Rivers APC, PDP squabble over murder of activist Atsuwete

 Dakuku Peterside

Dakuku Peterside

Killing unnerves political class

The gruesome murder of Port Harcourt-based human rights activist, Ken Atsuwete, is triggering political panic in Rivers State.Though the Rivers State Police Command has attributed the murder of Atsuwete to wounds he sustained during a suspected kidnapped attempt on him, the two leading political parties in the state, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC), have continued to trade tackles over his murder.

Never has any murder generated so much controversy between political parties in Rivers State since the killing of former national vice chairman (South-South) of All Peoples Party (APP) Marshall Harry, in Abuja.

It would be recalled that Chief Aminoasari Kala Dikibo then national vice chairman of PDP (South South), was also killed in Delta State did not generate such fuse because the same party was dominant in the State and at Abuja.

Atsuwete who is one of the lead counsels to APC chieftain and former chairman of Asari Toru Local Government Area, Ojukaye Flag-Amachree, presently standing trial for murder, was killed by gunmen in the early hours of Monday at Aluu Community in Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State.

Preliminary investigations by the Rivers State Police Command revealed that Atsuwete was on his way to Rumuchiorlu community in Ikwerre Local Government Area to save a tenant who was earlier kidnapped on Sunday night when a car intercepted his vehicle at a bad spot and altercation ensued. Police spokesperson, Omoni Nnamdi, said the men in the car that intercepted Atsuwete turned out to be suspected kidnappers, and as they tried to snatch him, and that a scuffle might have ensued leading to the gunmen shooting him dead.

A few hours after the murder of the rights activist, the APC declared that his death was a case of premeditated murder considering the dimensions of what happened. The party accused the Rivers state government of lacking the capacity to stop violence and killings in Rivers State.

According to the chairman of the state chapter of APC, Davis Ikanya, the murder of Atsuwete was clearly pre-conceived and well thought-out murder operations. Ikanya said: “The APC also recalls that late Ken Atswete 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”

The party hailed the Rivers State Police Command for promptly commencing investigations into the matter. It also called on the Nigerian Bar Association [NBA] to rise up to the challenge of prevailing on the relevant authorities to unravel the heinous crime. Ikanya noted that if a lawyer handling cases for the opposition in Rivers State could be cheaply assassinated, then the fate of the ordinary man in the street could be imagined.

“The APC also calls on the Rivers State Police Commissioner, the State Director of Department of State Services [DSS], the Inspector-General of Police, the Director-General, DSS and all security apparatus in the land to quickly solve the riddle surrounding the murder of Ken Atswete and ensure the eventual prosecution of all those who may directly and indirectly be involved in planning and execution of this heinous act,” he added.

Rivers State APC governorship candidate in the 2015 general election and now the managing director of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, (NIMASA), Dakuku Peterside, implored the Inspector-General of Police, Director-General of State Security Service and other national security authorities to carry out extensive investigation of the killing of Atsuwete.

Peterside who described the murder of the lawyer as an awful incident, urged the security operatives to ensure they bring the perpetrators to book and restore sanity to Rivers State. While condemning in strongest term the
heinous assassination of Atsuwete, he noted that it was perhaps the deadliest of several killings perpetrated in Rivers state in recent times.

“Ken Atsuwete was a prominent human rights activist, political commentator, fiery critic of bad governance, citizen activist and most recently lawyer to Hon. Ojukaye Flag-Amachree, the APC leader held for trumped-up charges.

“Without any doubt, the killers of Ken Atsuwete were driven by the insidious objective of instilling fear in the rank of the opposition, silence every voice of reason and stifle opposition in Rivers State. The killing of Ken Atsuwete is perhaps the height of impunity which is now an everyday way of life in my home state of Rivers,” he said.

He added that the Rivers State government owes the people a responsibility to protect their lives and property no matter the political persuasion of who was involved.
Piqued by the seeming politicisation of the death of Atsuwete, the State Government, which had described Atsuwete’s death as tragic, said it was irresponsible and shameful for the APC to politicize such a catastrophic incident.

The State Commissioner for Information and Communication, Dr. Austin Tam-George, said it was preposterous for the APC to want to politicise criminality, instead of joining 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 dastard act to justice, “he said.Similarly, the Chairman of Rivers State chapter of PDP, Felix Obuah, took a swipe on the opposition and condemned attempts to politicise the murder of Atsuwete, whom he said had over the years contributed significantly to respect of human rights, the rule of law, social and criminal justice, as well as democracy and good governance in the State.

Obuah while describing Atsuwete as a household name in the practice of the Law profession and in Civil Society activism in the State noted that his death was an unfortunate and incisive cut in the vanguard of defense of democracy and the administration of justice.

“The PDP reiterates its consistent appeal to politicians, particularly, Dakuku Peterside, Magnus Abe, Davies Ikanya and other members of the opposition, the All Progressives Congress, APC, not to play politics with issues of security, including the senseless killing of Barr Ken Atsuwete, 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” he said.

The PDP Chairman has also appealed 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.

He described the APC leaders in Rivers State as bitter and bad losers who wanted Rivers State to scatter, because they lost election. According to him, only evil men in Rivers State dance naked on graves and politicize death and issues of security.

The President of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni Peoples (MOSOP), Legborsi Saro Pyagbara, said Government of Rivers State and the security agencies must leave no stone unturned in making sure that the perpetrators and their sponsors are apprehended and brought to justice.

“The killing of Ken Atsuwete is bad and should be condemned by all especially all lovers of peace and justice as well as those that stand for a just society. It is unfortunate that our dear Ken is yet another victim of growing and worrisome insecurity in the state arising from questionable security lapses especially in the state capital, Port Harcourt” he added.



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