Police Arrest A’Ibom Commissioner over Destruction of Opposition Party’s Billboard

Iniobong Essien

Okon Bassey in Uyo

The Police have arrested the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Environment, Dr. Iniobong Essien, over destruction of political billboards allegedly belonging to the opposition party in the state, the All Progressive Congress (APC).

The commissioner whose ministry regulates erection of billboards in the state is being detained at the State Police Headquarters, Ikot Akpan Abia, Uyo, by the time of filing in this report.

The staff of the ministry were said to have clashed with APC thugs in the process of bringing down the billboard allegedly belonging to the APC governorship candidate, Obong Nsima Ekere, and erected around the vicinity of a popular Akpanadem market in Uyo, the state capital.

THISDAY gathered that the arrest of the Commissioner followed a petition by the State Chairman of the APC, Mr. Ini Okopido, to the Inspector General of Police (IG), Ibrahim Idris, over the destruction of the billboards.

Based on the strength of the petition, a special squad sent from Abuja reportedly arrived the state on Tuesday and invited the Commissioner to the State Police Headquarters where he is being detained.

Reacting, the State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in decried the arrest and detention of the Environment Commissioner leaving the APC murderous goons that attack staff of the ministry to walk freely on the road.

PDP, through its State Publicity Secretary, Ini Ememobong, explained that a local vendor was said to have secured approval from the ministry to erect a billboard at a particular location from encumbrances and with the extant regulations.

The vendor was said to have commenced the erection of the board many months ago, but at a different location, which for all intent and purposes is not fit for the undertaking he sought.

The party in a statement made available to THISDAY stressed that this development was brought to the attention of the vendor many months back and he halted the erection of some components of the board.

“Surprisingly, the ministry learnt that APC agents went to hoist a banner on the billboard and were prevented by security agents. The approved location of the billboard was several meters away from the main thoroughfare of the market.

“Instead of restricting themselves to the point approved for them, they erected the billboard at a place most unfit for such and in flagrant contravention of environmental regulations.

“The Commissioner, in full execution of the regulatory powers vested in his ministry advised the company to relocate the pole to the approved location.

“Instead of adhering to the advice, the thugs employed by the APC engaged in unrestrained violence injuring bystanders and chasing away staff of the ministry.

“They claimed that the billboard bearing the image of President Muhammadu Buhari was torn ( a fabrication sweet only to their ears). There’s no billboard bearing the poster of the President in the entire stretch of the state, so how could people destroy what was never hoisted?

“On Tuesday, October 16, a Special Squad purported to have been sent by the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, arrived Uyo, following a petition said to have been written by the state chairman of the APC.

“The special Squad invited the commissioner and without any legal reason detained him.

“We wish to let Nigerians know that the Nigerian Police is a tax payers’ funded security agency and the notion that a special squad could be purportedly sent by the Inspector General of Police to harass a government official undertaking his legal duty, over a minor issue of like the location for the erection of a billboard is deeply offensive.

“The Nigerian Police must know that Nigerians and indeed the international community are watching these troubling developments.

“We must remind the Nigerian Police that when pushed to the wall there is only one direction to go and that the slow movement of the tiger should not be interpreted as cowardice.

“That we are a law abiding party and our people peace loving, should not be misinterpreted or mistaken for cowardice.

“If this is the beginning of the federal might that the APC has been promising to use in capturing Akwa Ibom, we can assure the world that the people of Akwa Ibom State who are solidly behind Governor Udom Emmanuel will resist this type of might with every fibre of our being.

“Akwa Ibom State under the administration of Governor Emmanuel is a very peaceful, safe and secure place, which has earned the commendation of all including the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 6 Division, Major General Jamil Sarham.

“We call on President Buhari to find out why a special squad claiming to act at his behest would be sent to the state over a minor issue as the erection of a billboard.” PDP stated in the statement.

The party noted that the action of the police is not unconnected with the pledge of the APC to turn Akwa Ibom into a theatre of war and violence in fulfilment of their promises.