Policy Alert, a non-governmental organization promoting economic and ecological justice in the Niger Delta, has raised an alarm over alleged plans by security agencies and agents of the Akwa Ibom State Government to launch a series of attacks on the organization and on its staff, volunteers, and media partners over recent scathing revelations relating to poor fiscal governance in the state.
A statement released on Thursday and signed by the organisation’s Executive Director, Tijah Bolton-Akpan, stated: “In the recent past, our staff members have repeatedly been stalked and verbally harassed on the streets of Uyo by persons believed to be on the employ of the state government, but we found no reason to raise an alarm. However, in the last two days, we have witnessed suspicious activity around our Uyo head office and we are constrained to call the attention of the authorities to it.
“Our staff reported seeing a White Toyota Hilux pick-up truck with tinted windows and shielded number plate parked for an extended period not far from our office on Wednesday the 6th of March. The matter was discussed on the organisation’s platform and team members were advised to be vigilant.
” Curiously, the same vehicle was spotted again today Thursday the 7th of April around the same spot. When a staff member approached the vehicle in order to find out the mission of its occupants, it sped off.”
The statement by the organisation noted that the development is even more disturbing for them especially as it is coming just a few days after the organisation was tipped off that some top people in government who are displeased with their transparency and accountability watchdog role, especially in recent times, were planning to use media hirelings, security agencies, and political thugs to launch a series of attacks on Policy Alert and some other civil society and labour organisations in the state.
The statement continued: “We strongly deplore this budding clampdown on civic space at the State level. Our advice to officials of the Akwa Ibom State government and other States across the Niger Delta where we work is that they should invest their time and energies in getting governance right rather than in hounding accountability actors for putting their corruption red flags out there in the public domain.
“If certain elements within the Akwa Ibom State Government disagree with any of the positions we have taken in the course of our advocacy work, there are more civil approaches such as responding with superior argument or seeking legal redress.”
Policy Alert insisted that despite the plan, they are poised never to shirk in their responsibility to hold duty bearers accountable even as they are determined to strongly resist what they described as a monster of repression and intimidation that is now rearing its ugly head at their work.
“We have put the international human rights community, security agencies and the general public on notice that in the event of any acts of harassment or attack on any of our facilities or our staff, volunteers, or media partners in Akwa Ibom State, the state government should be held responsible,” the statement added.
The organisation called on security agencies in Akwa Ibom State to resist the temptation to be used by some politically exposed persons to target anti-corruption campaigners and human rights defenders in the state.