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PDP shuns probe into killing of 50 Rivers residents –NHRC

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Chukwudi Akasike and Ade Adesomoju

The National Human Rights Commission says the Peoples Democratic Party’s leaders, accused of orchestrating violence in the Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area of Rivers State before, during and after the 2015 general elections, have turned down its invitations to an ongoing investigation into the violence.

No fewer than 50 persons reportedly lost their lives to the mayhem that engulfed the area before, during and after the 2015 polls.

The commission is currently investigating about 153 petitions on hate speeches and election-related violence which occurred in the various parts of the country in relation to the 2015 general elections.

About 23 of the 153 petitions were sent by persons linked to the All Progressives Congress in ONELGA.

The APC members, led by the then Chairman of ONELGA, Mr. Austine Ahiamadu, alleged wanton loss of relatives and properties to violence allegedly orchestrated by the PDP leaders during and after the 2015 general elections.

The commission on May 9, 2017, began an investigation into the allegations made by the APC members.

Speaking with one of our correspondents, the investigation’s Project Coordinator and Director, Monitoring, NHRC, Mr. Tony Ojukwu, said while the petitioners attended the preliminary hearing, the PDP leaders, whose names were mentioned in the petitions, turned down its invitations.

Ojukwu stated, “The Rivers State petitions are not the only petitions we are investigating; there are 153 of them.

“Everybody concerned in the Rivers State petitions were invited. The petitioners were here (Abuja) for the preliminary hearing but those accused of the various allegations did not honour our invitations.”

He explained that the investigation was at the stage of analysing the oral and documentary evidence submitted during the preliminary hearing.

Ojukwu said, “The failure of anybody invited to attend our hearing will not stop the statutory duties of the commission.

“Right now, we are at the stage of evaluating and analysing what we got during the preliminary hearing because we have to be sure there are cogent issues to investigate further.

“If we find out that there are cogent issues that the petitioners can substantiate at the end of the day, we will conduct a public hearing and whoever is invited and fails to attend it must be ready with the findings of the commission at the end of the day.

“Fair hearing only requires giving an opportunity to the person accused to say his or her own side of the story.”

The director added that his team had visited the various parts of the country for the preliminary hearing but chose to conduct hearing with respect to Rivers State at its headquarters in Abuja for security reasons.

When contacted by one of our correspondents on Sunday, the Chairman of the PDP in Rivers State, Mr. Felix Obuah, who was accused of engaging a gang to annihilate opposition members in ONELGA, said he was not aware of any invitation by the NHRC.

“I am not aware of what you are talking about. Nobody invited me,” Obuah told Nigeria News on the telephone.

The petitioners accused Obuah, who hails from Omoku in ONELGA, of recruiting criminal gangs that allegedly perpetrated the violence leading to the death of over 50 persons and wanton destruction of properties in the area.

The then Executive Chairman of the Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni LGA, Mr. Austin Ahiamadu, titled his petition to the NHRC ‘Memorandum on the mass murder of over 50 citizens and the occupation of the Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area (ONELGA) of Rivers State by Ejima Charles Igwedibia (aka Don Wani) led killer gangs under the command of Mr. Felix Obuah’.

His petition dated July 5, 2015, read in part, “I am the Chairman of the Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area of Rivers State and petition your esteemed commission as the chief security officer of my local government area to intervene and halt and bring to justice the persons responsible for the ongoing mass killings of over 50 innocent citizens and the occupation of the area by murderous criminals who have effectively taken over the area and are still killing under the direction of Mr. Felix Obuah, the Rivers State chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party.”

Alleged picture of Igwedibia, donning a full military camouflage and his “lieutenants” standing behind him was hung by the petitioners in the auditorium where the preliminary hearing held on May 9 and 10, 2017.

Flyers showing pictures of bodies killed and properties destroyed in the violence were distributed by the petitioners.

Large banners, which were enlarged sizes of the flyers, were hung at the auditorium.

A woman, Mrs. Patience Anube, broke down in tears while recounting how her husband, Chief Christopher Anube, her two sons and her daughter were murdered in their family home in Obrikom town, ONELGA, on April 3, 2015, barely one week to the 2015 governorship election in Rivers State.

The incident was among those captured in Ahiamadu’s petition to the NHRC.

In total, seven members of the household died after their assailants fired over 50 shots during the invasion of their home between 6 and 7pm on the fateful.

The late Adube, who was the head of the family, was the Treasurer of the APC in ONELGA, and a former Chairman of the local government.

Adube was allegedly killed along with two of his sons, John and Lucky Anube; his daughter, Miss Joy Anube; his nephew, Mr. Ikechukwu Ogarabe; and his driver, Mr. Samuel Chukwuonye.

Narrating her ordeal as she held a picture of his late husband with her three children, she said she was outside the premises and was within the neighbourhood when she started hearing gunshots.

“I saw the body of one of my son lying on my husband’s body both in the pool of their blood. I also saw my daughter’s body lying on the floor.

“I lifted one, it was a dead body; I lifted another, it was a dead body…oh Jesus!” she said as she broke down in tears.

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