The Chairman of the Nigerian National Union Eastern Region branch Mr. Uche Oyenye has called on the people of Sierra Leone to look at Nigerians as their brothers and sisters in nation development.
Addressing the press, Civil Society organizations and other stakeholders at the Information office along Maxwell Khobe Street in Kenema city, the chairman accused Journalists, business people and other partners in development in Sierra Leone of having a negative perception about Nigerians and are branding them with all kinds of names, which dents the image of Nigerians in Sierra Leone.
He said there is no place in the world where Nigerians are so much welcome and have freedom to operate than in Sierra Leone. He said in any society there are bad eggs that usually try to damage the good image of the good ones saying that there are bad Sierra Leoneans and bad Nigerians.
He added that their union will not support or encourage and will severely deal with any Nigerian that will try to damage what they have spent a lot of resources to build. He said most of the bad things happening in Sierra Leone are being associated with Nigerians citing the incidence of the murdering of a motor bike rider on the Bo-Kenema highway and the discovering of arms and ammunition at Bandama checkpoint on the outskirts of Kenema which has never been proved to be a Nigeria act.
Mr. Oyenye then presented Sorondi Sherek alias sober man or super man who came to Sierra Leone in November 2000 as a native herbalist from Nigeria to his audience as one of the accused persons in the arms and ammunitions case, saying that he has been proved to be innocent and has been released.
As a Nigerian he said he will not expect any Nigerian to come and cause problems in Sierra Leone as they have the largest investment in Sierra Leone as compared to other West African countries.
He said if a Nigerian smuggles arms and ammunition into Sierra Leone it is not known who will be the victim of the arms, as it might be Sierra Leoneans or Nigerians. He says he sees no reason why a Nigerian man will become a threat to the peace of Sierra Leone saying it is only a mad or foolish man who will take part in destroying what he took part in building. He called on all to forgive the Nigerians if they have gone astray in one way or the other. The Chairman said they have been exposed to dangers for the few things that have been happening in Sierra Leone because it has made the people’s attitudes negative towards the Nigerian. He said that the information they heard on the radios and newspapers is not correct about Nigerians in general.
In his contribution a civil society activist Mr. Ken McCarthy accused one of the members of the Union Mr. Aqudosi H.M.Marcus that after some publications about the arms and ammunition discovered at Bandama he was caught by him openly describing Journalists of Sierra Leone as half baked journalists, without qualification and calling Sierra Leone as a reckless country and even proud of beating up a Journalist in Freetown sometimes back and nothing came out of it. Mr McCarthy said there were witnesses to his statement which he said did not go down well with him as a Sierra Leonean.
Mr. Marcus in his response openly denied the allegation but apologized not only to Mr. McCarthy but the entire Sierra Leone to forgive him and his brother Nigerians for whatever they might have done wrong to an individual and the nation as a whole.
The statement alleged to have come from Mr. Marcus did not go down well with the Journalists present but one of them remarked that for the interest of peace and unity, and since the accused person openly denied and apologized to all they should lay it to rest.
Addressing the audience, the Regional Crime officer East Samuel Sanie Sesay said seven of the occupants of the car including the driver were brought to police in connection with the arms discovery for investigation, and three of them were women.
After investigating, he said the four men which include the driver, were the Nigerian national, a Foulah – Jalloh who was to marry on the same evening that the incident occurred, Ibrahim Bangura alias Mohamed Sankoh, Aruna Sankoh and Lamin Sankoh.
During the investigation he said it was discovered that Bangura had to answer to a case of murder and he escaped from detention from Freetown only for him to be arrested by police in Kenema with arms and ammunition. He said Bangura continued denying any knowledge about the arms and ammunition here in Kenema and all of them were taken to Freetown where he later admitted to it, and that led to the release of the driver, the Nigerian national and the Foulah businessman.
The crime officer then appealed to the Nigerian National Union executive through out the country to move an extra mile in making sure that their brothers are free from accusations. He disclosed that if 50 Nigerian Nationals were arrested for a crime in Sierra Leone 40 of them would be guilty of the crime while 10 will be free. He said as partners in development we all need to go an extra mile by changing our attitude in making sure that the country develops and all live in peace and harmony. He said Bangura is now under very tight security as his previous action proved that it was due to carelessness on the part of some security personnel’s that led to his escaped only for him to be arrested by police in Kenema. The Regional Crime officer revealed that they are going to restructure the Bandama checkpoint very soon in order to make it more rigid as they have noticed that a lot of things are passing through the checkpoint.
He appealed to the press to always cross check issues with his office before going to press, which he said, is always open to the public.
Meaningful contributions came from the chairman of the Yoruba Union – East Mr.Shola William, Abuchi Onyemefi chairman of the Ibo union east and Mohamed Tailue Chairman of the Hausa Union East.
By Saffa Moriba in Kenema