From Wilson Okereke, Afikpo
No fewer than 10 persons have been caught vandalizing railway at Ihie Autonomous Community of Ishiagu in Ivo Local Government Area of Ebonyi State.
A 30-year-old man, Friday Godwin and his cohorts were apprehended by members of the vigilance group in the area.
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The suspects including Chukwu Ogbonna, Ebuka Ajah, Egwu Godwin, Nwogha Emeka and Ajah Nnaemeka, were taken to the State Police Command headquarters where they cooled off their feet.
Others were Ajah Chibueze, Okeke Chinonso, Ofor Uchena and Ogonna Igwe.
It was gathered that about seven of them were eventually released on bail after initial police investigation could not establish their complicity in the criminal act, while others were transferred to the Force headquarters, Abuja.
A source at the state police command, Abakaliki confirmed that the suspects were moved to Abuja and would soon be prosecuted for indulging in economic sabotage.
A community leader, Orji Okechukwu told Daily Sun that the accused persons who operated with big trucks had been vandalizing the railway that passed from a section of Enugu State down to the community until the fateful night when luck ran out on them and they were caught in the act.
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He told us that this set of criminals also vandalized electricity transformers and destroyed enormous pipelines: “On a particular day, our people woke in the morning and discovered that the railway which went across the community had been damaged and evacuated, following the situation, we were not happy and through the effort of the vigilante who intensified efforts in fishing out the culprits; they were nabbed.
“In fact, the vandals were arrested four days later inside a thick forest in the area with three heavy trucks fully loaded with the stolen items. Upon their apprehension, the thieves began to beg the guards; they wanted to bribe them with N4 million for them to be set free but due to the integrity of the guards, the offer was rejected.”
Okechukwu disclosed that the component items of the railway were carefully evacuated by the thieves such that a trace of it could not be noticed by anybody: “We had earlier got information that the railway is being monitored from Abuja by federal security agencies with directive that any village head and other critical stakeholders whose territories are touched by the vandals will be made to answer for the action.
“It is because the government believes that such act cannot take place without the knowledge of the residents of the area, this is why we did not relent until the ten persons were arrested.”
The community leader added that the suspects in their confessional statement disclosed that they usually sold each truck load at the rate of four million, five hundred thousand and to enable them pass freely with their booties, they cut the items into smaller units that someone else would hardly know that the pieces of the iron were parts of the rail: “It was because of the incessant vandalization which we are facing in the area that made us to institute vigilante group and as God would have it, there is progress and relative peace in the community.”
Our investigation showed that residents of the area had suffered untold hardship following the nefarious activities of infrastructure thieves there. This prompted them to form vigilance group and levy themselves to fund it in the last five months.
The community leader who said that it had not been easy for them funding the local security outfit called for “government support either by deploying the security men over these properties or payroll our guards.”