The Nigeria police force have declined to speak on the offence committed by the 114 women recently arrested in Owerri, Imo state.
The women were protesting the “disappearance” of Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) when they were picked by the police on Friday and subsequently charged to court.
Kanu has not been seen in public since IPOB had a clash with soldiers of the Nigerian army in Abia, last year.
It was gathered that they were picked close to Warehouse junction in the state capital, after attempts by the policemen to disperse them with teargas were unsuccessful.
When contacted on Thursday, Andrew Enwerem, spokesman of the Imo state police command, declined to state the offence of the protesters.
Asked why the police picked them up, he replied: “Go to Owerri prison, you are a reporter. Go to the prison and find out.”
TheCable, however, told him attempts have been made to have access to the prison authorities but the reporter was redirected to the police.
“I am the police spokesperson and not an investigator,” he said, adding: “If you ask me, I will say yes, some women were arrested, I don’t know their count charge.”
But why were they arrested? “Go to the prison and find out,” he interjected.
Some Nigerians and groups have criticised the police and called for the immediate release of the women.
Igbo Ekunie Initiative, a socio-cultural Igbo organisation, described it as “cowardly” and “primitive”.
“These innocent and unarmed women were within their rights under the Nigerian constitution, engaging in a peaceful demonstration and protest over the continued disappearance of Nnamdi Kanu,” the group had said on Wednesday.
Some have also taken to the social media to condemn the incident and warn against a clampdown on the fundamental rights of citizens.
Below are some of the complaints over the incident
We need to completely reorientate the @PoliceNG. It is wrong AND ILLEGAL to arrest and harass everyone who peacefully protests against their government. The Owerri women have a Constitutional right to free speech and free assembly. They DON’T need a permit. #FreeTheOwerri114— Dr. Joe Abah (@DrJoeAbah) August 23, 2018
IG @PoliceNG , how in the world did you put this level of blight on our Democracy with this saga of the protesting Imo women? I read that “the Magistrate says her #court lacks jurisdiction, adjourns till 3 Sept for attorney general’s advice. #Women remanded in #prison.” Wow. How? pic.twitter.com/567eBCDUO2— Oby Ezekwesili (@obyezeks) August 23, 2018
Women went out on a very peaceful protest in Owerri.What does the State do?Arrests most of them after gassing them. No one gassed the same women that were dancing on the streets two weeks ago to receive Aisha Buhari for the August meeting. Time to get angry with your votes.— Dr Chima Matthew Amadi (@AMADICHIMA) August 21, 2018
I'm struggling to get this - unarmed women herded to jail while killers in different parts of #Nigeria roam free?! pic.twitter.com/EbFvGXbNnE— Chidi Odinkalu (@ChidiOdinkalu) August 22, 2018
The illegal arrest & detention of Igbo women by @PoliceNG in Owerri under d dubious guise of a crackdown on IPOB is condemnable. The continued deliberate humiliation of our people by d current govt of @MBuhari is unacceptable. #FreeInnocentIgboWomen #FreeInnocentIgboWomen pic.twitter.com/wgH3zboaSW— Jude C. Ndukwe (@stjudendukwe) August 22, 2018
I condemn the arrest and detention of IPOB women by the security forces in Owerri simply for participating in a peaceful demonstration in support of Nnamdi Kanu and asking for his whereabouts.I call on the government to release the women and let them go home to their families.— Femi Fani-Kayode (@realFFK) August 20, 2018