Police fail to arrest Arewa youths nine days after el-Rufai’s order

Nine days after Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State ordered the arrest and prosecution of some Northern youths that gave Igbo in the North a three-month ultimatum to leave the region, no arrest has been made by the police.

A coalition of Northern groups, including the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, had on Tuesday, June 6, 2017 given all Igbo in the 19 states of the North till October 1 to leave the region or be forced out.

The ultimatum was handed down at a well attended press conference held at the Arewa House, Kaduna, and el-Rufai had ordered the immediate arrest and prosecution of all signatories to the statement the next day.

The governor, in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant-Media and Publicity, Samuel Aruwan, ordered the immediate arrest of all signatories to the statement issuing the ultimatum.

“We will not tolerate such irresponsible statements and conduct in our state. The statement issued by the “Northern youths” violates the laws of Kaduna State. Therefore, the Kaduna State Government has directed that its Ministry of Justice should prepare charges and prosecute the signatories and anyone complicit in arranging this egregious assault on the rights of fellow citizens,” the governor’s statement had read.

But on the evening of Thursday, June 15, ASP M.D. Muhammad, the Acting Public Relations Officer, Kaduna State Police Command, and also the Personal Assistant to the state police commissioner, Agyole Abeh, confirmed that the youths had not yet been arrested.

When asked why the youth had not been arrested, Muhammad said “efforts are in top gear” to make the arrests, but did not state why that was still the case after more than a week.

When the same question was put across to the Force Public Relations Officer, Jimoh Moshood, he said, “The Commissioner of Police in the Northern state has been directed by the Inspector-General of Police (Ibrahim Idris) to make sure that those threats are not actualised. The IG insists that Assistant Inspector-General of Police and the Commissioner of Police in charge of the zone and the command should ensure law and order are maintained and that the ultimatum is not actualised.

“The police will encourage people to live in peace. The protection of lives and property in Nigeria is paramount to us.”

He, however, refused to say more than that.

But a source in the police later told Saturday PUNCH that they had not made any arrests regarding the threats from the Northern youths and counter-threats from Niger Delta militants and some other groups in the South for fear of escalating the issue.

“The police are trying to maintain peace and order and if we arrest one group now, it may heighten the tension and escalate the issue and Nigerians might blame the police if that happens,” the source said.

The National Publicity Secretary, Afenifere, a pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Yinka Odumakin, said it was obvious that the Northern youths had the support of the elite in the region before going ahead with the threat.

He said, “Only the naive will not know that this is the hand of Jacob and the voice of Esau. If those guys were not messengers for the real owners of the voice, why is it difficult to arrest them? I said it from the beginning that for them to have used the Arewa House in Kaduna to hold the press conference, and not a dingy hotel or a street corner, those youths were sent by their establishment to do what they did.

“Who opened the Arewa House for them? Will someone want to host a press conference at the Arewa House without the knowledge of the people at the highest level, even the Kaduna State Government? So even if the police want to pretend about it, they should have even invited them to make a statement, released them later and said they had cautioned them.

“Some of their leaders have backed them and even when the Arewa Consultative Forum condemned them, it still said it identified with their frustrations. So, it is only the dumb that cannot see through all this to know that the butterfly that is dancing on the surface of the river has its drummers beneath the water.

“It is clearly a conspiracy at the highest level of the conservative northern establishment and that is why the police cannot touch them. It is just like the case of Fulani herdsmen causing havoc on people’s farms and going about with AK-47s. It is as if there is a group in Nigeria that has prepared something it wants to test and is just trying to provoke a perfect storm for it to strike.”