The police in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, yesterday detained three children of dead primary school teachers who protested non-payment of gratuities and pensions of their parents by the state government.
Ten others were injured as policemen at the Government House gate used force to break the protest.
Among those detained at the time of filing this report were the leaders of the group: Kenneth Enobong, Benjamin Benson and Utibe Akpan.
The police used tear gas and gun buts to scare the protesters.
Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) D. R. Abibo allegedly ordered the use of Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) to drive the protesters away from the Government House gate. Akibo was said to have ordered his officers and men order to beat up the protesters.
“Beat up these people. If you cannot beat them, let me beat them by my hand,” he was quoted as saying in the full glare of reports.
The police chief allegedly watched as some of the protesters were bundled into a vehicle.
Akibo said: “I told them to leave the road and stand by the side so that they can listen to me. but they disobeyed me as the Commissioner of Police. Who are they that they can’t listen or obey a simple instruction?”
The ACP represents the police at the commission of enquiry on the collapsed Reigners Bible Church International in Uyo.
“We are handling this kind of case at the commission and I was trying to help them in their case. But they refused to obey me,” he said before leaving the scene in his Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV). It was learnt that a police Inspector ordered the other policemen to drive the other protesters away – as far as Ibom Plaza or beyond.
Reporters covering the protest, including the Chairman of Correspondents’ Chapel, Denis Udoma, were attacked with tear gas and ordered to leave the scene with the protesters. The protesters, under the aegis of Next-of-Kin-of Late Primary School Teachers (NKLPST) in Akwa Ibom State, said they were forced into the peaceful agitation following government’s alleged insensitivity to their plight.
The group’s spokesman Pastor Aniekan Thompson said they resorted to the protest when negotiations with the government failed.
According to him, the affected teachers served the government since 1999, lived and died while waiting for their entitlements.
Thompson said several appeals were made to the government and other officials, including the Head of Service (HoS), Mrs. Ekerebong Akpan, to no avail.
He said: “After numerous protests, a committee on pensions, headed by the Leader of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Sir Udo Kirian Akpan, invited us for a meeting and we met on August 29 and September 19, last year, and agreed ‘…that since government cannot pay all the backlog of entitlements at once’, it will start paying in batches, from the September allocation. They said we should not protest again, that it was embarrassing to government.”
The spokesman said government’s failure to settle the issues led to the death of many members and the educational pursuit of their children.
Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) State Chairman Etim Ukpong said he advised Governor Udom Emmanuel to use the N14.5 billion Paris Club refunds to settle such cases.
But the governor, two weeks ago, took the matter to the House of Assembly, asking the lawmakers to include the Paris Club cash in the proposed budget of N365.201 billion.