The apex pan-northern socio-political organization, Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, has called on the Police Commissioner in Rivers State, Mr. Joseph Mbu, to release the 320 persons arrested in the state on Sunday, who were termed as Boko Haram suspects.
ACF said those arrested by the Rivers State Police Command were traders, adding that none of them had any connections with the radical Islamist sect that has terrorized the North for more than three years.
South-South and South-East Coordinator of ACF, Alhaji Musa Saidu, said that the traders traveled in large groups to avoid armed robbery attacks.
The state police command had on Sunday jolted residents of the oil-rich state when it claimed that its men arrested 320 persons suspected to be members of Boko Haram at the border between Imo and Rivers states in a convoy of 17 buses operated by a transport company allegedly owned by a former Inspector General of Police.
The convoy of the suspected insurgents was said to have been led by one Bala Dambam and they were reportedly coming from Jigawa State.
Mbu, who confirmed the arrest of the suspects, had said he would not make further comments on the matter until the end of police investigations.
But the ACF leader insisted that the suspects were businessmen and women returning to Port Harcourt from a business trip to Jigawa State. Specifically, he stated that one of the arrested women is his neighbour’s wife.
Saidu said, “Those people arrested by the police are not Boko Haram members. I was the one that directed that anybody that is just coming into Port Harcourt from the North should report to us (Hausa leaders in Port Harcourt).
“Mbu is a friend and I have sent him a text message to release the innocent people that were arrested by his men on Sunday. We know that security agents are fighting Boko Haram, but sincerely speaking, these people that were arrested have nothing to do with Boko Haram.
“Surprisingly, one of those arrested is the wife of my neighbour who went to the North to buy fruits and other things to sell here in Port Harcourt. We are happy that the police did not find any weapon with them. The traders move in convoy whenever they are travelling in order to discourage armed robbers from attacking them”.
The spokesperson for the Rivers Police Command, DSP Ahmad Mohammad could not be reached to get his reaction to the latest development as his mobile phone was switched off.