Angry citizens went on rampage yesterday and stoned the police station and Drug Enforcement Agency’s offices in Ganta, Nimba County.
The protest was sparked by the discovery of the brutally battered body of a motorcyclist believed to have been murdered and dropped in the 404 Community near the Methodist Mission in Ganta.
The victim, identified as Nathan Wehyeegbay, was found near the corner of the Methodist Football Field.
His blood was reportedly spread along the alley that leads to ‘404’ which led observers to assume that the deceased may have struggled with those who brutally hacked him to death.
When news of the motorcyclist’s murder hit Ganta City center, it frightened many residents, mainly the youth and marketers due to a recent wave of killings being reported in and around Ganta.
The residents became emotionally charged and immediately took to the streets, barricading all entrances and the main road.
At about 10 a.m. the angry crowd had surged and moved to the police station, ransacked the entire building as well as the adjacent Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) offices, making away with containers of suspected illicit drugs which had been confiscated and placed in the custody of DEA.
“Over 22 suspected criminals under police custody were also released by the angry mob,” a police officer told the Daily Observer reporter in Ganta.
“We do not have armed men to protect the station and bring the lawlessness under control, therefore we could not resist the crowd with our bare hands and a few assigned batons,” the officer explained.
The mob also invaded some ghettos and seized a man identified as Bill Freepong, who they considered a prime suspect in the killing of the motorcyclist.
Suspect Freepong was later quoted by persons in the crowd as allegedly confessing that he was among four other persons who murdered the motorcyclist, but claimed that their action was under the instruction of Prince Howard, the proprietor of Alvino Hotel, one of largest accommodations in the county.
With this allegation reportedly made by suspect Freepong, the crowd wasted no time and proceeded to the residence of Mr. Howard and set one of his buildings ablaze.
They then moved to his hotel, Alvino, and completely ransacked the building.
It was at that time that the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) Police and a batch of Police Support Unit (PSU) from the Liberia National Police arrived on the scene. The arrival of the officers did not deter the rioters as they continued their looting spree of the hotel facilities and also the home of Mr. Howard in the Toweh’s Yard community.
“The first batch of officers could not withstand the tension, and another batch from the Regional Hub was sent to help contain the situation,” our correspondent reported.
It was through the alleged confession of the suspect that the angry crowd found out where the motorcyclist was taken from and where he was reportedly murdered and his corpse dumped.
One person identified as Fanta Kamara, alleged to be a girlfriend of suspect Freepong, was reportedly flogged on the alleged orders of the teeming crowd and wounded in the leg.
Members of the mob yesterday attributed the rampant killings in the county to the disregard of capital punishment of convicted murderers.
Meanwhile, the accused, Prince Howard, who was rescued and brought to the police station under the protection of the PSU, was heard challenging his accusers.
“All those who were involved in damaging my properties will be brought to book, because I am innocent of the crime and I don’t even know who my accuser is,” Mr. Howard declared.
The situation in Ganta has led the local authorities to impose a curfew from 4 p.m. to 6 a.m. until the riot is fully brought under control by the security forces.
There have been several discovery of what many believe to be victims of ritualistic killings in Nimba in recent times.
It may be recalled that a body was recently discovered in the Congo Community. Residents there believe that the victim was mobbed to death, but the perpetrators are yet to be identified.
About a week ago, a boy believed to be 17 years old was found dead along the Ganta-Saclepea Highway with his body parts reportedly extracted. The deceased, also a motorcyclist, was reportedly hired by a friend to transport him to Flumpa, midway to the highway. The police have charged and sent to court four persons in connection to the incident.
Last week a motorcyclist was also killed along the same route, leading to the deployment of LNP in Ganta as repeated incidents of this kind were brewing tension.
In August this year, a 54-year old man was found dead near Yeibo Town, Garr Clan, after he reportedly went missing for at least a week. No other information about the deceased has been revealed.
Meanwhile, the LNP has warned residents to stay home and stop loitering in the streets until the situation is fully brought under control.
Nimba County Superintendent, Fong Zuagele, security actors, as well as UNMIL held an emergency security meeting, the outcome of which remained disclosed up to press time last night.
Meanwhile in a statement issued last night in Monrovia, Justice & Attorney General, Cllr. Benedict F. Sannoh said, though the situation is now under control, nonetheless government has reinforced security presence in Ganta to ensure that the situation does not flow out of Ganta.
He announced that “the operation of all motorcycles in the City of Ganta is suspended effective immediately until a full scale investigation” of yesterday’s developments “are concluded, and those implicated brought to justice and peace and stability restored in the City.”
Cllr. Sannoh warned: “Any motorcyclist found in violation of this suspension order will be arrested and prosecuted as well, and the Liberia National Police has been directed to strictly enforce this suspension order.”
He assured citizens in Ganta and its immediate environs that peace and security is and shall remain guaranteed in Ganta, and that they should go about their normal businesses, effective as of tomorrow.