The Akwa Ibom State Police Command, on Monday, paraded 63 suspected political thugs, including 10, who were arrested in connection with pre-election violence in the Obot-Akara Local Government Area of the state.
Two persons were killed and 13 vehicles burnt in the incident on Saturday.
Some of the suspects, PUNCH Metro learnt, were allegedly hired from Bayelsa, Delta and Ondo states by desperate politicians.
A locally-made gun, 25 live cartridges, two machetes, charms, a knife, phones, human hair, two axes and Permanent Voter Cards were some of the items recovered from the suspects.
Parading the suspects at a press briefing held at the command’s headquarters in Uyo, the state Commissioner of Police, Mr Bashir Makama, said 41 of them, who claimed to be election observers, were arrested on Friday, February 15, 2019, in a hotel in Uyo.
He said the suspects could not produce identity cards issued by the Independent National Electoral Commission or properly identify themselves.
Makama, who was represented at the briefing by the command’s Public Relations Officer, Odiko MacDon, said 20 other suspects were arrested on the same day at the Ukanafun Local Government Area of the state.
He said the suspects were allegedly brought in from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, by one Uduak Dick, on the pretext of attending the burial ceremony of a Lance Corporal in the Nigerian Army, Udo Essien.
Makama said some suspects had on February 13 set ablaze the INEC office at the Eastern Obolo Local Government Area of the state, but the timely intervention of the police saved the office and all the materials meant for the elections from being completely burnt.
The commissioner added that one Anietie Peters, who hails from the Mkpat-Enin Local Government Area of the state, was arrested on Friday in possession of 34 PVCs, while one Ayaya Bassey and Asuquo Ebio, who were apprehended at the Ikot-Ekpene Local Government Area, had confessed to be thugs hired by a politician from Cross River State.
He said, “The command, on February 12, also killed two suspected killers of one Anthony Ikechuwu, a pharmacist, who was shot dead by hoodlums at the St. Michael Primary School, Abak Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State.
“The victim’s Lexus SUV with number plate, AKD 850 DS, has been recovered. The suspects were traced to their hideout in Aba, Abia State. They were killed in a gun duel with members of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad from Akwa Ibom State, while a locally-made revolver pistol with four live cartridges was recovered from the suspects.”
Makama used the occasion to warn politicians in the state to play by the rules and advise their supporters to conduct themselves or risk arrest by the police.
“Let me use this opportunity to call on politicians to play the game by the rules. Let me assure you that the non-partisan nature of the police in Akwa Ibom State will not change; we will remain apolitical, neutral and committed to free, fair and credible elections. We will at all times act professionally based on international best practices,” Makama said.
One of the 41 suspects, Okoroda Ken, from Bayelsa State, said he and his colleagues were arrested at the Angellyne Hotel around 3am on February 15, adding that they had yet to reach their coordinator, who lodged them in the hotel.
“We all submitted our passports to the Society for the Advancement of Credible Leadership and Observation. This organisation is registered with and credited by INEC. Since we submitted our passports, we were told that our names were submitted to INEC and that we would likely monitor the elections in Uyo.
“We came on Thursday to confirm whether our names were there or not. We were in the Angellyne Hotel, which was booked for us by the coordinator of the group, Berefa Bedfon. When we were arrested, all our phones were taken from us and we have not been able to contact anyone. INEC can confirm if our names have been registered with them.”