The 486 alleged members of boko haram sect who were arrested by the 144 Battalion of the Nigeria Army in Asa, near Aba, Abia State, at the weekend are just traders, according to the leader of Northern Nigerian Traders in Mile 3 Area of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Alhaji Bala Matu.
During a telephone interview, Alhaji Matu stated that the soldiers arrested patriotic and innocent people and leveled false allegations against them as Boko Haram members.
“They are not Boko Haram; they are genuine traders. They are patriotic Nigerians. I am their chairman; they are under me and they are doing their own businesses. They are people that are selling ear rings, brocades, sugar cane, carrots and many other types of items. Even shoe makers and wheelbarrow pushers are among them,” he said.
According to him, when the alleged Boko Haram members were arrested, the soldiers collected and switched off their phones to prevent communication with relatives or any other people.
Alhaji Matu added that leader of the Fulani community who is also one of the leaders of the northern residents in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, who tried to ascertain that the soldiers arrested the wrong people, was equally detained as soon as he got there.
The telephone lines of the Abia State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Dr.Eze Chimkamnayo, and the Army Public Relations Officer at the 82 Division of the Nigerian Army, Enugu, Col. H.E.Gambo, were switched off during an attempt to contact them for comments on the matter.
However, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Theodore Orji, Mr. Charles Ajunwa, said that the suspects were still undergoing interrogation by the soldiers, and also being fed.
“They are being fed. Nobody is torturing any of them. They are okay,” Ajunwa said during a brief telephone chat.