THE Foundation for Environmental Rights, Advocacy and Development, FENRAD, a pro-democracy and environmental rights advocacy group in Abia State has condemned in the harshest of terms the killing of two policemen at Ariaria market on Tuesday, July 25, 2023.
From information available to the Foundation, including videos and clips so far analysed, the said policemen were part of the security details attached to the Commissioner for Investment, Abia State. The killings, FENRAD gathered, happened along the popular Old Express and Samek Junction in Ariaria market.
Sadly, this is not the first in recent times security agents are losing their lives along Ariaria market. Part of our findings as a Foundation showed that policemen had been killed and their guns carted away allegedly by unknown gunmen at Faulk’s Road, Aba, within the same Ariaria market coordinates. This is bad in its entirety and the Foundation is unsparing in its condemnation of these acts.
The Foundation commiserates with the bereaved, urges that due compensation be awarded the families of these slain policemen while also calling for proper and thorough investigation into these killings. Questions must be asked and answers provided. Why was the commissioner attacked? Who are the masterminds of this deadly attack, and if they are still at large, how can they be rounded up and prosecuted? These are questions begging for answers, the Foundation believes.
Having stated this, the Foundation considers as sad, regrettable and knavish the reprisal attacks allegedly carried out by some personnel of the Force leading to panic among traders, residents and passersby. In the wee small hours of Wednesday, July 26, 2023, gunshots released sporadically into the air, threw Umuode, Faulk’s Road, Okigwe Road and adjoining streets into unnecessary anxiety. People woke up to staccato outbursts of gunfire in their neighbourhood and remained indoors for two days, in some instances. Reports of policemen destroying vehicles (both cars and tricycles) and commandeering goods and properties are unwelcome and extremely inapposite, especially when situated within the context of rules of engagement. Scarring away and stampeding of business owners and residents could escalate the situation further; this is to no one’s benefit.
On Wednesday, July 26, a detachment of the police’ Rapid Response Squad (RRS) was seen at Brass Junction where they barricaded all access roads to Ariaria market. In the last three days, businesses have suffered in the face of current economic contraction affecting Aba households. While the Foundation believes life is too precious to be equated with ordinary wares and merchandise, taking the law into one’s own hands has never led to a win-win outcome. Such can only widen the already existing confidence gap between the police and the public. The effects of the Degema and Oku-Jumbo Streets experience are still telling; no closure, no restorative justice, four or five years after!
Having read the state government’s statement on this development and really appreciative of the governor’s timeous intervention, following which calm is gradually returning to the town, the Foundation believes that the new government can go one better by helping to work out a new, healthy and robust police-community relations. A multi-stakeholder dialogue is needed now to reset the policing standard in Aba. Resort to kinetic approach has never boosted civil-police relations nor enhanced mutual understanding, rather it has always had a lethal outcome.
Lastly, FENRAD commend the Governor for the timely visit to the market for asssement of the whole situation and calls on the Governor to look into this matter and find a lasting and amicable way of resolving it. Both the police, the public and the government can benefit from a meeting of minds.
Comrade Nelson Nnanna Nwafor
Executive Director, Foundation for Environmental Rights, Advocacy & Development (FENRAD Nigeria).