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The Arewa Youth Consultative Forum on Tuesday condemned what it referred to as a random arrest of 486 northerners in Abia State as suspected Boko Haram insurgents.
The Northern group said it was wrong to treat innocent northerners as terrorists. President of AYCF, Alhaji Yerima Shettima, told The PUNCH that the group was worried that a continuation of such arrests could lead to the break-up of Nigeria.
Shettima said it was certain that virtually all the arrested northerners had no links with Boko Haram, warning the South-East governors and security agencies to stop such arrests, saying it was capable of fuelling enmity between northerners and southerners.
“This gives us a lot of worry. Are these South-East governors or whoever is at the helms of affairs doing this in the interest of this country or to cause more hatred for our people, so that country will break up? Those who are acting out this script of disintegration are not helping this country, especially at this challenging period.
“We are not in support of Boko Haram or their bomb attacks. We are saying that innocent citizens should not suffer because some evil-minded people come from their area. I can tell you that those who were arrested in Abia are not Boko Haram members. We had a case were about 500 people arrested in Lagos, when a Boko Haram member was arrested in Ijora Badia area of Lagos, with arms and ammunition, I intervened and on getting to the force headquarters, we discovered that the most of them were innocent and they were released.
“We are not saying security agencies should not do their work, but they should not go about arresting hundreds of people just because they are looking for one or two suspects.”
Shettima also said it was wrong to assume that only northerners were planting bombs in the country, adding that some southerners have been arrested for terrorism.
Boko Haram suspects, were arrested along the Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway by soldiers attached to the 144 Battalion of the Nigerian Army, Asa in the Ukwa West Local Government Area on Sunday. The soldiers intercepted a convoy of 33 buses conveying 486 suspected insurgents aged between 16 and 24 around 3am on Sunday.