The Rivers State Police Command and its Bayelsa State counterpart have disagreed over which command should be held responsible for the theft of four bags of garri (cassava flakes) by policemen attached to the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad.
The operatives were said to have snatched the goods from two traders in Mbiama Market on Tuesday, and fled with them in a white Hilux van.
Mbiama is in the Ahoada West Local Government Area of Rivers State; a border town between the state and Bayelsa State.
A Facebook user, Mashak Uyi, had posted a picture of two FSARS operatives at the back of a Hilux van with the bags of garri. A woman and two men were seen running after the cops as their van zoomed off.
Uyi, who expressed shock over the conduct of the operatives, said the goods were snatched from the victims at gunpoint.
He added that some soldiers at the scene laughed while the impunity went on.
He wrote, “I was completely bewildered to see men of the FSARS cart away four bags of garri from two traders at the popular Mbiama Market at about 12.21pm today (Tuesday).
“Three of them jumped down from the white Hilux van in a commando style, charging at the two traders in the guise of clearing the road. Rather than clear the road, it was the traders’ four bags of garri that they hurriedly “cleared” to their van.
“Not knowing what their intention was, the traders ran to them to demand money for their goods, but the FSARS men warned them not to come closer than they had or they would be dealt with accordingly. ‘Una no dey fear!’ ‘Woman, you won challenge us abi?’ They charged and zoomed off!
“Sadly, there were soldiers at the spot where this incident happened. All they could do was to laugh.
“I managed to capture them at a distance before their vehicle zoomed off with their loot…it is really shameful.
“Madam, if your FSARS husband bring garri come house today; say him buy am from Mbiama market, abeg show am this post! Na thief them thief the garri oo!”
Uyi, an environmentalist, who later spoke with our correspondent on the telephone, said the FSARS men headed for Rivers State after snatching the goods.
He said, “I went for an assessment of the flood impacted communities in the Ahoada West LGA on Tuesday. I was on my way to the local government secretariat on a motorcycle and on getting to a bridge near Mbiama Market, the Hilux stopped and three of the FSARS men alighted in a commando style and charged at some traders by the roadside.
“Each of them helped themselves to a bag of garri and a policeman went to pick one more. The traders – a woman and a man – thought they were buying the goods. They rushed to meet them (cops), but they were intimidated.
“When I saw what was happening, I asked the motorcycle rider to stop. I was with a camera and was already taking pictures of the environment before I got there. As they were zooming off, I managed to take some shots.
“Federal Road Safety Corps officials were on the road to manage traffic. There was no need whatsoever for what they (FSARS men) did. Foodstuffs at that market are sold at giveaway prices because flood had ravaged the market. If they had begged the traders, they could have even got more than enough for free.”
Commenting on the incident, one Grace Eke, lamented the brazen extortion of residents by FSARS operatives on a neighbouring road.
“At Oyigbo Junction, they are there collecting money from motorists, thereby causing traffic,” she added.
In his comment on Wednesday, Okerhe Ogheneruemu, who also condemned the stealing, said the police authorities could disown the men.
He wrote, “What you will hear in response to this is, ‘They are not our men.’ What a shame!”
On Thursday, the Police Public Relations Officer, Rivers State Command, Nnamdi Omoni, disowned the policemen, saying men of the command could not have engaged in such an unethical conduct.
He said, “That allegation is neither here nor there. How can policemen steal garri? It is not possible. Such an allegation is wrong. Our men are trained and we ensure that they observe professionalism in all they do.”
The Bayelsa State PPRO, Butswart Asinim, also absolved the state command’s FSARS of any wrongdoing.
He said, “Mbiama is not in Bayelsa; it is in Rivers. Our men won’t go to Mbiama to operate; we don’t cover the area. Get in touch with the Rivers Command. Even if they are not Rivers policemen, it happened in their (Rivers command) jurisdiction.”