As reports of inroads made by the country’s main opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) party into the ruling APC party’s Northern strongholds increase everyday, indications are that the ruling party is getting to be jittery over these developments. One such indication of this suspected jittery behaviour is the unexplained detention of a prominent SLPP Leader. Police in the northern district of Port Loko have confirmed the arrest and detention of the Port Loko Young Generation Leader of the SLPP, who also doubles as the SLPP’s Greenland Chairman, Mr. Bai Sheku Wurie.
Police Support Officer, in charge of the Port Loko District, G.S.M Conteh, said SLPP’s Bai Sheku Wurie was arrested in connection with the attack on the residence of the Chairman of the Port Loko District Council, Mr. Muniru Fofana. Although Conteh failed to explain the exact role of the SLPP detainee in the said attack, he insisted that the latter must be placed under detention as investigation continues.
Several people in the district, especially supporters and sympathizers of the SLPP, view the detention as unlawful and politically motivated. The speculations are based on the fact that the police never detained the other youth leaders who were invited by the police for statements because they are believed to be associated with the ruling All People’s Congress (APC).
The whole episode started when the Port Loko District Chairman, Muniru Fofana, insisted that a project initiated by the youths of Port Loko and approved by the National Commission for Social Action (NaCSA) for the construction and fencing of a football field in the district, must not continue.
According to reports, the project proposal was formulated by the youths and submitted to NaCSA on grounds that there is no football field in the district and that they have been faced with the constraint of going to Kambia and Lunsar whenever they want to host football matches.
District Council Chairman Muniru Fofana is said to have told the youths in a meeting held at the Local Court Barray that they should put the NaCSA project to a hold on grounds that he has plans to construct a multi-purpose stadium in the district. This pronouncement does not go down well with the youths who insisted that the project must continue.
The youths then mobilized and established a group called Concerned Youths for Development.
These youths met with several stakeholders on the issue, including the police Local Unit Commander (LUC) of F Division, Port Loko District, S.P Kamara. The LUC is said to have advised the youths to stay calm and not to take the laws into their hands, but to rather note down their grievances in a letter to the District Council Chairman that would be copied to various stakeholders.
During this period, the All People’s Congress (APC) Chairman of the Port Loko District, Hon. Buya Kamara, visited the district and was briefed accordingly about this development.
He then summoned the youths to a meeting where he was quoted to have told the youths that the project should go on for the development of the district.
The youths mobilized themselves again and called on all and sundry to help in transporting stones to the site for the commencement of the construction work. People from all works of life in the district are said to have participated in transporting stones to the site. This move was met with another obstacle when the Port Loko District Council Chairman wrote a letter to the NaCSA Coordinator warning him against the continuation of the project.
This again does not go down well with the youths of the district. Some of the disgruntled youths mobilized themselves and attacked the residence of the District Council Chairman, Mr. Muniru Fofana, on the 17th February 2010.
According to Support Officer G.S.M. Conteh, the police was informed about the attack on the residence of Mr. Fofana, but were unable to arrest the perpetrators as they had already fled the scene by the time the police arrived.
He confirmed that a total of about five youths were invited for questioning. "After obtaining statements from them, we decided to detain Wurie and release the others on bail" he confirmed, adding that the matter is presently being investigated by officers from the Criminal Investigation Department in Freetown, who recently stormed the district to investigate the matter.
Residents of Port Loko have insisted that the other youths were released because they are members of the ruling government, adding that Wurie’s detention was a ploy to intimidate him for his vital contribution in popularizing the SLPP in the district.
The youths invited for questioning include the APC Regional Youth Chairman known as Ajasco and APC Ward Councilor I.S Bangura.
Meanwhile, SLPP’s Bai Wurie is pinpointing that he was not even in Port Loko when the residence of Muniru Fofana was attacked.
"I left Port Loko on the 13th February and only returned on the 10th March," Wurie explained to the Awareness Times in a telephone interview yesterday from his detention cell.
According to him, he was in Bo to receive his Bachelor Science Degree in Education from Njala University, during the recent convocation. He insisted that he has nothing to do with the attack.
There are also speculations among residents that the LUC of Port Loko was transferred to Moyamba because he never arrested the youths who Mr. Muniru Fofana ordered him to arrest, but insisted that he will only arrest with evidence.
SLPP Northern Regional Secretary General, Mr. Max Turay told the Awareness Times yesterday that he has already informed the party’s National Chairman John Benjamin and the Regional Chairman Bobson Sesay about the occurrence.
Efforts to contact the District Council Chairman, Muniru Fofana and the transferred LUC have so far proved unsuccessful.