13 were arrested and accused of stockpiling guns.
Soldiers in Aba on Sunday carried out an early morning raid at Aba Central Mosque and the residence of some Muslims in the town and arrested the Chief Imam of the mosque, Idris Bashir; his deputy, Mohammed Hassan; and eleven others over suspicion of stockpiling guns and planning to manufacture bombs.
The Chief Imam informed PREMIUM TIMES over the telephone that the soldiers came to their area at about 2 a.m., where they arrested four persons at the mosque while he and the others were picked from their houses.
“They took us to the 144 Battalion Barracks at Asa where their commander informed us that we are being suspected of stockpiling guns and manufacturing bombs. However, after sometime, the officer said since nothing was found after their search of our houses, mosque and shops we should be released,” he said.
He also said only eleven of them were released.
“The other two, who are the Director and Principal of New Horizon Academy, are still with the military,” Mr. Bashir said.
He said the soldiers in their raid saw some bottles of chemicals at the science laboratory of the school and accused the school officials of using them to manufacture bombs.
Mr. Bashir said the bottles were used for practical studies for students of the school.
“The bottles were not hidden and were kept aside in the lab because there were only five students offering the subject and three of them are already married and the other two appear to lose interest in the subject, so the bottles are even empty,” he said.
The cleric said he was re-invited by the military for further interrogation at Ngwa High School, on Wednesday.
“They interrogated me and released me just before we broke our fast and told me that they may re-invite me again,” he said.
The Chief Imam said their major concern now was the fate of two of their colleagues who have been moved from Asa, where they were initially kept, to Ohafia.
“Right now we don’t know the state they are in, and these are innocent Nigerians struggling to live in the current prevailing circumstances. My appeal is for the military authorities to, please, carry out all their investigations thoroughly so that innocent persons will not suffer for just being Muslims,” he said.
Soldiers had last month arrested 486 northerners travelling through Abia State to Port Harcourt, Rivers State. Many of them were eventually released after being detained for weeks, while the military said it was still investigating others.
The House of Representatives had on Tuesday rejected a motion that sought to investigate and put a stop to the series of arrests of northerners by soldiers in Abia State.
The motion which came under matter of urgent national importance and sponsored by Aminu Suleiman (APC, Kano) suffered a setback when put to vote for consideration, Daily Trust reported on Wednesday.
The paper said when the deputy speaker, Emeka Ihedioha, who was presiding, put the question to a voice vote, only few voices were heard supporting it.
The mover of the motion, Mr. Suleiman told the paper that he was not happy with the way the motion was killed by his colleagues, saying it was a dangerous precedent they set for Nigeria.
“You cannot use the excuse of the insurgency to place a particular ethnic group, people or region on security spotlight. It is nonsensical and unacceptable,” he said. “This is a process that is capable of setting ethnic group against one another and where this is predominant is in the south-east. That is what I had wanted to read and as you know, the people that travelled a lot in this country are the south-easterners. If some people try to apply reprisal, it will be too bad for the country.”
When contacted, the spokesperson of the Nigerian Army, Olajide Laleye, said he was yet to get the full details of the operation. He said he would provide the details as soon as he got them.