December 16, 2013 | Opinion/Feature
GOVERNOR DICKSON'S ENDLESS WAR AGAINST SOCIAL MEDIA ACTIVISTS
He is a lawyer, a former Police officer and former member of House of Representatives, yet the Bayelsa State Governor, Henry Seriake Dickson is often in the news for condoning lawlessness and trampling on the rights of innocent citizens. The man who promised to restore glory in Bayelsa State is the one who is remaking it into a police state. Employing the instrumentality of the Nigerian Police and other security agencies, the governor has almost succeeded in hounding and intimidating anyone who raises the voice of dissent against him to submission. The latest victim of the onslaughts of the Governor is one Comrade Tonye Okio said to be a social media activist and loyalist of the former Governor of the state, Mr. Timipre Sylva. Tonye was arrested in a typical gestapo style when men of the State Investigation Bureau(SIB) of the Bayelsa Police Command laid siege at his residence in Abuja and whisked him away on 26th of October. No reason was given initially for his arrest neither did those who arrested him declare their identity and destination. It was reported that the victim was handcuffed, tortured and blindfolded while they drove him surreptitiously to an unknown location. It took a media outrage before the Nigerian Police Bayelsa State Command confirmed that Comrade Okio was in their custody. Since his arrest Tonye Okio has been under deplorable conditions in custody and every effort to secure his bail was frustrated until after ten days when he was arraigned in a Magistrate court. He was charged with making defamatory statements against the Bayelsa State Governor. After almost one month of excuses and deliberate rigmarole, the Magistrate court granted Comrade Tonye's application for bail on the 21st of November on a condition that five million naira be deposited in the court by a surety who must be a serving Permanent Secretary in Bayelsa State. By giving such conditions, it became evident that the court never wanted to release Comrade Okio. It was later revealed that Governor Dickson personally supervised all stages of the operation and handed them instructions intermittently on what to do tapping from his experience and contacts as a lawyer and former policeman. Lately the Bayelsa Governor had displayed a penchant of intolerance to any form of critical voices like Tonye. Only a few weeks ago, he had allegedly ordered the arrest of one Comrade Jonathan Lokpobiri, another activist and top contender for the position of Presidency of Ijaw Youth Council. Competent sources have confirmed that the attitude of Mr. Dickson is not unconnected with his intention to re-contest his position in the next election. It was stated that the recent activities of Mr. Dickson and the bad press it had generated had caused a lot embarrassment to President Jonathan whom he refers to as his boss and elder brother. It is believed that the bail application will come up for hearing in a State High Court on Monday in Yenagoa. Leading civil society groups have raised concerns about the delay tactics that have been employed to continue to keep Comrade Okio in custody. With mounting international attention and intervention by many pro-democracy and human right groups worldwide, it remains a matter of conjecture whether Mr. Seriake Dickson will harken to the voice of reason and allow his agents within the judiciary to grant bail to Mr. Tonye and go ahead to quash the flimsy charges against him. The most surprising thing for many observers is that a lawyer of the standing of the governor can make himself an instrument of lawlessness. Written By Kingsley George [email protected]
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