By Civil Liberties Organization

Title: The arrest, torture and killing of ThankGod Michael by operatives of OFT.

Location of incident: Edepie Community, Yenagoa
Date of investigation: 30th September, 2011
Report: By Alagoa Morris [State Secretary]
Just as Bayelsans were coming to terms with the truth that the notorious special security outfit established by the state government, Operation Famou Tangbei [OFT] has been disbanded and basking in that euphoria, another information reach CLO that a certain young man accused of rape fell victim to disbanded OFT few days before it was scrapped by the Federal Government. CLO swung into action, as usual to get details of the incident, more so as there is indication that some unscrupulous persons in high places are sponsoring protests calling for the return of the disbanded outfit; which is not what the public expects to happen. CLO followed the lead and finally identified relations to the victim and took testimonies. The information was confirmed to be true and that already lawyers to the family had written to the Commissioner of police on the matter. This report is a brief of the issue. Below are the details.

When CLO's investigator arrive Edepie, contact was established with a volunteer who led CLO to another lady. This lady was the one who finally guided CLO to an elder brother to the latest victim of OFT. At his home he briefed CLO about the incident and how the family has tried to pursue justice.

Comrade Otex Seaboy…. I am Comrade Otex Seaboy, a former Youth President and CDC Chairman of Edepie community. I am an indigene of this community. Let me let you into what I know about this matter. I was not in town when I was informed that my younger brother, ThankGod Michael was being accused of raping a certain girl in this community. Those accused him include: Ochally Odum, Emperor Kofi, Mrs. Peace Emperor and Ovie Kofi. I pleaded with the relations of the girl to exercise patience until I return so that we can investigate the matter and deal with the issue appropriately. When I returned from Port Harcourt I approached those who accused my brother of the crime and we were trying to settle the matter. My brother denied the allegation when we reached him on phone; that he never did such a thing. At that particular time too, the accused young man was not in town for about three weeks before. To our surprise when ThankGod Michael returned home on the 17th of September, 2011 he was weeping when he told us he didn't commit the crime he was being accused of. But Ochally made a phone call to Operation Famou Tangbe and, before we knew what was going on, some arms bearing men wearing black clothes arrived at the Community. They parked their white Hilux across the road, along the Chief Melford Okilo Expressway [facing Agudama]. They were led by those who accused my brother to arrest him. Immediately they identified and arrested him they started to beat him right before our eyes. And when some of us tried to plead with them to take it easy with our brother whom they were brutalizing, they threatened to deal with any of us who get close as they were beating him; that we should keep out mouth shut else they will shoot us. They [Operatives of OFT] later moved him to their vehicle across the road and drove off towards Agudama. But, one funny thing was that we saw when Ochallycounted some money and gave to these men before they drove off with ThankGod Michael at about 12:00 [Noon] on the 17thof September, 2011.

After the above we tried to locate where the 26-year-old ThankGod Michael was taken to. We went to all the police stations in Yenagoa and even the OFT office but we couldn't trace him. At the OFT office they even showed us a list of alleged rapists. Eleven [11] names were in that list but we didn't see our brother's name. When the father of ThankGod Michael came he also went to the Akenfa Police station. He is an A.S.P [a Warder] in the Prison's service, presently serving at Degema in Rivers State.

What we later heard from a boy from Otuasega community who was also detained at the OFT cells when ThankGod Michael was taken there is very sad. The boy whose relations later secured his release from OFT revealed that at about 10:00 PM, the night of 18thSeptember, 2011 our brother was led to the torture chamber and tied upside down; suspended from the floor. He was beaten and asked to confess the crime of RAPE which, he repeated said he knew nothing about. He continued to plead his innocence and, while still hanging upside down his captors left him and went out. Unfortunately, by the time they returned to check ThankGod, he was no longer alive. That was how he died.

We have not even seen the corpse, but through our Lawyer we have written to the Commissioner of Police to help us find our brother. Even today we are going to the State C.I.D to get an update as to whether they have anything positive to tell us. And, as I speak with you now all those who accused my brother of the crime in the community has fled the community especially as they must have been informed that the young man has been tortured to death. We are not trying to chase anybody now, but we want the Police authorities to produce our brother,ThankGod Michael. If they cannot produce him then we can only accept what we heard that he was tortured to death at the OFT office and, that may be the beginning of another case because according to the Nigerian constitution an accused is presumed innocent until such a person is found guilty in a court of competent jurisdiction. We shall follow whatever legal advice we get from our lawyer and other concerned citizens on this matter…..

Follow up is needful….
Due to time constraints, CLO could not reach out to other family members to obtain more details or confirmation. But this is not the end, as CLO will follow up later, even to get a photograph of ThankGod Michael.

It was obvious to CLO that the incident was not a concocted story. Operatives of OFT sometimes used to wear black cloths and the threat they issued while the brutalized the young man before taking him away was an unmistaken characteristics of the outfit. The testimony of the person from Otuasega is very important and CLO should follow up to hear from the man who brought the news about the death of ThankGod in the hands of OFT. Only proper investigation and justice would be accepted in this and similar Human Rights violations committed by operatives of the disbanded security outfit.

A Call for Justice and Peace in Bayelsa State
We are very concerned Bayelsa people and we want to be assured of the safety and security of our citizens during and after the upcoming elections. Some Civil Society Groups had already called on the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to facilitate the prosecution of the sponsors of OFT to assuage the fears of Bayelsa people about the security of lives and property in the State. We also want the Police to launch investigations into the causes of the cult war in Yenagoa and other parts of the State which led to the killing of about Forty (40) persons in the months of August and September 2011. Other established cases of extra-judicial murder which the IGP should investigate include the killing of Mr. Freedie Philip Ockiya (22) and Mr. Karina Frank-Oputu by the OFT. While the Civil Liberties Organization and other Civil Society Groups continue to investigate all other reported cases of extra-judicial murder, we passionately appeal to the Inspector General of Police to commence investigations of the aforementioned cases without delay and bring culprits to book. Without this proactive step, the activities of OFT and involvement of government and other Bayelsa People would continue to elicit animosity, mutual suspicion and even instigate violence in Bayelsa State, in the foreseeable future. It was Dwight David Eisenhower the 34th American Presidentwho said “Though force can protect in emergency, only justice, fairness, consideration and cooperation can finally lead men to the dawn of eternal peace.”. Bayelsa people deserve no less.

Civil Liberties Organization
Bayelsa State
October 2, 2011