Hardly had delegates from the annual Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, conference left the state than the news of the gruesome murder of Ken Atsuete, a human rights activist and an active participant in the conference hit the streets of Port Harcourt.
The felling of Atsuete, coming at a time the Rivers State government was boasting of how the state has been made peaceful and conducive to both residents and investors (epitomized by the hosting by the state of many conferences) seems a mockery of such claims.
Ken’s murder, a high profile one, is just one out of the many reported and undocumented cases of such murders, armed robberies, kidnaps, rapes and car thefts daily witnessed across the state. It has prompted many to describe the state as ‘Rivers of blood’.
But the state government and other security agencies have been making efforts to make the state safe and secure for its citizens. Before the NBA conference, it was already being thought that peace was returning to the state with Governor Nyesom Wike pointing to the successful hosting of the conferences as an evidence.
Before the NBA conference, the state had hosted the 26th All Nigerian Editors Conference (ANEC) organised by the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) from the 3rd to 7th of August.
This was closely followed by the National Convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The successes of the conferences indicated an improved security situation in the state until the announcement of the death of Atsuete, Monday, August 29.
Being a prominent lawyer to the All Progressives Congress, APC, the party , and indeed most residents, immediately pointed accusing fingers at the PDP, but the latter denied any complicity in the death and asked the police to unmask the perpetrators.
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.
Addressing journalists in Port Harcourt, the state chairman of the APC, Dr. Davies Ikanya, said the death of Atsuete was premeditated and was the handiwork of the state government.
“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 Barr. Ken Atsuete and the reasons for our charge are obvious and lucid,” he declared.
He said further: “Late Ken 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 Gov. Nyesom Wike.
Officials of the state government have variously vowed to teach the APC and its leader, Rt. 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.
“Again, late Ken Atsuete 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 Barr. Ken Atsuete threatened while on a radio programme that he would (the week he died) 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,” he stressed.
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 uncomfortable.
Expectedly, the PDP swiftly reacted saying that while it was pained by the killing, the APC should not politicise the demise of the activist.
The party in a statement it issued in Port Harcourt, said Atsuete’s death threw the party (PDP) into mourning.
Signed by Jerry Needem Special Adviser, Media to, the state Chairman, Felix Obuah, the statement “condemned the murder of the young, energetic and sound-minded Lawyer, Barr Atsuete, 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.”
According to the statement, “his death is an unfortunate and incisive cut in the vanguard in defence of democracy and the administration of justice.”
The statement called on the Police and other security agencies not to leave any stone unturned in unravelling the perpetrators of the dastardly act, stressing, “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 Atsuete, which is a great loss to all Rivers people.”