There was pandemonium as members of the public ran helter skelter following the tear gas thrown by men of the Nigeria police at Post Office/Old Tower axis of Umuahia city centre.
Trouble started when some policemen riding on a hilux van with registration number NPF9908E stopped over and pounced on occupants of old Camry with plate number BF130LSD beating them mercilessly and unjustifiably.
According to an occupant of the Camry, their vehicle broke down along the Aba Road, just after the NUJ Press Centre, Aba Road. In his words, “as we were attempting to fix it the police van came and the occupants jumped down and without hearing from us started beating us, all attempt to explain fell on deaf ear”.
An eye witness who do not want his name mentioned said that their decision to throw the canister may not be unconnected with an alleged filming of the beating festival by a resident with his phone. “They took the phone from the young man but he was able to take it back from them and ran, the police then threw a tear gas which nearly killed me” he said.
The incident which took place near NUJ building saw passers-by and shop owners around the vicinity inhale the toxic substance and had to scamper for safety abandoning their wares.
A lady passerby complained bitterly amidst tears against the rampaging policemen, decrying the effect of the tear gas on her and others.
However, a policeman with a name tag Okuruwa, who arrived the scene later with another police patrol van enquired to know the cause of the release of the tear gas. After explanation, he queried the rationale behind the recording of the beating of occupants of the Camry car by the young man, but when the journalists who were discussing the issue with him reminded him that there was no reprisal attack or reaction on the Police over the brutality, simply walked away, abandoning the bemused residents to their fate.
The policemen latter towed the Camry car to their station.
Abians are worried over the increasing police brutality in the stdow. They therefore call on the Inspector General of police, commissioner of police Abia state command, police service commission and the state governor to call the policemen in Abia to order and stop the brazen violation of the rights of the residents to avoid break down of law and order in the state.
When contacted the state police public relations officer, PPRO, DSP Geoffrey Ogbonna, said that though he is yet to receive the report of the incident, he described the act as very unfortunate. He, therefore, requested for the registration number of the patrol van to enable them identify those involved, saying that the command has cautioned their personnel on how to handle civil matters.
DSP Ogbonna maintained that there was no need firing cannisters of tear gas over such minor traffic offence.