Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
The gruesome murder of popular human rights activist and lawyer to the All Progressives Congress (APC), Ken Atsuete, in Port Harcourt in the early hours of Monday has pitched the party against the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) with both parties blaming each other of being responsible for the death of the activist.
While the APC said the state government and the PDP should be held liable because the slain Atsuete had announced he was going to expose how the PDP was parading a fake court order restraining the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from releasing the result of Tai Local Government Area in the last rerun election, the said the APC should allow the police do their job to unravel those responsible for his death.
Addressing journalists in Port Harcourt yesterday, the state Chairman of the APC, Dr. Davies Ikanya, said the death of Atsuete was premeditated and the handiwork of the state government.
His words: “Further interaction with the staff of the murdered lawyer revealed that it was clearly a case of premeditated murder considering the dimensions of what happened.
“The APC wishes to be on record that the Rivers State Government and their agents must be held responsible for the killing of Ken Atsuete and the reasons for our charge are obvious and lucid.
“Late Atswete was one of the leading counsel to APC chieftain, Hon. Ojukaye Flag-Amachree, who is presently incarcerated on trumped-up charges surreptitiously inspired and driven by the Rivers State Government led by Nyesom Wike. Officials of the state government have variously vowed to teach the APC and its leader, Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi a lesson by jailing one of its most active leaders, Flag-Amachree. However, Atswete, as counsel to Flag-Amachree, had thrown in everything into the defence of his client to the chagrin of officials of the state government who are the traducers of Ojukaye Flag-Amachree.
“Again, late Ken Atswete had not relented in standing with citizens and public servants against the wrongful use of state power. The many cases he has instituted in this regard attest to that fact.
“Most importantly, we know that last week, late Atswete threatened while on a radio programme that he would [this week] expose how the Publicity Secretary of the PDP in Rivers State, Samuel Nwanosike, obtained a forged court order restraining INEC from releasing Tai rerun election results – a court order the PDP has been parading. Late Ken promised to present proof that such a court order did not exist and that the judge that purportedly gave that order was not a vacation judge as she had been on vacation in the US.
“Unfortunately, they ensured he never saw this week and therefore cannot now expose those characters. They may have stopped Ken in his track but they cannot stop God from exposing them.”
Ikanya also said the late Atsuete had complained severally to close associates that he was being sent threat text messages, phone calls and sometimes physically attacked by those he suspected were agents of the state government for speaking out on topical issues that made the government and its officials ostensibly uncomfortable.
While commending the police for promptly commencing investigation, he expressed the hope that the police would rise to the occasion by swiftly unravelling the circumstances of the gruesome killing of the activist.
He also called on the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to rise up to the challenge of prevailing on the relevant authorities to unravel this heinous crime.
“If a lawyer handling cases for the opposition in Rivers State could be this cheaply assassinated, who knows who will be the next victim,” he warned.
But in its reaction to the murder, the state PDP said while it was pained by the killing, the APC should not politicise the demise of the activist.
In a statement issued in Port Harcourt yesterday, the state Chairman of the PDP, Felix Obuah, through his media aide, Jerry Needam, said Atsuete’s death threw the party into mourning.
“The PDP Chairman, out and out, condemned the murder of the young, energetic and sound-minded lawyer, Atsuwete, who has over the years contributed significantly to the respect of human rights, the rule of law, social and criminal justice, as well as democracy and good governance in the State,” he said.
According to the statement, Obuah said: “His death is an unfortunate and incisive cut in the vanguard in defence of democracy and the administration of justice.”
The statement, while calling on the police and other security agencies not to leave any stone unturned in unravelling the perpetrators of the dastardly act, said: “The PDP reiterates its consistent appeal to politicians, particularly, Dakuku Peterside, Magnus Abe, Davies Ikanya and other members of the opposition APC not to play politics with issues of security, including the senseless killing of Atsuete, which is a great loss to all Rivers people.
“Development like this, we believe, should be taken seriously without an injection of an iota of political sentiment or statement as those emanating already from leaders and members in the opposition party, the APC, in the state. It is therefore, our candid view and request that we all put hands on deck to support the various efforts of our performing governor, Wike, in tackling issues of insecurity and social vices in the state,” Obuah stressed.
The statement further said: “The PDP heartily sympathises with the family of Atsuete and the human rights community, believing that justice will take its course on those responsible for the killing.
“The Rivers State PDP Chairman also appeals to all concerned persons, stakeholders and institutions to allow the police carry out their investigations into the murder and to do everything to maintain the peace in the state.”
Describing Wike as a peacemaker and godly man, Obuah condemned APC leaders in the state for attempting to drag the name of the governor and the PDP into the assassination.
“Only evil men, like the APC leaders in Rivers State dance naked on graves and politicise death and issues of security,” he said.
Meanwhile the Rivers State Government has condoled with the family of Atsuete, over his sudden death, describing the incident as tragic.
In a statement issued in Port Harcourt yesterday, the state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Dr. Austin Tam-George, said the government would work with the police to bring the culprits to book.
Tam-George described as irresponsible and shameful, the attempt by the APC to politicise such a tragic incident.
He called on the APC not to politicise criminality but rather join forces with security agencies and government to build a more peaceful and secure state.
“The death of the lawyer is a security issue and the police should be allowed to conduct their investigations and bring those behind the dastardly act to justice,” he said.