Inibehe Effiong

For the benefit of those that are still oblivious of the continued incarceration of Mr. Odudu Ukpanah, male, 31, an indigene of Ukanafun Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State and a B.Sc holder in Geophysics from the University of Calabar and an M.Sc holder in Oil and Gas Management from Coventry University, United Kingdom, on the orders of the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Chief Godswill Obot Akpabio JP?, I will give a brief insight into the case.

Odudu Ukpanah is the only son of the Late Engr. Albert Jimmy Ukpanah that was assassinated on March 12, 2014 in his residence. The senior Ukpanah was an outspoken chieftain of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Akwa Ibom State.

Notably, aside being a thorn in the flesh of some prominent politicians and political office holders in his area, the late Albert Ukpanah was a vociferous opponent of the 2015 senatorial ambition of Chief Godswill Obot Akpabio, the Executive Governor of Akwa Ibom State. He equally opposed the attempt by the governor to impose a successor on the state. He supported the 2015 gubernatorial ambition of the erstwhile deputy governor of the state, Mr. Nsima Ekere instead of the governor’s choice, Udom Emmanuel.

Like several other persons in his area that subscribe to the PDP zoning policy, he believed that it was the turn of his area (Abak Federal Constituency) to produce the next senator to represent the Ikot Ekpene Senatorial District of Akwa Ibom State in the Senate come 2015. He saw Akpabio’s Senate bid as a grave injustice to his people. This informed his active involvement in the Abak District Elders Forum (an organization that was formed to fight for the political and economic rights of the people of the old Abak in the state) where he served as the secretary.

On Wednesday March 12, 2014, he was brutally murdered by dare-devil assassins at his Abak residence at about 9:40pm.

From the cogent, uncontradicted and plausible account given by the immediate family of the slain politician, the deceased asked his son, Odudu, who was the only person with him at the material time to bring three (3) plastic chairs and a stool for himself and yet to be identified visitors that he was expecting.

After bringing out the chairs as directed, Odudu went inside the living room and continued watching the European Champions League between Manchester City and Barcelona which he was enjoying prior to the arrival of the visitors. His father later came into the living room and took drinks (1 Remy martins and 1 can stout), which he ostensibly offered his guests. On sensing that the expected meeting had lasted for too long, Odudu checked on his father only to meet him lying lifeless in the pool of his blood.

An investigation into the incident was taken over by the State Police Command which resulted in the production of a Police Investigation Report. I have the report with me. For clarity and benefit of doubt, the opinion/recommendation part of the Police Investigation Report dated 25th March, 2014 and signed by the IPO, Sgt. Ibediro Nnamdi, is reproduced verbatim as follows:

“In view of the above findings, the following suggestions are proffered. Since investigation into the case is still on, it is wise to nose around for more information that may reveal the REAL KILLERS of Hon. (Engr.), Albert Ukpanah, AS THE KILLING MIGHT BE POLITICALLY MOTIVATED ASSASSINS.
Above report is for your consideration and further directive, please” (emphasis mine).

I need to also mention here that in furtherance of investigation into this case, the police had seized the GSM phone of the late Albert Ukpanah with an undertaking that same would be forwarded to the State Security Service (SSS) for forensic analysis since the deceased is believed to had communicated on phone with his yet to be identified guests before their arrival.

Till date, nothing has been heard of the result of the said forensic analysis by the SSS. Nigerians should ask the Akwa Ibom State Government, the SSS and the police of the outcome of the forensic analysis. A check with service providers would have revealed the call logs of the deceased shortly before he was murdered.

Instead of identifying the ‘REAL KILLERS’ of Albert Ukpanah as recommended by the IPO, the Akwa Ibom State Government led by Gov. Godswill Akpabio who had vowed during the burial of the slain politician that he would “fished out” the “killers” of his friend? went on a wild goose chase and had his only son, Odudu Ukpanah framed-up, arrested and charged to court on a trump-up charge of killing his own father.

Odudu Ukpanah has been in custody since 27th May, 2014. He is presently suffering from an illment which developed while he was in the United Kingdom for his masters degree. The condition is such that the prison authorities had to write to the relevant quarters since they lack the requisite facilities to cater for his illment. The hospital that he was rushed to when he collapsed in the UK had to send a report down here. He also collapsed in the Ikot Ekpene Medium Prison where he is being held. His mother and wife of the slain politician is critically down with cancer, pakinson and stroke.

The three sisters of Odudu, including a lawyer, are close to a state of bankruptcy owing to the high cost of their mother’s medical care and litigation. Initially, they were so scared of telling the poor widow that her only son is being accused of killing her husband. They kept giving her one excuse or the other over the long absence of her only son until they exhausted excuses. Ever since the news of her only son’s incarceration was broken to her, her condition has worsen. Interestingly, the three sisters of Odudu are currently the most vociferous champions of his innocence. So why is Gov. Akpabio crying more than the bereaved? Please why?

I have made spirited efforts to reach out to many of our human rights crusaders that I have contacts and relationship with on the need for the Nigerian human rights community and civil society to rise to the defence and rescue of Odudu Ukpanah before he dies (God forbid) in custody but it is so heart breaking that most of our comrades seems too busy to appreciate the historical significance and the urgency of this case.

This was the same unfortunate experience that I had when I took up the #FreeUniuyo44 Campaign, few of us were left to shout and fight alone. In that case, students of the University of Uyo had embarked on a very peaceful protest on June 12, 2013 to ventilate their opposition to the oppressive policies of the institution’s management. Instead of attending to the grievances of the students, the management invited anti-riot police men to quell the peaceful protest. The police fired live bullets which resulted in the death of a student. This escalated the protest into burning of the school’s properties.

During his visit to the institution, the same Gov. Akpabio ordered that those who damaged the properties be “fished out” by the police. The police saw that order as a blank cheque to swoop on innocent students who were in the off campus male hostel of the school and on the road. They arrested Innocent 44 students. The students were detained for months (some spent up to a year) in prison over crimes they knew nothing about.

One of them ran mad while the affected parents sold off all they had to pay lawyers. I led a protests in Uyo and also in Calabar in partnership with the Joint Action Front (JAF) demanding that those students be released but the needed solidarity never came from our seniors in the struggle. In the end, it took the court to free those students from captivity.

Now again, our activists are repeating the terrible mistake of the past, they are closing their eyes to the Odudu Ukpanah’s detention. This case has made me heart broken. It is as if real, non profit, populist and non selective activism died with the Late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, SAN SAM. Lately, I have been wondering if our hero, Gani, went to the grave with the conscience of the Nigeria. I shed tears when the news of Gani Fawehinmi ‘s death was broken because I foresaw the vacuum that his death will create in the world of real activism.

The case of Odudu Ukpanah and the ongoing cruel silence of our activists has made me to cry once again for the death of ‘The Peoples Lawyer’. If Gani Fawehinmi did not die, I am sure he would have rose to the occasion and saved Odudu from the clutches of a heartless governor. I urge all those who profess to be disciples and associates of Gani to use Odudu’s case to honour his memory. Let them prove me wrong that true activism did not die with Gani Fawehinmi.

The time to act is now.

Inibehe Effiong is a Human Rights Activist based in Lagos,  Nigeria and the Convener of the Coalition of Human Rights Defenders ( COHRD ).

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