The protest against the alleged relocation of about 47 Boko Haram detainees to Anambra State yesterday took another dimension as traders from the South-East geo-political zone staged a protest at Ekwulobia, Aguata Local Government Area.
Shops at the popular Ekwulobia market were all locked as the traders with their counterparts from across the state and neighbouring states gathered at the Ekwulobia Roundabout chanting songs and insisting on the return of the detainees to the North.
Reports have it that no fewer than 47 Boko Haram detainees were on Sunday night, brought into Aguata Prison located at Ekwulobia under tight security.
When Daily Sun visited Ekwulobia yesterday, the entry routes to the Aguata Prison, which was fenced with wire gauze, was cordoned off by stern-looking soldiers, who embarked on stop and search operation of passersby, including the villagers.
The presence of security operatives had brought tension in the area as people now shun the roads around the prison yard.
One of the villagers, who pleaded anonymity, told Daily Sun that they became apprehensive of the presence of the Boko Haram detainees following the sight of some soldiers on Monday conveying mattresses and mats and asking for the route to the prison. The villager said: “In fact I got a call yesterday morning from a friend in Enugu, who told me that the Onitsha protest was real that the Boko Haram people were brought to our community on Sunday night from Enugu airport. It did not take up to three hours when some soldiers drove in and were asking for the way to the prison. They had in their vehicle mattresses and mats.”
At yesterday’s protest, the South-East traders were led to the arena by the coordinator, Chief Chigozie Akudolue, who noted that the zone had security challenges it was contending with, hence, to bring in detained terrorists would worsen the problem.
Speaking with newsmen on the protest, President, Aguata zone of Amalgamated Traders Association (AMATAS), Chief Emma Ozoemenam, said their peaceful protest was to make it clear to the Federal Government that they do not want them in Anambra State or any part of the South-East.
He said: “We are protesting the relocation of the Boko Haram detainees to the prison in Ekwulobia and we are saying we don’t want them here, they should take them back to where they came from. It came as a rumour and on Saturday we got information that they will bring them to Anambra, but after the Saturday demonstration, on Monday we confirmed that they had brought them to this place despite the serious demonstration we held.
“So, we are saying that if they are indeed in the prison at Ekwulobia, let them return them to their various areas. They came from North and it is in the North that they committed the crime not here. We don’t want them here, we cannot host them here.
“We are pleading with the government to take them back. We are for government and government is for us. Government is not supposed to do things that would endanger the people they are ruling. We know our problem here in the South-East and to dump these Boko Haram people here for us is much problem and that is the essence of our protest.”