Tuesday, March 8

Women protesters hold Okowa hostage in Asaba

As millions of Nigerian women joined their counterparts across the world to observe International Women’s Day, hundreds of angry women on Tuesday held Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta state and hundreds of security operatives and workers hostage at the Government House, Asaba.

The angry protesters who sang solidarity songs, barricaded the gates of the Government House for about four hours as they demanded the release of four of their young men, whom they said were arrested by the police over three weeks ago. They gave their names as Eziafa Nwotokpo, Dikeamaka Okonji, Sampson Uwandulu, and Ndubuisi Odum.

With their placards and chants, the women expressed their anger. Some of the inscriptions on their placards read: “Youths are the Future of Tomorrow, Release our Youths Now; We need our youths, husbands, fathers back, we seek their bail; Release Iselle Azagba Youths, they are our Future.”
The women who came from Iselle Azagba community in about 12 buses and tipper lorries, also moved round Asaba the state capital, after first visiting the State House of Assembly and the State Police Command headquarters.

Speaking to journalists, one of the protesters, Mrs. Victoria Isichei, said three weeks ago, four youths of their community were apprehended by the police and locked away in prison.

“We are from Iselle Azagba. Iselle Azagba and Utulu were fighting over a piece of farmland. For that land, four people were killed in a fight, while many were injured. The fight took place near Iselle Azagba Mixed Secondary School, and in order to keep security, the school principal invited the vigilante to restore order and security. However, some police officers who were initially invited arrested those vigilante boys and took them to prison. For about three weeks now, they have not been released.
“What is their crime? They even arrested the principal, but have released him. But they won’t release the vigilante boys.

“We are here because the boys arrested are our sons, and our husbands. We will not fold our hands and wait until they die in police custody. They are innocent, and they must be released,” she said.‎
Also speaking, Mrs. Ikemefuna Margaret, who led the protest, said as women and mothers, they will will not fold their hands and watch as their sons whom they bore for nine months are held against their will for no crime.

She also acknowledged that they were aware of the significance of the International Women’s Day, and chose the day to make their voices heard: “what kind of Women’s Day are they celebrating, when the fruits of our wombs are about to be wasted?,” she asked.
She stated that since they were arrested, they have become exposed to all manner of criminal activities with no one to protect them.

Addressing the protesters, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, Charles Aniagwu, noted that the women had the right to protest and demand for the release of their children.
“Demonstrations and protests are the rights of every Nigerian. But having acknowledged that, the police regulates the actions of vigilantes. If the police arrests them, then it might mean there is no cordial relationship between the police and the vigilante.

“However, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa acknowledges the rights of every Deltan and would never want it trampled upon. The people arrested are Deltans, and the women are also Deltans, and indeed Nigerians. We will do all necessary to ensure that the rights of these people are fully protected and not trampled upon.

“We want to believe that the police is doing its best to protect the rights of the protesters and is aware that they should protect their rights.
“We expect that they, [Police], should charge the vigilante people arrested to court if they are found guilty of any crime,” he said.

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