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Asaba River Sand Extractors Crisis Claim Two Lives, Many Injured.

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ASABA, June 30, (THEWILL) - Two persons were shot dead and many injured Thursday over the controversy trailing the sand dredging operations at River Niger and other inland waterways in Asaba despite the intervention of Ibrahim Baba Ahmed, the Assistant Inspector General, AIG, Zone 5, Benin.

The crisis is said to be between one David Opene, also a sand dredger and members of the Association of Tipper and Quarry Owners of Nigeria, ATQON, Asaba.

THEWILL gathered that the crisis is generating controversy between the Inspector General of Police, Alhaji Hafiz Ringim and Ahmed and may be one of the reasons for the AIG’s appearance in Abuja yesterday.

An Eyewitness account revealed that trouble started Thursday morning when workers loyal to both Opene and ATQON clashed which resulted to sporadic shooting and destruction of properties resulting to the death of two unidentified people.

Until last weekend, the AIG was said to have deployed some security agencies to the River to maintain law and order but retreated owing to the directive from the AIG in a letter dated 09 March to comply with the order of the court so as to monitor and enforce peace, law and order along Asaba beach fronts of the bank of River Niger.

In a letter signed by the Director of Public Prosecutions of the Federation, Akin Akintewe, to the IG, titled: “Re; Flagrant Disobedience of Court Order by the Nigerian Police’’, who allegedly forwarded the same to the AIG and Commissioner of Police, Delta State, it said the court order of the Federal High Court, Benin, dated 24th June, 2005, must be obeyed until it is stayed, vacated or set aside.

The tension generated by the illegal harassment, intimidation, collection of tolls and sack of River Niger Sand Operators with the aid of uniform men from the Police command, Asaba informed the meeting between officers from the National Inland Waterway Authority, NIWA, Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, MMSD, ATQON, and other stakeholders conveyed by Ahmed.

According to Chukwuma Ebu, Head of Chambers, C F Ebu and Co, Solicitors for River Niger Sand Dealers Multi Purpose Coop Ltd, the act of lawlessness was aided by the Delta State Command allegedly acting on the directive from Abuja.

But Opene in an interview had claimed carrying out lawful business in the area alone though with the protection of security men.

When contacted, Charles Moka, Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, said he has not been properly briefed on the matter.