Release our community leaders, Esan youths warns police, Edo Govt

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The recent arrest and detention by the Edo State Police Command of two community leaders in Uromi along with six suspects in connection with the January 7, 2023 kidnap of passengers at the Igueben Train Station have been condemned by Esan Youths as they alleged that the arrest has political undertone capable of diverting public attention from the actual kidnappers of the passengers.

Speaking on phone at the weekend, a civil society activist and President, Esan Youths for Good Governance and Social Justice, Comrade Benson Odia said the community leaders; Chiefs Hamilton Ibadin of Ebho-Ibadin and Friday Ighedujiewu who are 59 and 51 years respectively were arrested and charged to court ostensibly due to their non membership of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State.

It was gathered that while Ibadin defected from PDP about seven months ago to Labour Party, Ighedujiewu is a member of All Progressives Congress (APC). This, we learnt has not gone down well with Governor Godwin Obaseki who expected them not to be partisan given their positions as traditional rulers.

Investigation has however revealed that both chiefs were being accused of having received a cow gift from herdsmen. Based on the allegation, the two were charged to a Benin High Court along with six others on two-count charges of conspiracy and kidnapping.

The six others include Ighoko Mustapher Odion, 62, Okojie Dominic Ewa, 58, Ojie Patrick, 42, Halilu Umaru, 28, Aminu Ibrahim, 25 and Isah Aliyu, 25.
Effort to get details about the controversial cow gift with one of the two men who presented the cow to the Ebho-Ibadin community as New Year gift paid off.

One of the cow donors, Hon. Anthony Saturday Iyoha; a former Vice Chairman of Esan North East said the cow was jointly given by him and his business associate Chief Clifford Inegbedion in fulfilment of their promise to the community.

According to him, his civil engineering company alongside Inegbedion’s have been engaged as sand excavators in the community. The land where the excavation was taking place is situated within the boundary of Ebho-Ibadin, Igueben and Udo with access route passing through Ebho-Ibadin. He explained that towards the end of 2022, elders of the community had summoned them to a meeting where the community presented a proposal for rent increase in the excavation business.

Both excavators had engaged in hours of discussion with the community during which they were able to discourage the community from asking for rent increase as they were also having difficulty in the business. The community reportedIy conceded to the excavators’ position but with a subtle request for Christmas and New Year gift.

According to Iyoha, a cow was promised the community which Inegbedion and himself jointly bought for N400,000. He said the cow was subsequently presented on New Year day to the community leaders through a cow dealer cum butcher known as Mr. lucky.

When contacted on phone, Chief Inegbedion corroborated what Iyoha said, adding that the cow gift was a promise made to the community.

Esan Youths President, Comrade Odia challenged Governor Obaseki to personally confirm from Iyoha and Inegbedion if they were the cow donors or not rather than contrive a story to rope in, their leaders who did not know about the kidnap.

Describing Obaseki as an undemocratic leader, Odia recalled how he was personally detained for 73 days in 2022 simply because he led a protest against the Governor at Irrua.

According to the activist, democracy demands that everyone is entitled to fair hearing or expression of opinion at all times but regrettably the Governor has chosen to clamp down on members of the civil society and others who hold opposing views.

The Youths President has therefore called on prominent Esan sons to prevail on Governor Obaseki and the police to discontinue the charges against the two community leaders and look elsewhere for the kidnappers.

According to another indigene of the town, “Besides, I learnt there was another kidnapping scene in Ovia in Edo State last week after the Igueben saga, why did the police not go after the kings and chiefs in the area over the kidnapping? If the arrest of chiefs in Esaland over the Igueben train kidnap saga is not targeted at tarnishing the name of Esan race, then the police should equally arrest and charge the kings and chiefs in Ovia to court for alleged kidnapping , it’s only then that we can see them to be just and right.”

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