Groups, others caution police over arrested Isoko rights activist

Zanna Ibrahim


Isoko youths and some concerned stakeholders have cautioned the Delta State Police Command against media trial and hasty decision on arrested activist, Comrade Anthony A. Ogbalor.

Ogbalor, a former president of Isoko youths was paraded with other alleged kidnappers and armed robbers by Delta State Police Commissioner, Mr. Zanna Ibrahim, at the weekend in Asaba.

But some Isoko stakeholders urged caution on the matter in view of Ogbalor’s human rights activism and running battles with politicians and and others in the area who he had been accusing of colluding with oil companies and Delta State governments to shortchange and marginalize the petroleum-producing ethnic nationality.

They include Isoko Monitoring Group (IMG), Isoko National Youth Assembly (INYA), Isoko Lions Movement (ILM) and a human rights lawyer, Rockson Igelige.
Igeliges said he was reacting to “what seems like a conclusive report” which was published a newspaper on the alleged criminal activities of Ogbalor and other suspects, pointing out that “until a competent law pronounces otherwise, those paraded remain suspects.”He added: “As a lawyer, I have regards for the rule of law. The position of the law is very clear on the issue of criminality and suspected criminals. Crime suspects not only have the right to fair hearing, they are not to be subjected to any form of torture in order to coarse them into making false confession.

“The Nigeria Police Force is aware of this, but this is exactly what the Delta State Police Commissioner has done in this case. He is not just engaging in media trial of the suspects, he has also subjected them to demeaning and inhumane treatments just to extract false statements.”This is highly condemnable and illegal. If anyone suspected some form of foul play and conspiracy, he or she might be right. I must say that I have lost confidence in the ability of the Delta State Police Command to handle this particular case. Hence, I am calling on the Inspector General of Police to transfer the case without delay.”

IMG called on the police to abstain from torturing crime suspects before they are pronounced criminals by a competent court of law.IMG’s president, Comrade Sebastine Agbefe made the call yesterday while addressing newsmen in Oleh over the arrest and torture of Ogbalor and the others.

Agbefe said: “our attention has been drawn to the parade to the press and the general public of some suspected criminals including Anthony Ogbalor, a former president of the Isoko youth body for alleged participation in criminal activities including robbery, running a kidnap syndicate and the murder of a former Area Commander in Ughelli Area Command of the Nigeria Police Force in the Delta State.

“It is a notable fact that the Isoko are peace-loving people and frown against any form of criminality no matter who is involved. We want to commend the commissioner of police for his achievements in the fight against activities of criminal elements and persons of the underworld.“However, we must express our concern and displeasure over the parade of the said suspects in a manner that seems conclusive of their guilt of the commission of the said crimes even before they have their day in court especially as their physical appearance portrays unlawful and illegal torture. It is the extant law and the provision of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 that an accused person is innocent until proven guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction.

“We therefore, urge the police to carry out the investigation of the said crimes with strict compliance with the rule of law and in accordance with the provisions of the law of the land. We also want to warn the police against any form of further torture or extra-judicial killings in the handling of this matter.“We want to inform the police that the Isoko Nation is watching with kin interest the handling of this matter. We also want to use this opportunity to warn politicians to desist from the use of youths for unwholesome activities especially as we approach the election year and also desist from the use of the police to settle political scores based on crafted allegations and frivolous petitions to the police.

“We called on all community and traditional leaders in Isoko nation to always put the interest of the Isoko people first before their personal interest. There is need to end some unnecessary internal rivalry in some Isoko communities, which are affecting the peaceful disposition of the Isoko negatively.”
Similarly, the president, INYA, Comrade Umuakpo Ovie, lauded the police command’s efforts in ensuring a crime-free yuletide celebration in Delta State and in Isoko land as “there were no incidence of arm robbery, kidnapping and others throughout the period.”

Ovie, in a statement made available to newsmen through the INYA’s Director of Media & Strategy, Comrade Eniwake Orogun, said: “The infamous and widespread news of the arrest of one of Isoko’s former youth leaders, Anthony Ogbalor, over allegation of kidnapping and other sundry criminal issues is highly regrettable as youths of Isoko nation are generally peaceful and law abiding.

“We however, call on the police to go beyond the media trial by expediting action on investigations and prosecution before a court of competent jurisdiction to ensure fair hearing and trial so as to allow the law to take it due course.”This medium also serves as a call on all youths of Isoko extraction to remain peaceful as media parade of criminal suspects are rarely pronouncements of guilt.

“As a legitimate youth group, we will not fail to rally behind any Isoko youth who is unjustly held or persecuted because we believe in the cause of the law. However, we urge every Isoko youth to remain crime- free and extol the virtues of hard and productive work which by far rewards better than vices.”
\On Dracula

Meanwhile, Mr. Zanna Ibrahim has disclosed that he was under pressure by some powerful Deltans to release the notorious kidnap and robbery suspect, Anthony Obolor, a.k.a. Dracula, arrested by the Police. Ibrahim, who had complained to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, did not name the powerful persons, but said: “Big shots are calling to compromise me on his case.”He added: “It is because of the pressure that I decided to call this press conference, parade him and make them to back off.”

He said the Police would carry out thorough investigation in the cases involving the suspect and others arrested over several cases of kidnapping, murder and robbery and charge them to the court.He said the kidnap gang ran by Dracula and his colleagues usually abduct their victims on land and ferry them to the creeks, where they make negotiations tedious until ransoms were paid.

His words: “Dracula is the owner of the Hilux vehicle used for most kidnapping operations in Warri and environs lately, but it was involved in an accident and they acquired another vehicle for their operations.”

The suspect, who said he hails from Otor-Iyede in Isoko area of the state, did not deny that he was a criminal when Vanguard questioned him.ILM’s president, Comrade Emonena Cyril Oshogbor said: “Ogbalor is a frontline career fighter for the rights and dignity of Isoko people over the years. His political enemies who want to settle scores with him using paid disgruntled youths as judases will fail by God’s grace.”

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