Benue opposition leader gets bail

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The Nigeria Police have released Steve Torkuma Ugbah, the governorship candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the just-concluded general elections.

Mr Ugbah and 14 of his supporters who have been in detention for four days, were released in Markudi on Tuesday after the police charged them to court for conspiracy and inciting the public.

Mr Ugbah was arrested along with other party leaders like George Akume, Adaa Maagbe and Simon Abua and detained on Monday in Abuja, after honouring the invitation of the Inspector-General of Police to Force Headquarters for a chat. The others were later released but Mr Ugbah was on Tuesday morning, transferred from Force Headquarters, Abuja to Makurdi, Benue State and charged to Magistrate Court in North Bank Makurdi for conspiracy, mischief and inciting disturbance in the state.

His arrest by the police was heralded by protests in Markurdi, the Benue State capital by protesters who believed he was wrongfully detained. The protesters accused the governor of the state, Gabriel Suswam, of intimidating Mr Ugbah.

Mr Ugbah was brought to the Benue State Police Command, Makurdi in company of fully armed policemen in a convoy of about five buses. Supporters of the party, in their thousands, stormed the police command in solidarity with their candidate to demand his immediate release. Social and commercial activities were brought to a standstill, as both motorcyclists and township drivers all joined in the protest and traders locked up their shops in fear.

It took the police over two hours to disperse the youth before Mr Ugbah was taken to the Magistrate Court.

About 27 people
were injured when Mr Ugbah was arraigned before the court. The protesters said the arrest of the governorship candidate of the party was informed by Mr Suswam’s claim that Mr Ugbah was inciting the Benue people to take arms. He was released from court on bail, on a condition that two sureties deposit their international passports with the court.

Meanwhile, three chieftains of the ACN, Steve Torkuma Ugbah, Samuel Adda Maagbe and Prince Simon Abua were also taken to the Chief Magistrate Court on charges including inciting violence, causing public disturbance, conspiracy and mischief.

While the trial was still on, the angry youths burnt tires on all major highways leading into Makurdi town, including the road that links the south and the Northern part of the country, a situation which forced passengers to trek long distances.

On May 13, Ugbah’s convoy was attacked by gunmen while returning to Makurdi from Abuja. Mr Ayede, his senior media advisor, was killed and Adaa Maagbe, his senior political advisor, was injured. Local villagers helped Mr Maagbe to escape.

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