Posted by Matthew Uche, Umuahia | 7 September 2017 | 2,134 times
Ten commercial tricycle operators (keke operators) in Abia State arrested for clashing with soldiers following their refusal to part with some amount of money demanded by the soldiers have been arraigned in court.
Last Monday, men of the Nigerian Army from 14 Brigade Ohafia, stationed at Isi Gate section of Umuahia, the capital city of Abia, where they were deployed to check street trading as part of task force composed of security agencies clashed with keke operators.
Abia State Police Command which the arraigned men before Chief Magistrate Linda Ugbaja preferred four-count charges of riotous assembly, malicious damage of property, taking part in riotous act and attempt to resist lawful arrest against the keke operators.
According to the charges, the offence committed by the arrested keke operators whose ages range between 24 and 45 years and others still at large was “an offence punishable under Section 332 of the criminal Code Law Cap 80, Vol 3 Laws of Abia State.
The matter was adjourned to September 18, 2017 while the accused persons were granted bail in the sum of N400,000 each and sureties with evidence of three years of tax payment.
Counsel to the defendants, Godwin Chionye, told journalists that the soldiers had come to Umuahia to “extort money from the keke operators,” hence the clash ensued when the people resisted parting with their money on that particular occasion.
However, the Army Public Relations Officer of 14 Brigade Ohafia, Major Gbadamosi Oyegoke, denied that the soldiers were engaged in extortion but did not explain the cause of the of the clash. He said that three soldiers were wounded and a patrol van damaged.
The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) Mr. Geoffrey Ogbonna, also corroborated the Army’s position but in court, the police named two soldiers that sustained injuries.
In a statement he issued shortly after the keke operators were arraigned in court, the PPRO said that the clash was between soldiers attached to 14 Brigade Command Ohafia and tricycle operators – contrary to the erroneous reports that members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) were involved in the clash.
Ogbonna said that the crisis situation was promptly brought under control after “the Police waded into the matter with other military deployments”.
Meanwhile, keke operators embarked on a protest march yesterday in Umuahia, denouncing the extortions by security agencies, vowing that they would no longer “cooperate with oppressors.”
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