The university town of Nsukka is under siege and is apprehensive over the increasing atrocious acts by masquerades who rob, torture and extort money from unsuspecting victims, As at press time, two masquerades are presently in police custody over allegations of torture and extortion.
Vanguard Metro, VM, gathered that the two masquerades in police custody were arrested along Nru community, after engaging the police team in physical combat.
Some onlookers were said to have joined the fray by stoning the police men and raining abuses on them. In spite of this, the two erring masquerade were eventually overpowered and arrested. Other masked individuals were said to have fled into nearby communities and bushes.
Following complaints from different quarters of masquerades frequent brutality, extortion and blockage of roads along Ugwu-Nkwo, Orba road, Nru junction, in the process of which they maim people and compel victims to drop money or face the wrath of masquerades, a combined team of men of the Area Command and the Nsukka Urban Police Division swung into action and managed to arrest the two.
Reports revealed that the two masquerades brutally attacked a staff of Radio Nigeria, Dream FM Station, Nsukka and an academic doctor of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka who lodged different complaints at both the Area Command and Nsukka Urban Police Division, prompting the police in their numbers to move into the communities.
Speaking to VM, one of the arrested men, simply identified as Omeje Ugochukwu (22) who hails from Amaozalla community in Nsukka Local Government Area, Enugu State, informed that he was arrested in connection with some masquerades that operated in the morning hours and inflicted a head injury on their victim in an attempt to collect money from him.
He pointed out that the masquerades were celebrating the annual festival of Ihe/Owere autonomous commu-nity by entertaining inhabitants, visitors to the community and the University town at large but not to maim people. He noted that he used the masquerade to beg for money to support himself as an apprentice welder but not to apply force to compel people to give him money. He blamed some masquerades who operated earlier in the morning, describing them as being more volatile and wicked, and had forcefully extorted money from people.
He maintained that they did not know that the men chasing after the masquerades were police men as they were in plain clothes. He said that he had no dangerous weapon on him except a small cane and palm fruit when he was arrested with the other masquerade, pointing out that what he collected before his arrest and detention was only N20.00. The second masque-rade who identified himself as Anayo Ezema (23) and hails from Isi-Uja, Ihe/Owere community, said he is a vulcaniser.
Hold VM that while operating with other masquerades in the evening, they met a certain man and solicited money from him. The man was directed to drop the money on the ground as masquerades do not collect money directly from people. It was at this point that the policemen swooped on them and arrested two of them.
He explained that the police accused them of beating and breaking someone’s head in the morning hours while in masquerade regalia. He said: “We did not engage the police in any physical combat. I am surprised that my sister was also arrested in connection with the matter. It is unheard of in Igbo land for a woman of that stature to be associated with masquerades.
It could be recalled that two weeks ago, two masquerades at Otukpa community along Obolo-Afor road robbed one Chinoso Ezewaji, a trader, of N57,000.00 and his handset. The two masquerades were identified as Kenechukwu Eze and Chima Mama.
The Area Commander, Nigeria Police Command Nsukka, ACP Musa Haladu, while confirming the arrest of the two masquerades, advised communities in the Command not to allow masquerades disturb people from going about their normal businesses, adding that every community in the country has one culture and the other which shall not be used to disturb the existing peace in a community. He warned that Nsukka is an urban town that has the mixture of different people and culture.
Enugu State Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Ebere Amarizu, had earlier issued a statement that the community should regulate and monitor those who go about as masquerades as some of them take advantage of this to harass, intimidate and rob people.
‘’The police is not against any culture but community leaders must know the character of people they allow to operate as masquerades in the name of culture. A masquerade has no right to mount road block on any road where motorists, cyclists and other road users ply on daily basis.