There is presently palpable tension in Emebiam community in Owerri West Local Government Area of Imo state as the police have clamped down on the community,arresting the youths for demanding government presence in the area.
According to Stanley Ndukauba Osuji, a youth leader and vigilantee member in the community, “since the Imo state Rubber Estate was established many years ago, the community has not benefited anything from the government as the owners of the hectares of land where the rubber company is situated. Our fathers did their best to see that the community enjoyed infrastructural development but all their effort proved abortive. On 27th December 2020, Emebiam Youth Assembly decided to embark on a peaceful protest to attract government attention. They stopped lorries from entering and leaving the community with the goods’.
He further stated that, “we only see the rubber being taken from our community to different cities, sometimes with Dangote trailers. We learnt that a trailer load of the product is sold for tens of million naira, yet the host community still anguishes in abject poverty’.
He also stated that during the peaceful protest the Manager and Mr. Charles Udemba invited some military personnel to harass and intimidate the protesters. Luckily for us, our sister, the wife of the Governor of Ondo State, Her Excellency Mrs Betty Akeredolu intervened. She advised them on the essence and best way to manage peaceful protests. According to her, “it is the right of citizens to protest peacefully, unarmed resorting to destruction of property if they feel that their rights are infringed on. Dialogue is the best way to handle protesters. Please let’s not replicate the Lekki massacre in Emeabiam. We are known for peace”, she said.
The Youth Leader stressed that “if not for the intervention of the Ondo State first lady there would have been blood bath at Emeabiam. We however learnt that the 34 Brigade Headquarters at Obinze denied knowledge of their presence in the community.”
He hinted that Emeabiam people have suffered so much, as the community lacks necessary infrastructure. The youths are unemployed, as none of our sons is employed in the company. We also lack health facilities. Our mothers are dying of preventable illnesses in their productive age” he stressed.
A Woman leader, in the community (name withheld) alleged that since the peaceful protest, the police have been arresting youth leaders and elders of the community. The community is in chaos. Our husbands and sons are being arrested for demanding what rightfully belongs to them. She called on the government to come to their aid by ensuring that the management of the rubber estate does the needful in line with their social responsibility to the host community and her people.
Effort to reach the divisional police officer for reaction on the alleged unlawful arrest and detention of the youths of the area was unsuccessful as our reporter was refused access to him.