Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
The King of Opukula in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State, Hope Opusingi, has faulted the Nigerian Army on naming one Kenneth Opusingi as one of the masterminds of the violence at Abonnema during last Saturday presidential and National Assembly elections.
This is as the Chairman of the local government council, Rowland Sekibo, also denied involvement in the shooting that left an army lieutenant and six other persons dead.
The army had in a statement signed by the acting Director Army Public Relations, Col. Sagir Musa, named “Roland Sekibo, the Chairman Akuku Toru LGA; Omodo, the CSO Akuku Toru LGA and Kenneth of Kula as the masterminds of the unexpected/ unprovoked attack” that disrupted elections in the area and led to the deaths.
But in a statement issued in Port Harcourt yesterday, the King of OpuKula, one of the communities in Kalabari, said Kenneth, his younger brother, was with him all through Saturday and could not have been involved in the shooting at Abonnema the same day.
He explained that: “As at February 20, I was with him (Kenneth) at Port Harcourt trying to release our boats that were seized by the GOC 6 Division Nigerian Army. Myself (sic) and my chiefs even visited 6 Division Army to approach the GOC over our boats that were seized on the orders of the GOC.
“I met the GOC in person alongside my chiefs to plead with him to release our boats, but he referred me to one of his service commanders who told me that nothing can be discussed until after the elections. As a result, Kenneth and some of our chiefs left to Abonnema. I later joined him with the rest of my chiefs at Abonnema on February 22.
“Due to the restriction of movement in respect of the elections, he immediately left with some of our people from Abonnema to Freetown. On reaching Freetown, we started mobilising all our riverine communities to Kula for the elections the next day; then the army came with four military boats alongside Christian Don Pedro who is currently facing trial at the Supreme Court for the murder of my father and nine other chiefs.
“After several intimidating attempts, they said we should not go to Kula. I immediately called the 6 Division Nigerian Army to inform them of the harassment and intimidation of peaceful community voters by the army. After much argument, they seized two of our 200HP boats and left with them. We managed to shuttle several trips to move all our people to Kula for the election. Later, the 6 Division army called me to confirm if they have allowed our people to travel to Kula, and I replied yes.
“Let me state clearly that Kenneth was in Kula all through the period of the elections. They claimed he was in Abonnema, but the Army officer in Kula Lt. Shehu tried to bring him and Sukubo Sara-Igbe Sukubo to have a peace accord in Kula on the same election day. Sukubo is our younger brother, and Kenneth told the Lt. Shehu that he cannot negotiate any accord with his brother that he brought up. Shehu then advised everyone to be peaceful in Kula community during and after the elections.
“I therefore, urge the military to check their source of information and correct this very erroneous and ill-fated allegation against Kenneth. He (Kenneth) is not from Abonnema and could not have been involved in the politics and crisis in that town.”
The traditional ruler further said the claim by the army against Kenneth should be regarded as “the grotesque of blatant lies, most preposterous, diversionary and provocative.”
In a statement made available to THISDAY on-line, Sekibo said through his press secretary that the people only tried to resist one Christian Don-Pedro who was aided by the military to cart away electoral materials in Abonnema.
He said the PDP supporters, who were not armed, only prevented the snatching of electoral materials, adding that the voters lacked the capacity to confront the military.