Rivers: Subjecting Murder to Politics

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The revelation by the Rivers State Police Command on how Ken Atsuete, a human rights activist and lawyer was murdered recently is an opportunity for members of the All Progressives Congress to join hands with state government to tackle crime in the state. Davidson Iriekpen writes

Until the Rivers State Police Command intervened, the murder of a popular human rights activist and lawyer to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, Ken Atsuete, had assumed a political dimension with fingers already being pointed at a particular direction – the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led state government. No sooner did the news of the murder broke, members of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) who have being sulking since their defeat in the last governorship election in a series of statements hurled accusations and insults on the Governor Nyesom Wike-led administration.

Atsuete was shot dead by unknown gunmen on Monday in Port Harcourt. But without waiting for the police to investigate the murder, members of the APC in their characteristic manner, jumped to conclusion with wild allegations and subjecting what could have been opportunity for them to join forces with state government to find last solution to crime to the arena of mindless politics. Not even a plea from the state government and ruling PDP to allow the police investigate the murder changed whatever conclusion they had drawn on who was responsible for the murder.

The APC said the PDP should be held liable because the slain Atsuete had announced that 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. Addressing journalists in Port Harcourt the state Chairman of the APC, Dr. Davies Ikanya, said the death of Atsuete was premeditated and the handiwork of the state government.

He said: “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 Atsuete and the reasons for our charge are obvious and lucid.

“The late Atswete was one of the leading counsels to the 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 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, Hon. Flag-Amachree. However, Ken Atsuete, 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.

“Most importantly, we know that Atsuete threatened while on a radio programme that he would 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. 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.”

However, the state government while condoling with the family of late human rights lawyer, described as irresponsible and shameful, the attempt by the APC to politicise such a tragic incident. A statement issued in Port Harcourt by the Commissioner for Information and Communication, Dr. Austin Tam-George, called on the APC not to politicise criminality but to join forces with security agencies and government to build a more peaceful and secure state. He urged the police to deploy their best intelligence personnel in the search of the culprits behind this death and bring them to justice.

Luckily for the state government it was vindicated as the police on Wednesday, came up with a damning revelation that dumb-founded the opposition and those who thought otherwise. The Force said from its initial findings, Atsuete was killed when he went to pick his neighbour who had escaped from suspected kidnappers. The state Police Public Relations Officer, Omoni Nnamdi, told THISDAY that the police established that Atsuete’s murder was not premeditated as he actually met his death while playing the good neighbour.

Nnamdi said: “Atsuete’s neighbour, Pastor Abba Emmanuel, was abducted on Sunday by unknown gunmen at his gate at Aluu. But the pastor later that night escaped from his abductors and called his family. They would have gone that night to pick him (the pastor) up but the time was too late and they decided to go early in the morning. As the only man in the yard, Atsuete decided to accompany Abba Emmanuel’s wife at about 5a.m. to pick up the pastor. It was in this process that Atsuete was shot in his car.”

Nnamdi however assured the public that the police would in no distant time unravel Atsuete’s killers as the state criminal investigation department (SCID) has already swung into action.

“I can assure you that we will get and prosecute the killers as the state criminal investigation department is already on the matter,” he said.

What perhaps gave credibility to the findings of the police were the names of Atsuete’s neighbour, Pastor Abba Emmanuel and wife mentioned for those in doubt to independently investigate.

No doubt Rivers State and the entire Niger Delta have been in the news lately albeit negatively following the increasing spate of crime and criminalities in the region which many analysts predated the assumption of office of the Wike administration. But rather than join hands to tackle the scourge, many analysts believe that the opposition out of mischief to tag the PDP-led government has clandestinely engineered crises in the state to discredit the state government with a view to compelling the federal government to declare a state of emergency in the state.

A source in the state informed THISDAY that since his assumption of office on May 29, 2015, Wike has been doing all within his powers to tackle crime, adding that rather than join hands with him to make the state safe for all, members of the opposition both in the state and the federal level THISDAY gathered, have been secretly plotting to frustrate achieving peace in the state.

The source revealed that in less than 14 months in office, the governor has so far worked with five commissioners of police, a situation he described as an aberration. He said as soon as a new police chief is posted to state, rather allowing him to settle down and effectively tackle crime, he would be recalled to Abuja particularly when be begins to arrest members of the opposition who do not want peace to reign in the state.

On his part, the governor since he assumed office is believed to have provided every logistics needed to enhance the capacity and efficiency of the police and other security agencies in the state. Some of his direct initiatives and investments in the last 14 months to advance the protection of lives and property include the procurement and donation of over 67 patrol vehicles fitted with communication gadgets to the security agencies.

In addition, he has massively repaired some Armoured Personnel Carriers purchased by the previous administrations in the state for the police. The governor further directed local government councils to institute direct release of logistics to Divisional Police Officers to enable policemen promptly respond to security challenges. The governor also directed local government councils to provide regular logistics support, including fuelling of vehicles to the security agencies for their operations in the state No doubt, these logistics which come with huge financial costs have enhanced the visibility and operational efficiency of the police in the state.

To show that the governor is committed to peace in the state, he recently initiated measures to curtail the increase in cult-related violence, armed robbery, kidnapping and oil theft with the amendment of the Rivers State Kidnap (Prohibition) Law No. 3 of 2009, to provide additional penalties such as the confiscation of assets derived from kidnapping and other related activities. He equally instituted a N1 million reward for any person that gives useful information that leads to the arrest and successful prosecution of kidnappers, armed robbers and other homicidal crimes in the state.

Wike also instituted a N5 million compensation for families of any police personnel, who lost his or her life while fighting kidnapping and armed robbery in the state. He has also directed and encouraged all local government caretaker committees to give priority attention to crime fighting and the maintenance of peace and security in the local government areas in collaboration with security agencies, traditional rulers and vigilante groups, even as he has inaugurated the State Security and Peace Committee with improved funding to all military and para-military agencies.

To curb the destructive predispositions of cult groups and the threat they constantly pose to peace and security in the state, Wike recently requested security agencies to carry out a total clampdown on cultists and related criminal behaviour in communities across the state.

He directed heads of tertiary institutions to take measures, including arrest, prosecution and summary expulsion, to stamp out cult and related activities in all state-owned tertiary institutions; requested traditional rulers to join forces with the security agencies and local government chairmen to enforce the state’s anti-cultism law and eliminate cult activities in their communities.

It is against this background that many analysts and observers are urging the police to key into the governor’s efforts to tackle crimes head-on and bring those behind criminal activities justice in order for the state to witness peace.