THE Anambra State Police Command has detained a Catholic priest, Rev. Fr. Samuel Aniebonem, and five other persons on the allegation that they belong to the separatist group, the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB). MASSOB director of information, Mazi Chris Mocha said Fr. Aniebonem and the five others were arrested by the anti-kidnapping unit of the Nigeria Police Force, Awkuzu, Oyi Local Government Area, which used to serve as the Anambra State headquarters of the banned Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS. Vanguard reports.
Aniebonem, who works at St Patrick’s Cathedral Church, Awka, hails from Ifitedunu town, where three persons were arrested when the police raided a MASSOB office in the area last week.
It was gathered that trouble for the cleric began when he visited the State Criminal Investigation Department to inquire about his 87-year-old in-law, Chief Sylvester Dinyelu, who was among those arrested earlier, for his possible release.
According to Mocha, instead of briefing the priest on the reasons for Dinyelu’s arrest, the police arrested him on the suspicion that he too might be a member of the movement.
Those arrested with Fr. Aniebonam were Udebunu Anachuna, his driver, as well as Christian Ifeji, Johnson Anagor, and Kanayo Madu.
Mocha said that a similar thing occurred in Onitsha on Tuesday last week when one Mathew Ani was arrested on an allegation of belonging to the Indigenous people of Biafra (IPOB).
He called for a halt in the incessant arrests by police, arguing that such actions negated the principles of the right to free association and movement of the citizens as contained in the Nigerian constitutions as amended.
He said that the group has engaged the services of a lawyer to ensure the early release of the men, including the 87-year-old man.
The state Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, Mr. Tochukwu Ikenga, who confirmed the arrest and detention, said police operatives working on reliable information, raided their office along Oyeagu – Ifitedunu road.
He said that a lot of incriminating items and unpatriotic materials showing the movement’s disloyalty to the Federal government were found there.
A human rights activist, Nze Dekey described as surprising, arrest of the Reverend Father on the trumped-up allegation of belonging to MASSOB, wondering what would be the motive behind the arrest.