All Progressives Congress, APC and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Rivers State have been locked a in war of words over the murder of a rights activist and lawyer, Ken Aswuete, in the state on Monday.
The APC, yesterday, called on the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, to mount pressure on security agencies in the country to unearth killers of the lawyer. Flanked by other state officials of the party, Deputy Chairman of the APC in the state, Mr Peter Odike, who spoke in Port Harcourt, said it was sad that Aswuete, who was handling a case for a chieftain of the party, Mr Ojukaye Flag-Amachree, could be assassinated under questionable circumstances. He noted that staff of the late Aswuete told the party leaders when they visited his chambers that the incident was a clear case of premeditated murder.
He said: “Most importantly, we know that last week, late Aswuete threatened on a radio programme that he would (this week) expose how the PDP in Rivers State obtained a forged court order restraining INEC from releasing the Tai re-run election results, a court order the PDP has been parading. He 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 he had been on vacation in the United States.” Meantime, the PDP has fired back, saying that the APC was politicising the death of a brilliant lawyer in the state. Spokesman of the party in the state, Mr Sam Wonosike, said that the Police should be allowed to unearth those behind the mindless act, adding that the state government had offered to assist the Police with all logistics support to get to the root of the murder.
“Be rest assured that the PDP government in Rivers State shall provide all logistics support to the Police and other intelligence agencies to enable the Police and the said agencies unravel this gruesome murder,” he said. The party urged the police to pay special attention to those making categorical statements on the circumstance of the death during investigation, adding that their comments were suggestive that they had good knowledge of what happened to the deceased lawyer and those behind the murder. The party aligned itself with the preliminary report of the Police that Aswuete was likely killed by kidnappers and not hired assassins. On the allegation by APC, that the PDP was peddling a fake Federal High Court judgment on the Tai Local Government re-run election, Wonosike dismissed same as cheap talk, saying that the certified true copy of the judgment was already in the public domain for all to verify. Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People, MOSOP, on its part, also condemned the murder, saying that those behind it had failed in their intention if it was to cow vocal civil society actors. President of the body, Mr Pyagbara Legborsi, in a statement by his media aide, called on the Police and other security agencies to unravel the circumstances of the murder. He said: “If the idea of killing late Asuwete is to create fear and silence vocal civil society actors and defenders of human rights and justice, then they have miscalculated as the efforts at bringing about a just and decent society where people are free to express themselves must continue.”
A group, Niger Delta Peoples Congress, NDPC, has, meanwhile, handed the Police and the Department of State Services, DSS, a 72-hour ultimatum to produce the killers of the late Aswuete. National Mobilisation Officer of the group, Mr Basil Ujobolo, in a statement, condemned the murder, saying that it further revealed the level of insecurity in the state. The group threatened a mass protest if security agencies failed to unravel the death within the 72 hours. “NDPC will not hesitate to mobilise youth groups, human rights activists, social critics, civil societies and well meaning people for a mass protest and lock down the state. “We maintain that we will not sit down and watch men who have contributed immensely to humanity such as Aswuete being killed in their prime, as we call on relevant authorities to step up efforts in the protection of lives and property in the state,” he said.