Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Many Question over Ogbe Onokpite killing

Under the Nigeria Constitution, illegal possession of fire arms is liable to 2 years imprisonment, but in Delta state, officers of the Nigeria police force might have killed the governorship candidate of the Citizens Peoples Party (CPP) during 2007 and 2011 gubernatorial elections. Chief Ogbe Onokpite for this offence, AYODELE SAMUEL writes. The news of the killing of Chief Honourable Ogbe Onokpite, who was the candidate of the Citizens Peoples Party (CPP) in the Delta state 2007 and 2011 gubernatorial elections, has continued to spark up protest in many quarters. Onokpite, a Canada based Nigerian who had recently returned home to actively participate in politics of the state was, on the 26th of April 2011, following the April governorship election in Delta state, arrested at the INEC office after he challenged the manipulation of results that were being collated at the centre. He was imprisoned at the Nigeria Prison Okere, Warri, on what many politicians described as trumped-up charges of murder. He spent over two months in the prison without charge and was later freed, after which he met his untimely death at Orhuwovru in Udu Local Government Area of the state. The conflicting stories leading to the circumstances surrounding what political watchers in the state describe as an extra-judicial 'summary execution' have continued to cause tension in the state. The Commissioner of Police, Delta state Command, Mr. Ibrahim Tsafe, when confirming the killing of Onokpite told newsmen that his death took place on Saturday at Beeland Hotel, Orhuwhorun Road. He said he is not aware that Onokpite was a candidate of any political party but that two of Onokpite's boys who were arrested with two AK-47 rifles escorted the police to the hotel where the deceased was killed in an attempt to escape. According to him, at about 2pm, undercover operatives at Beeland Hotel, Orhuwhorun Road, Udu Local Government Area intercepted a Honda car vehicle with registration number AM 528JRT driven by one Malik Okorokporo, 33years. He said that when the driver of the vehicle was flagged down by police patrol men at Udu/Orhuwhorun road and a search conducted, "we recovered two AK47 riffles with No. 20613 and 13702, with over 60 rounds of live ammunition." Tsafe said that the suspect confessed that the riffles were to be delivered to one Collins Egbara, Chairman of Agaga Community, now at large allegedly on the instance of the deceased. "The suspect took the patrol team to Beeland Hotel to apprehend his principal (Onokpite) who attempted to take to flight on sighting the police, but was maimed. The principal gave up the ghost on the way to the hospital". The Commissioner of Police also said that Onokpite's killing was just a criminal case and not politically motivated. "I don't know his political lineage. I don't have his political history. I see him as person who actually was having criminal tendencies and all that we have on him showed that he was a criminal. Another police report says that they had intelligence that Chief Ogbe was in the process of purchasing arms. In an interview, the Commissioner of Police, Delta State Command, Mr. Ibrahim Tsafe, said that Chief Ogbe and 'accomplices were ambushed by the police detectives who were deployed in the hotel from the Area Command of the Nigeria Police Force, Warri," and that he "was negotiating for arms in the hotel." Mr. Tsafe further said that Chief Ogbe was coming down from the hotel, when "we asked him to surrender but he declined to surrender, instead he confronted the police in company with his men." In this account of the police, a gun battle ensued in which Chief Onokpite received fatal injuries, saying, "he died before help could get to him in the hospital." But eyewitnesses account said "Chief Ogbe was actually shot in his hotel room, unarmed. Chief Ogbe had been staying at Beeland Hotel, on Oruwhorun Road, which is owned by a popular PDP chieftain, Chief Ben Egbetamah in Udu local government area of Delta state." Another witness said, "Chief Ogbe was arrested and shot, then taken alive by the police, in whose custody he then bled to death." Reacting to the news, Members of the Liberate Delta People's Movement said, "we overwhelmingly see the killing as politically-motivated, particularly as the state is preparing for local elections." They have called on the Federal Government and International agencies to look into the matter. The group's spokesman, Mr. Cadre Drake, said "We do not want to see the return of these kinds of killings to our state. This is somebody who was in prison and freed only recently. If what is reported is true, that he was arrested, then we do not expect the police to take the law into their own hands. There must be full transparency in examining this incidence; and the Delta state police can no longer be in charge of the investigations. It is true that Uduaghan's administration has been issuing threats against the opposition in the state and against citizens who are calling for accountability and the restoration of the people's mandate. This is completely unacceptable." Also a Lagos lawyer Festus Keyamo, said the former governorship candidate was assassinated and accused the police of extra judicial killing. Keyamo said he was going to petition the Police authorities for a full coroner inquest into the killing. Also, elder brother of the deceased, Chief Victor Onokpite, who reacted on behalf of the Onokpite family of Uvwie, said their brother was not a gun-runner or armed robber, and blamed his killing by the police on politics. Reacting on behalf of the state government, the Delta state commissioner for information, Barr. Chike Ogeah, who said the killing was not politically motivated, noted that the incident was very unfortunate and that the police should be allowed to finish their investigations on the matter. While saying that the state does not want any form of extra-judicial killing, the commissioner said it is the duty of the Nigeria Police Force to come out and explain what really happened. At the meantime, many in Delta state are questioning the various accounts of the events by the police. Among the questions being raised are: the source of the police 'intelligence'; whether or not a gun battle actually took place; where was his "boys" arrested and whether the event was planned. Chief Ogbe Onokpite's political associates and family are still waiting for police in Delta state to provide answers.

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