Human Rights Lawyer Detained In Delta Over Alleged Complicity In Okonjo's Abduction
WARRI, December 13, (THEWILL) - Barely 72 hours after he led members of the notorious John Togo-led Niger Delta Liberation Front (NDLF) to surrender their weapons at Government House Annex, Warri, Delta State, Warri-based human rights lawyer and National Coordinator of the Human Right Defenders Organization of Nigeria (HURDON), Casley Omon-Irabor has been arrested by a team of detectives for alleged complicity in a kidnap case.
The detectives who have been reportedly drafted to the state to trace the abductors of Prof Kamene Okonji, mother of Minister for Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonji-Iweala are also investigating other kidnap cases including one in which the human rights lawyer is suspected to have been involved.
It was learnt that Omon-Irabor was arrested in the oil city of Warri where he has his law chambers and was immediately handcuffed and taken to Asaba, the state capital Thursday.
He would be arraigned before a law court on Friday over his purported involvement in a high profile kidnapping case in the state in recent times, a source confidently told us.
Sources said the lawyer claims to know 30% of kidnappers in the state ostensibly because of his closeness to the notorious John Togo militant group.
Dependable sources who confided in us alleged that the lawyer in one of the kidnap cases he was purportedly involved in met the family members of a victim, an aide to the Permanent Secretary at Government House Annex, Warri, and told them to pay him N500, 000 to enable him use militants from the John Togo group to hunt for the kidnappers since most of the ‘militant boys’ he is defending know those involved in the kidnapping cases in the state.
State Police Public Relation Officer, Charles Muka, a Deputy Superintendent of Police who confirmed the arrest in a telephone conversation Thursday, stated that the lawyer has been suspected to be involved in some high profile kidnap cases in the state.
Hear him: “Yes we have him in custody. He was negotiating for the release of a kidnap suspect. He wanted to bribe a policeman to release the suspect so the policeman played along with him and he took the N500, 000 cash and went to the house of the policeman with family members of the kidnap victim and so was arrested and is being interrogated.”
Muka continued that the lawyer said he knows 30% of kidnappers in the state and would continue to defend them.”
According to the police spokesman, despite the fact that the state branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has asked its members to stop handling cases involving suspected kidnappers due to the ever increasing number of kidnappings in the state, Omon-Irabor had allegedly boasted that he would continue to defend them if they sought his services.
He said however that the lawyer would be arraigned as soon as possible.
Omon-Irabor had on Wednesday facilitated the surrender of arms by over 101 repentant militants from the Ayankoromo community in Burutu Local Government Area of the state.
The militants who demobilized and surrendered their arms as well through Omon-Irabor’s efforts are the remnants of the outlawed NDLF formed by its slain leader ‘General’ John Togo, who was killed by a detachment of the Joint Task Force (JTF) after he was alleged to have killed some Nigerian soldiers involved in battling the militants to end their criminal activities in the Niger Delta area.
John Togo’s group was notorious for piracy, armed robbery and kidnapping in Delta State prior to the amnesty programme.
Omon-Irabor told newsmen on Wednesday in Warri during the arms surrendering exercise that his acceptance to be legal adviser to the militants was based on an agreement that they (militants) would be ready to lay down their arms for the sake of peace in the region, saying he was happy the pact has finally come to fruition.
The Niger Delta has not been a pleasant place to reside recently, owing to the activities of criminals especially armed bandits until last month when the state government banned the use of motorcycles, which were being used to perpetrate crimes in major cities of the state.
Many foreign companies had, as a result, moved to neighbouring cities like Port Harcourt or offshore as the spate of kidnappings increased.
The proliferation of assorted sophisticated arms and ammunition are believed to be one of the after-effects of the amnesty as some of the weapons used by the militants are still in the hands of those who have not disarmed. Some of the militants who disarmed have even be flown outside Nigeria for training in vocational skills.
Contributed by Joe Ogbodu in Warri, Delta State.