Death Of 70-Yr-Old Man: Task Force Under Fire …As Muslims Allege Murder, Demand Probe

Bureau de change operators along the Presidential Hotel in Port Harcourt have alleged victimization, harassment and indiscriminate arrest of their members by the state Taskforce on illegal motor parks and street trading in Port Harcourt.

The traders had last week barricaded the busy Rumuola/Presidential area of the Port Harcourt/Aba expressway in protest over alleged death of a 70 year old man Yusuf Ladan from Sokoko State.

Vice chairman of the operators at the Presidential Hotel area, Alhaji Isaka M’Salim who spoke to The Vortex frowned at the constant harassment and arrest of their members insisting that the dead man was not a trader in the area but was in the area to visit a friend when the Taskforce arrested him.

According to him, the Taskforce members in Zone 7, arrested the elderly man, took him away and returned him to the spot dead and debunked claim by the Chairman of the Taskforce, Mr. Bright Amaehule that the man was not killed by the Taskforce members.

Alhaji Salim lamented that the traders had spent over N5m  in bailing members arrested by the Taskforce, stating that the Taskforce collects at least  N120,000 for each of their colleagues arrested.

The association vice chairman also accused the Taskforce of colluding with Police at the Kala Police Division for the extortion of their members arrested by the Taskforce.

He alleged that the police division acts as the settlement base for the Taskforce where money is usually collected and shared, adding that no receipt or evidence of such payment is usually given.

On his part, Alhaji Lawal Daura, chairman of the branch expressed dismay at what he termed the constant harassment and exploitation of its members. “ Every week they will come and arrest one person here.  If they see you wearing ‘babariga’ they must arrest you for  illegal trading.

The traders appealled to the State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike to caution members of the Taskforce and restrain them from deviating from the mandate given by the governor; and promised to restrict their members from trading on the road stressing that many of them are willing to rent shops to carry on their trader.

Meanwhile, Chairman of the Taskforce on illegal trading, Chief Bright, Amaehule has denied  that officers of the Taskforce were responsible for the death of the man.

Amaehule stated that the deceased only slumped after the Taskforce vehicle had dropped him back to where he was arrested.

In a related development, the Rivers State Council for Islamic Affairs has condemned the alleged killing of Yusuf Ladan by members of the State Task Force on Illegal Street Trading and Motor Parks during their raid at the Hotel Presidential Area of Port Harcourt.

Speaking to journalists at Bait-ul Islam, the Council’s Secretariat, after a meeting with representatives of  forex traders, the State Islamic Leader and Vice President General of the Council, Alhaji Nasir Awhelebe Uhor, described as wicked the callous action that led to the death of Alhaji Yusuf Ladan from Sokoto State.

Alhaji Uhor said that there was nothing in the duty briefs of the task force that allows its members to unduly harass, extort, brutalize, and as in this case, kill people and steal or destroy their goods under the guise of enforcing the ban.

“How can task force members, arrest their victims, first rob them of all their money, destroy or share their goods among themselves and, after paying the fines imposed, release them without returning their goods?” he asked.

Alhaji Uhor noted that if the task force members had rushed Alhaji Ladan to hospital instead of dumping him on the pavement, he might have survived.

“We firmly believe that Governor Nyesom Wike did not order the task force members to brutalize, rob and kill in the discharge of their duties. The Governor  should therefore distance his government from the unlawful activities of the miscreants in the task force and thoroughly investigate their illegal activities, including the murder of Alhaji Ladan, with a view to punishing the culprits,” he said.

The vice president General commended the police for their quick response, but urged them to get to the bottom of the matter by arresting and prosecuting all those involved in the death of Alhaji Ladan.

He called on Muslims in the State to remain calm and law-abiding as the Council would monitor the case.

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