How Police Manhandle Protesters At A/Ibom Government House

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By; Patrick Titus, Uyo.
What could be described as “adding injuries to an existing wound” best defined the circumstance faced by a group of protesters as they staged a peaceful protest to government house in Uyo on Monday to register their legitimate demand.
The protesters who identified themselves as “Coalition of families: Next of kin of late primary school teachers in Akwa Ibom state” carried out the protest over non-payment of their parents gratuities by the state government since 1999.
On their placards were descriptions as “No more excuses; Half a million can pay us all; No one to speak for us; We have come to die here until the governor is ready to pay us. By tomorrow, our family members will be joining us
Rather than getting the ears of the state governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel whom they anticipated would come out and address their plights; they ended up as punching bags in the hands of policemen led by the Assistant Commissioner of Police in the state, ACP D. Abibo who came to the scene.
ACP Abibo in a swift of anger, ordered his men to man-handle members of the coalition for refusal to move away from the area claiming that they blocked a free access to and fro government house.
He said, “Beat up these people, take them to the station; if you cannot beat them; let me beat them by my hand,” as he watched some of the protesters being beaten up and bundled into a waiting police Hilux vehicle.
It was also observed that the police used armoured personnel carrier (APC) that was stationed at government house gate to disperse the protesters who numbered about 100 as well as unleashing teargas canisters on them. They also threatened to beat up the journalists who were on ground to cover the protest.
Three of the protesters who were severely brutalized by over five policemen who descended on them and taken to the station on the instruction of ACP Abibo were later identified as Benjamin Benson, Enoobong Kenneth and Utibe.
At another point few meters away from government house gate where the remaining protesters went and regrouped, Our correspondent who monitored the development observed  that a police inspector ordered the other policemen to drive the other protesters away as far as Ibom Plaza or beyond.
“Drive them away, as far as Ibom Plaza and beyond. I don’t want see any of them around here. Report back to me when you are done.”
Narrating their ordeal, the spokesman of the coalition, Aniekan Thompson told our correspondent that the police acted in an unbecoming manner expected of the officers.
“They beat us up mercilessly, you need to see how they beaten and bundled our other colleagues, Enobong Kenneth; Benjamin Benson, and Utibe, into their vehicle like criminals.”
“We ask them to immediately release our colleagues that they arrested for no just cause, unconditionally. Instead of them to face the reality on ground, the government and the police were accusing us of being sponsored by the All Progressives Congress.
“For God’s sake, 99 per cent of us are card carrying members of the People’s Democratic Party. We belong to different groups that ensured the election of the present Akwa Ibom State governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel,” he said.
On the gratuities owed to their late parents who had served the government meritoriously for 35 years, Thompson said that they had obtained letters of administration from the court; screened by the State Universal Basic Education Board since 2010, which gave them clearance slip for payment.
He said, in 2014, 185 names were authorised to be paid by SUBEB. He explained that only 42 of the number were able to receive their entitlements and that out of the 42, only four persons were identified as bonafide next of kin.
Thompson stated that government never showed any commitment in the plight of the next of kin, noting that the governor had denied owing them a kobo when he spoke on television phone-in programme a year ago.
According to him, “After numerous protests, a committee on pensions headed by leader of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Mr. Udo Kierian invited us. We met on August 29 and September 19, 2016 and agreed on the following: That since government cannot pay all the backlog of entitlements at once that they will start paying in batches from September allocation.”
“That we should not go on protest again since it was embarrassing to government. Surprisingly, government did not pay as agreed. On November 29, 2016 we had a meeting with the Head of Civil Service (HOS), Mrs. Ekerebong Akpan in her office and she said that government had set aside N100m to commence the first batch of payment but the governor needed our assurances that there will be no problem.
“We gave her our assurances and she asked for time to get to the governor and get back to us. After three weeks she did not inform us of any positive development on the matter. Government had always cited paucity of funds as hindrance but we know of states that have tackled this problem even with less income than Akwa Ibom.”
He urged the state government to use part of the N14.5bn Paris Club money released to the state for payment.
The Information Officer to Head of Service, Mr. Edem Okon, said the group actually came on a courtesy call on Mrs. Akpan, complaining of their plights. He said, the HOS assured them that their issues were being looked into alongside others who have similar matters to ensure holistic settlements.

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