Angry youths brought commercial activities in markets in Anambra State to a standstill on Saturday following an unconfirmed report that the Federal Government was planning to transfer suspected Boko Haram prisoners to Ekwulobia Prison in Aguata local government area of the state.
However, All Progressives Congress (APC), South-East geopolitical zone described as ”blatant falsehood” the rumour that the government would transfer suspected Boko Haram detainees to Ekwulobia Prison.
Thousands of the youths blocked major roads in the state, including the Head Bridge and the Enugu-Onitsha Expressway in Onitsha, as well as the popular Zik Avenue in Awka, causing traffic gridlock for several hours.
Though the protest was peaceful, policemen in Onitsha later fired teargas canisters to disperse the protesters. The security operatives, later joined by soldiers stationed at the Uga junction on Atani Road, also moved in to remove the barricades used
In all the cities in the state, the youths waved placards with inscriptions that read, “We don’t want Boko Haram prisoners in Anambra”; “Buhari, Igbos will not accept your prisoners”; “Anambra is special and secured”; “Anambra is not a party to terrorists and should not be involved in it”; “We say no to Boko Haram people in Anambra” and “Buhari, why Anambra?”
At the Ekwulobia Prison, which was named as the likely new abode for the Boko Haram prisoners, there was nothing on ground to show that a large number of inmates were brought in there. Some officials of the prison said that they also heard a rumour that some prisoners from the northern part of the country would be brought there.
According to one of them, “There was nothing on ground to show that new inmates were being expected as the situation here has not changed.”
Dr. Okwudili Ezenwankwo, President General of Anambra Markets Amalgamated Traders Association (AMATAS), who addressed reporters in Onitsha, said they heard from a very reliable source that plans had been concluded to bring suspected Boko Haram prisoners to the state, adding that they would do everything within their power to resist it.
Pressed to say how they got information that such prisoners were to be brought to the state, Ezenwankwo said: “We have our ears to the ground and that is the much we can say for now. We were informed that Federal government wants to transfer Boko Haram prisoners to Anambra State and this is unacceptable to us.
“If you visit the Ekwulobia Prison, you will discover that something is going on there. We are not against President Muhammadu Buhari, but we want him to keep these special prisoners where they belong.
“We know our president is a good man and he will not do anything that will cause insecurity in this part of the country to add to the existing one caused by Boko Haram insurgents. Anambra is peaceful and we don’t want Boko Haram to come and cause confusion.”
According to Ezenwankwo, Anambra traders have already brought the matter to the attention of Governor Willie Obiano, adding that the governor was mandated by the traders to take their protest over the matter to President Buhari.
Mr. Uche Eze, Anambra State Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, said the situation was properly handled and the police was on top of the situation.
…No Iota Of Truth In Rumour – APC
The All Progressives Congress (APC), South-East geopolitical zone, has described as, ”blatant falsehood” the alleged plan by Federal Government to transfer suspected Boko Haram detainees to Ekwulobia Prison in the state.
The denial came as angry youth paralysed commercial activities in markets in Anambra State protesting the alleged plan.
But in a swift reaction, the Spokesperson, APC, South-East, Mr. Osita Okechukwu in a statement said, “We wish to state categorically that the rumour making the rounds that Boko Haram detainees will be transferred to Anambra State or any other state for that matter is blatant falsehood.
“We have made contacts with the Presidency, Nigeria Prison Service, Ministry of Internal Affairs and they have assured us that there is no iota of truth in the mischievous rumour.
“In the clarification, Nigeria Prison Service stated unequivocally that, ‘most of the terror suspects are awaiting trial and so there is no way they can be moved to another state, because they must be tried in the state where they committed the crime’.
“They went further to state that their primary and traditional duty is to move detainees from prison to trial courts adding that moving high profile suspects from a distance more than 1,000 kilometers from Maiduguri to Onitsha will be near to very difficult.”