On Saturday, August 13th, 2022, a group of young hikers took a trip to a mountain within Down Base/ECWA Staff Area Of Faringada, Jos North Local Government Area Of Plateau State, where their hiking exercise was to take place.
However, what should have been a very exciting experience for the 13 hill-walkers, soon turned into a nightmare, as men of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) and local vigilantes soon arrived the area and whisked the individuals away.
When asked why the sudden sweep and what the crime of the individuals were, the police said they were apprehended for criminal conspiracy, assembling for purpose Of committing brigandage and unlawful society practices.
Shortly after their arrest, the police charged and arraigned the young persons to court and afterwards they were remanded in the Nigerian Correctional Facility.
The incident soon garnered wild reactions all over social media and within the community, with friends, family members and other citizens calling on the authorities to quickly look into what the situation which has now been described as an ‘arbitrary’ arrest which infringes on the rights of the individuals arrested.
An arbitrary arrest?
Preliminary investigations by Channels Television suggest that the arrest of the group which consists of twelve males and a female, may not be unconnected with the series of kidnapping and cult activities recorded in recent times around the ECWA Staff Area.
However, the area has continued to be used for both religious and recreational activities, and there has been no law banning people from using the mountain around in the community for leisure purposes.
Digging deeper into the issue, Channels TV spoke to some with relatives of some of the youths who were arrested.
Disturbed by the arrest of his brother who was part of the group picked up on Saturday the 13th, Mr Tony Brown Ndukwe said it is strange that vigilantes in the community would help the police in apprehending the young persons, because the vigilantes have a good knowledge and rapport of those apprehended.
Mr Ndukwe who is the caretaker of a compound within the Down Base community where most of the hikers reside, argued that the hiking area which the police has now termed a blackspot, is a popular venue for hiking in the area.
“My younger brother is among those who were arrested, I was even supposed to be a part of the hikers, but I had something to do in town,” Ndukwe narrated.
He stressed that the hikers are part of the community, adding that when asked if anything illegal was found on the young individuals, the police affirmed that they were clean.
“Nothing at all was found on them, in fact, they brought them back to the house and searched the house and nothing was found,” Ndukwe maintained.
In a similar vein, Victoria Alagi whose elder brother was also arrested, said the police have not been able to concretely establish any offence committed by her sibling or any other individual within the group.
Ms Victoria who disclosed that her family has been going to the station every day following the arrest, asserted that the police officers they have met say the arrested hikers committed no crime and nothing incriminating was found on them.
Based on the premise that the individuals have committed no crime, the Alagi’s family asked the police authorities why the hikers are still in custody and were informed by an officer that the Commissioner was informed before the arrest and as such the Commissioner needs also to be briefed before they can be released.
To the family’s dismay, just when they thought there was the possibility of a bail for their loved one, they got to the police station last Monday, only to find out that the hikers had been charged to court.
“We got lawyers and that particular Monday, the bail was denied and they were remanded to prison, the Jos prison,” Ms Victoria explained.
She further noted that the family has been applying for bail, adding that earlier the case was adjourned to the 19th of September, but with the intervention of the lawyers, a new hearing date was fixed to Wednesday, the 24th of August.
In the hope that justice will prevail, Victoria insisted that her brother has nothing to do with any of the charges for which he and his fellow hikers have been arrested for.
“My brother is not a kidnapper neither is he a cultist. They just simply went hiking,” she declared.
Perhaps for the hikers, this is just another case of being at the wrong place at the right time.
Victoria explains that a few days prior to her brother’s arrest, there was a kidnap incident within the area. A resident was kidnapped on Thursday, August 11, and two days after, the hikers were arrested at the hill around ECWA staff school, Jos.
According to residents, it must have been the incident on Thursday that prompted the police and vigilante collaboration. However, the police have not been able to point out any of the hikers who would have partaken of the kidnapping.
When reached for comments regarding the incident, spokesman for the Plateau State police command, DSP Alfred Alabo, said the case is already in court and as such, he would not be able to speak on the matter.
The case against the hikers is before Hon. Hisent of the Central Area Court in Jos, the next hearing comes up by Wednesday, August 24, 2022, and relatives of the hikers are asking human rights activists and all Nigerians including the government to come to their aid, even as they pray that justice prevails and their loved ones are set free.