By Ikeugonna Eleke
Traders in Nnewi last Monday celebrated the release of their members who were arrested and detained for allegedly belonging to the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) who reportedly killed a police inspector during a protest.
The traders converged on the Agboedo Motor Spare Parts Market to offer praises to God in appreciation for the release of their members.
Speaking during the event, the chairman of Agboedo Motor Spare Parts Dealers Association (AMSPDA), Chief Gabriel Chibueze, said the gathering was essentially to appreciate God for the unconditional release of their members.
He said the traders were arrested from the eight major markets in the industrial city, expressing regret over the eight days they spent in police custody, regardless of their innocence.
He said the detained members could have spent longer time in the hands of the police if not for the relentless efforts of members of his executive and other relevant stakeholders.
'Ever since their detention, the entire executive has not rested on its oars in fighting for their release. We wrote letters to all authorities concerned, including the IGP, the Commissioner for Trade and Commerce, our representatives in Abuja, among others.
'We also had to shut the entire markets in the town for three consecutive days in solidarity with our detained members,' he said.
Meanwhile, a group, International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law (Intersociety), has protested the alleged extortion of some of the detained suspects, while calling for refund of their monies and an apology by the Anambra State Police Command.
In a press statement signed by Emeka Umeagbalasi, BoT chairman, he accused the police of illegally extorting from some of the traders before their release.
He said beyond the 33 traders paraded as IPOB members, 10 others were kept separately and fleeced of N1.2million.
The release read, "All the 33 innocent traders trading at Nkwo Nnewi Market, including members of the Nnewi Motor Spare Parts Dealers Association in Nnewi North Local
Government Area of Anambra State, arrested and detained on phantom allegations of “terrorism”, “arson” and “murder” leveled against them by the Anambra State Police Command, have been released.
'While 33 of them were criminally paraded on Sunday, 25th November, 2018, 10 others were detained but excluded from the list of those criminally paraded. One of them, Abubakar Mohammed, arrested alongside the innocent Igbo traders, was deliberately removed from the list of those criminally paraded on account of his ethno-religious identity.
'The 33 paraded traders were released relatively unconditionally, while four out of the remaining reportedly lost N1.2m (N300, 000 each) to a police extortion racketeer operating within the State Police Command, using an unnamed legal practitioner as a front or points-man.
'It is possible that the ten persons were excluded from the list of those paraded because of their acceptance under duress to pay huge sums as criminal bail fees.
'The affected traders were said to have been threatened by the police extortion racketeer to deny offering such criminal bail fees said to have been handed over to the police lawyer-front,' he said.
The group welcomed the release of the traders but demanded for thorough investigation into the allegation of loss of N1.2m and recovery of same if proven to have been extorted.
It said, 'The Anambra State Police Command must also disclose publicly the full identities of the police Inspector said to have been killed and others allegedly injured and hospitalized.'