Outrage as priest testifies of how Ohakims aides assaulted, dehumanized & Illegally detained him
These are obviously not the best of times for Governor Ikedi Ohakim of Imo state, Nigeria as he continues to swim from one controversy to another. The long standing precarious relationship between the governor of Imo State, Chief Ikedi Ohakim and the Catholic arch-diocese of Owerri under Archbishop Anthony Obinna, literally collapsed last week following the alleged dehumanizing assault and illegal detention of a catholic priest serving under the Owerri Ecclesiastical province by security personnel attached to the governor for allegedly obstructing the movement of the governor's convoy.
The bishop, during the last Sunday worship, had condemned the action of the men of State Security Service (SSS) and the alleged dehumanization of the priest, whose name was given as Rev. Fr . Eustace Okorie on Sunday August 7, 2010 , when the convoy of the governor was returning to Owerri from his Okohia, Isiala-Mbano LGA country home. Bishop Obinna had expressed dismay over the inability of the governor to apologize to the church over the recklessness of his security officials, one week after the incident, following the ugly treatment meted out to the innocent priest. According to the priest who testified yesterday at the Public Tribunal on Police Abuses for the South-East states, said he was arrested about 6pm by the security officials attached to the governor on Sunday, August 8, with the accusation that the cleric wilfully blocked the governor's convoy with his car ( Nissan Infinity car) in Orie- Akabo, Ikeduru Local Government Area , Imo State.
He was taken to the Chief Security Officer (CSO), one Mr Ismaila Bako to the Governor who after interrogation ordered that the priest be taken to SSS office where he was stripped to his boxer shorts and detained from that evening till about 8pm the next day being Monday August 9. Angry catholic faithfuls in the South-East state have been calling for the head of Bako whom one source said, 'had the animal impunity to order the stripping and detention of a Christian cleric in full priestly sutan simply because he is a Moslem.' Arch-Bishop Obinna has also called on the relevant Human Rights organizations to wade into the matter after he lamented over the ugly scenario where those vested with responsibility to protect the people now turn against them. He regretted that the priest was not allowed to communicate to anybody on his phone, a development he said raised doubt on his whereabouts for the length of time he was literally abducted and incarcerated. While narrating his ordeal, Rev. Fr . Eustace Okorie insisted that he parked his car rightfully while avoiding a dangerous ditch within the spot but was surprised that the security men pounced on him, smashing his side mirror with gun butts before forcing him into a Sport Utility Vehicle. Okorie, who claimed to be on his way to a vigil mass , said he was taken to the government house where he was interrogated by the governor's CSO before he was detained almost naked in the same cell with a suspected cultist for two days. Meanwhile, the governor's Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Henry Ekpe, who is reported to have been speaking from both sides of the mouth has denied the incident. 'The governor cannot order for the arrest of a priest for whatever reason. Even as I am talking to you, the governor is not aware of the matter' Ekpe told our correspondent.
Ekpe, further explained that had such happened, it would be a matter that is subject to be handled by the SSS and not government house. While the Governor is still not aware of the ugly episode, according to Ekpe, huhuonline.com / can authoritatively report that last Monday, Governor Ohakim sneaked into the court of the Arch-Bishop to apologise for the misdeed. Huhuonline.com gathered from a dependable source that the apologies were later confined to the waste bin following the demand of an apology letter from the priest by the government house security official before releasing the cleric's car to him. Arch-Bishop Obinna who was said to have been infuriated by the development advised the priest to abandon the vehicle as he was convinced that the apology should come from government to the priest and not otherwise.
Meanwhile panellists at the Public Tribunal condemned the action of the governor's security details and are expected to recommend appropriate punitive measure to relevant authorities to serve as a deterrent to other overzealous security personnel.