On Wednesday, scores of loggers in Ogun State’s Omo forest reserve chastised the state police command for releasing Adetutu Ajayi, a suspected illegal tree feller.
The loggers who protested in Abeokuta on Wednesday came from a variety of organizations, including the Forestry Association of Nigeria’s Ogun State chapters, the Saw Millers Association of Nigeria, the Timber Explorers Association of Nigeria, and the Timber Contractors Association of Nigeria.
The demonstrators complained to reporters that the infamous tree feller Ajayi, who was detained with a deadly weapon on Thursday, had only been released the next day by the police.
Former President of the Forestry Association of Nigeria, James Odebiyi; a representative of the Director-General of the Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria, Dr Tayo Oyelowo; Secretary of the Forestry Association of Nigeria, Ogun Chapter, Jide Fakayode; and others all claimed that the suspected criminal who had been threatening them in the forest reserve had been released by police after his arrest.
“The wood contractors were licensed by the government before working in the forest,” Fakayode said, adding that “some persons visited the reserves illegally over the years to take what we have logged with our money.”
“We are appealing to the Ogun State government,” he stated. Adetutu Ajayi was recently detained. Adetutu Ajayi was apprehended on Thursday and freed on Friday. We feel apprehensive about going to work.
“Any contractor they (Ajayi and his group) see in the forest reserve will be beaten to death,” says the source. We’re all afraid to go to our place of business now.”
He claimed that the syndicate stole their logs of timber and transported them to Lagos via the sea after unlawfully felling them.
“We learned that every time these criminals stealing these woods are arrested and we hand them over to the police and the government, the flitches wood they stole and their tools are returned to them,” Fakayode continued.
“This went on until recently, when a task force and forest officials went into the location where they were committing this infraction, and Ajayi was apprehended red-handed. He was, however, released the next day.
“What we believe in is that justice must be done. The situation should not be thrown under the carpet since a criminal with a pistol invaded our forest to steal woods and attempted to kill people.”
When contacted, Abimbola Oyeyemi, the State’s Police Public Relations Officer, confirmed the suspect’s arrest and release.
“If someone is arrested and then released on bail, does that mean the case is over?” Oyeyemi wondered.
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According to a police official, “the suspect was released since he was injured during the course of his detention.” He was injured, and police will not detain someone who has been hurt.
“He was released on the condition that he go and treat himself so that they could bring him back and charge him in court. What is it that they are afraid of?”
Oyeyemi vehemently disputed that the command releases criminals after they have been apprehended.
“That is not to my knowledge; he was arrested and taken down from Ogbere to Eleweran; when he arrived, we discovered that he had a very significant injury; he was freed to go and heal himself; after that, he will be charged with coercion.
“He was only given a bond and nothing else. You can release a suspect to him and he will be arraigned in court if we have someone who says, “I’ll bring a suspect anytime you need him.” Have we informed them that the case is closed? Is he going to be charged in court, or did we say we weren’t going to charge him?” Oyeyemi wondered.