From Scholastica Hir, Makurdi

A group, called Otukpo Youth Patriotic Forum, (OYPF), in Otukpo Local Government Area of Benue State, has petitioned the police authorities, both at the state and national levels, to investigate the Otukpo Area Commander, David Ogenyi, on allegations of illegal arrests, torture, and harassment of Amla-Icho residents.

The group, in a statement signed by the President and Secretary, Ejelikwu Adakole and James Iduh, respectively, and made available to newsmen, yesterday, also accused the area commander of taking sides with one faction in an ongoing chieftaincy tussle in the area.

They alleged that while the community has been thrown into a state of chaos and turmoil, with reports of widespread violence, intimidation and blatant disregard for the rule of law, “regrettably, the Otukpo Police Area Commander, David Ogenyi, whose duty it is to restore law and order, is alleged to be the one fanning the billows of discord.

“It is alarming, as widely alleged, that the Area Commander has taken side with one faction in an ongoing chieftaincy tussle in the area, a development that has forced him to abdicate his fundamental role of maintaining an impartial stand in this instant crisis. As a result of his alleged unwholesome disposition, he was said to have been instrumental to the deployment of armed mercenaries, killer vigilantes, and other armed groups, ostensibly to terrorise the Amla-Icho people who have now become ‘endangered species’.

“This coterie of armed groups have been reported to be saddled in discreet surveillance, manhunting, looting of properties, and arbitrary arrests and detentions of innocent Amla-icho residents.

Amla-Icho has become a homestead as many homes have been destroyed and/or looted.”

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The group, while condemning, in totality, the killing of Chief Sunday Okpe by unknown persons during the tussle, stated that “the alleged gestapo approach of the area commander”, which has succeeded in displacing the Amla-Icho people who are peasant farmers, is a clear violation of their constitutional nights.

They said the approach will not only lead to dire consequences of threatening food security as those farmers from Amla-Icho, who are supposed to work in their farms, have been forcefully turned to internally displaced persons (IDPs), his actions will further boost crime, as the entire situation constitutes a huge socio-economic disharmony. They said for such unlawful activities to occur under his watch, the area commander has betrayed the oath of office he swore to protect the life and property of all citizens.

“We, therefore, implore the Commissioner of Police in the state, CP Hassan Yabanet, Assistant Inspector General (AIG) of Police and the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to urgently intervene in this matter and immediately call the Otukpo Area Commander to order, and investigate the illegal arrests, torture, and harassment of Amla-Icho residents.”

They also appealed to the authorities to deploy well-trained police officers to the Amla-Icho community to restore order, protect life and property, and ensure the safety of the residents who have been forced to flee their homes. They also urged the IGP to take decisive action to address the crisis by seeing that the area commander and any other personnel involved in the unlawful activities are held accountable for their actions, so as to restore the trust of the community in the police force.

Responding on behalf of the area commander, a group of concerned lawyers, human rights activists and social justice crusaders, who described the area commander as a dogged crime fighter and a no nonsense man, advised that instead of dissipating energy fighting the area commander, such energy should be channeled into fighting land grabbing and other crimes in the area.

The lawyers, who responded to an earlier petition on the Amla-Icho saga, through a law firm; V. E. Johnson & Co, signed by Dr. D.O. Ogah, addressed to the IGP, AIG Zone 4 and Commissioner of Police, Benue State, and copied His Royal Majesty, the Och’Idoma, the Area Commander and Otukpo chapter of NBA, said the misunderstanding that took place between Okete Okpikwu and Otada Otukpo has nothing to do with the matter that happened at Amla-Icho community, where one Chief Sunday Okpe was gruesomely slaughtered.

“The scenarios are not connected/related at all-they are completely different. Otukpo, which is the cradle of Idoma civilisation, has turned to a land of impunity and lawlessness. The police cannot perform because some prominent people, including lawyers in Otukpo, have mastered the act of compromising the police whenever a notorious criminal is arrested for investigation,” they stated.

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