A peaceful protest embarked upon by a coalition of Ijaw interest groups in Yenagoa on Tuesday ended on a sad note as thugs allegedly attacked the protesters.
Annkio Briggs, a Niger Delta rights activist, was reportedly among those rough handled during the protest against the donation of land to cattle grazers.
The rally christened “Love for Bayelsa, Love for Ijaw land, Love for Niger Delta, Love for Nigeria” had barely began when the heavily armed thugs invaded the take off point of the rally at the Tombia junction, a witness said.
Thugs reportedly beat up and inflicted bodily injuries on the protesters, mainly women and youth, including one of the conveners, Ankio Briggs.
The presence of the police officers at the scene did not deter the thugs as they carried out the violence while the police looked on to the chagrin of the protesters.
While others sustained minor injuries, one Christy Odiko, a member of Ijaw Women Connect, IWC, was reportedly hospitalised due to sustained injuries.
Speaking to journalists shortly after the attack, Ms. Briggs who said she lost her phone in the cause of the melee, described the action of the police as “unacceptable”.
“All what we are saying is no to Ijaw land being ceded to Fulani people under any circumstance.
“At the rally, thugs came into the Tombia round about field, they invaded the place push me down, one particular boy collected my Samsung phone, my Identity Card was ripped off my neck and some people secured me and moved me away from the location.
“I told the police DPO that this rally was not against the Governor of Bayelsa, but against the decision he has made.
“It is unbelievable, I am an Ijaw person, I have fought for the Ijaw nation for as long as I can remember.
“I have been called a bigot because of my stand on Ijaw issues and if today I can come to Bayelsa, and Bayelsa children some of them are old enough to be my children, whether it is Gen Africa, and others; so if today they have appointments and positions and think that people like me no longer have the right to speak on Ijaw matters, that is a sad day for them and not for Ijaw nation.”
When contacted for comments, the spokesperson of the Bayelsa Police Command, Asinim Butswat, asked for more time and promised to call back. He did not call back before the report was published.