‘Northerners Arrested in Abia are Traders’
About 486 northerners arrested in Abia State by the army on Monday as terror suspects are traders and migrant workers, the leader of Northern Traders in Port Harcourt said yesterday.
They were arrested by soldiers of the 144 Battalion of the in Asa, near Aba, Abia State and labelled Boko Haram suspects.
They were travelling in a convoy of 35 Toyota Hiace buses when they were intercepted around 2am between Arungwa Junction on the Enugu-Port Harcourt Highway and Imo Gate, the Abia/Rivers boundary.
However, Leader of Northern Nigerian Traders in Port Harcourt Alhaji Bala Matu said the suspects are patriotic Nigerians engaged in their various businesses to eke out a living in Rivers State.
Speaking in an interview on telephone, Alhaji Matu said that the soldiers just arrested patriotic and innocent people and falsely accused them as Boko Haram members.“They are traders. I am their chairman; they are under me and they are doing their own businesses. They are people that are selling ear rings, brocades, sugar cane, carrots and many other types of items.
“Even shoe makers and wheelbarrow pushers are among them. They are not Boko Haram members, they are not Boko Haram; they are genuine traders. They are patriotic Nigerians,” he said.
Matu alleged that upon being arrested by the soldiers, the handsets of the suspects were collected and switched off to prevent people from accessing them through phones.
He added that respected people such as Alhaji Buba, leader of the Fulani community, who is also one of the leaders of the northern residents in Port Harcourt that went to the barrack to ascertain what led to the arrest of the suspects, were equally detained as soon as they got there.
Matu complained that the suspects are not detained in good condition. “People who are under military detention, how will they be under good condition?” he retorted when asked about their condition.
But the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Theodore Orji Mr. Charles Ajunwa told our reporter on phone that the suspects were still undergoing interrogation by the soldiers, and also being fed.
“They are being fed. If you see them, they are being fed. No torture of any kind. Nobody is torturing any of them. They are okay,” Ajunwa said during a brief telephone chat with our reporter in Enugu.
Chimkanayo, who had earlier paraded the suspects before journalists in the state, said the suspects were stopped and moved to Asa. He added that investigation showed that the suspects, aged 16 years and above, were travelling from Kano, Taraba and Jigawa states.
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