Residents of Nekede community in the Owerri West Local Government Area of Imo State cried out to the Federal Government on Friday to prevail on the police authorities to stop indiscriminate arrest of residents of the community.
They alleged that operatives of the Imo State Police Command had been picking innocent residents of Nekede after a deadly clash of rival cult groups at institutions of higher learning in the community.
According to them, police operatives have descended on the community, following the clashes, arresting people, including innocent citizens in a bid to catch cult members.
Speaking in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), a youth leader in the community, Mr. Okechukwu Igwe, lamented that young people had fled the community in droves for fear of being arrested by the police.
“Yes, there has been a cult war in our community and many young people have fallen victim and we support the police to fish out the cultists.
“But our surprise is that innocent citizens have become the hunted. We want to use this opportunity to call on the police commissioner to caution his men against arbitrary arrest of residents of our community.”
Similarly, a businessman in the community, Mr. kelechi Ugoh, said that he had taken his family out of Nekede because of indiscriminate arrest of people by the police.
“Residents of Nekede are living in fear because of persistent harassment by police operatives deployed to the community.
“I believe that they were deployed to sanitize the area. How come they have descended on everybody in the community, including innocent citizens, who are not involved in the cult activities.
“We appeal to the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Dasuki Galandachi, to stop operatives of the Special Anti- Robbery Squad (SARS) from arresting innocent citizens in Nekede community.
A woman, Mrs. Glory Akandu, alleged that her three sons had been picked up by SARS operatives and that all her pleas to have access to them had yielded no result.
The Public Relations Officer of the Imo State Police Command, Mr. Orlando Ikoku, said that the police could arrest any suspect during a pandemonium or crisis.
He said that the police were still conducting investigations on the arrested people, to determine those that were innocent, assuring that those found innocent would be released.
NAN reports that a resumed cult war between members of the Black Axe Confraternity and Vikings has claimed no fewer than five lives in the past 10 days at Nekede.
The community is home to a Federal University of Technology and a Federal Polytechnic. (NAN)