Summary Execution Of Delta State Ex-gubernatorial Candidate – Questions Over Uduaghan’s Role?

By Ochuko Udume

Deltans have greeted with incredulity and outrage, the news of the killing of Chief Honourable Ogbe Onokpite, Candidate of the Citizens Peoples Party (CPP) in the Delta State 2007 and 2011 gubernatorial elections. The shooting took place on 26th November 2011 but there are conflicting stories as to the circumstances surrounding what many are calling an extra-judicial 'summary execution. Police report says that they had intelligence that Chief Ogbe was in the process of purchasing arms. The Commissioner of Police, Delta State Command, Mr. Ibrahim Tsafe, said at an interview that Chief Ogbe and 'accomplices were ambushed by the police detectives who were deployed in the hotel from the Area Command of the Nigeria Police Force, Warri...we have the report that Chief Ogbe Onokpite was negotiating for arms in the hotel”. He further said that “as he (Chief Ogbe) was coming down from the hotel we asked him to surrender but he declined to surrender, instead he confronted the police in company with his men”. The police say that a Gun battle ensued and “In the process, Onokpite sustained injury and he died before help could get to him in the hospital”.

However, many are concerned about the veracity of the police account. Many questions are being raised as to the source of the 'intelligence', whether or not a gun battle actually took place and whether the event was actually a planned targeted killing of a political rival to the Governor of Delta State, Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan. Eye witnesses have reported that Chief Ogbe was actually shot in his hotel room, unarmed. Chief Ogbe had been staying at Beeland hotel along Oruwhorun road, a hotel owned by a popular P.D.P chieftain, Chief Ben Egbetamah in Udu local government area of Delta state. Chief Ogbe is said to have been arrested and shot, that he was then taken alive by police and that he bled to death in police custody.

Chief Ogbe was known to be an opposition leader in Delta State who believed strongly in justice and the rule of law. He was a law abiding citizen of the State who was based in Canada but relocated recently to Nigeria to participate in politics. Initially he was a member of PDP and supported Uduaghan. He later ran under the banner of the Citizens People Party but openly gave his support to the Democratic Peoples Party sighting the poor performance of Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan, his stewardship over massive looting and abuse of State resources and the marginalisation of Urhobo Youths in the State. He openly campaigned against Uduaghan and received numerous threats as a result. On the 26th of April 2011, following the April governorship election in Delta state, Chief Ogbe Onokpite was arrested at INEC offices after he challenged the manipulation of results that were being collated at the centre. He was imprisoned at the Nigeria Prisons, Okere in Warri, Delta state; on trumped up charges of murder. He spent over two months in that prison without charge and was recently freed. This was also seen as a politically motivated arrest as he had mobilised his community of Uvwie Local government Area against Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan. At the time, members of Chief Ogbe's group called for his immediate release saying that “We believe that the political enemies of Chief Onokpite planned, masterminded and are funding his imprisonment to allow them a free reign of terror and looting of Delta resources while also suppressing the true political will and mandate of the people”.

On the issue of Uduaghan's role, we have received information that at the time Chief Ogbe's arrest, the Inspector in charge of the operation put a call through to Governor Uduaghan, it is alleged that Uduaghan personally ordered his killing. Witnesses in Warri also reported that immediately following the shooting, Police armoured personnel carriers and armed military officers were deployed to patrol Warri. A witness (who can't be named to protect his safety) said that he spoke with Chief Ogbe 4 hours before the shooting and that Chief Ogbe was in high spirits and was encouraging him to visit Warri. The witness said that he had received death threats from members of the Uduaghan administrations and the he had also received information that plans were being finalised to assassinate Chief Ogbe. The witness said the he discussed these matters with Chief Ogbe but that Chief Ogbe told him not to worry.

Members of the Delta State Facebook group Liberate Delta People's Movement have been reacting to the news of a fellow liberator seemingly having been executed; overwhelmingly, they see the killing as politically motivated particularly as the State is preparing for local elections. They have called on the Federal Government and International Agencies to look into the matter. The group's spokesman, Mr. Cadre Drake said that

“We do not want to see the return of these kinds of killings to our State. This is somebody who was in prison and freed only recently. If what is reported is true, that he was arrested, then we do not expect the police to take the law into their own hands. There must be full transparency in examining this incidence and the Delta State police can no longer be in charge of the investigations. It is true that Uduaghan's administration has been issuing threats against the opposition in the State and against citizens like me who are calling for accountability and the restoration of the people's mandate; this is completely unacceptable”.

Members of Liberate Delta People's Movement have posted condolence messages on the Forum and goodwill messages for the family of Chief Ogbe Onokpite RIP 26th November 2011.

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