So, you can see that I am in the dark.

“I don’t know why they are protesting. Neither ODA nor I ordered for or behind the arrest of our son, Onaji. Nobody knew anything about it as some youths that have allowed themselves to be sponsored by external forces against their own fathers are alleging on the internet. The case is between the Police and Onaji. Neither ODA nor I is a complainant of the case. Let us not misinform the public.

“Remember, on Sunday I called you (David) to assist us to coordinate a WhatsApp group where the coal updates would be shared in order to carry every son and daughter of Owukpa along as part of what we have resolved to be doing in the last ODA meeting. How best could the leadership of the community be transparent to the youths again?

However, I use this opportunity to caution my children. Please, don’t take the law into your hand. Don’t allow yourself to be used by any person or group of persons for selfish interest at your own detriment. ODA is open to all. Approach them with whatever issue bothering you and you will get answer.

“Though the protesters were wrong, we won’t allow our son to remain in Police custody. We are already in touch with the CP and appealing to release Onaji to us so that we can go back home and listen to their grievances and settle accordingly. We equally thank the Police for being on top of security situation in our dear community.”

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