Rivers Inquiry: Witnesses Link Patience Jonathan, PDP Chairman, To Election Violence

imageSeveral witnesses who testified before the Commission of Inquiry probing politically motivated killings in Rivers State during the 2015 general elections accused the former First Lady, Patience Jonathan, of having a hand in the series of violence recorded during the polls.

Out of the 97 allegations of killings received by the Commission, 94 of them occurred between November 15, 2014, and April 11, 2015 – a monthly average of 19 killings in the five months during the election, according to the final report of the Inquiry exclusively obtained by PREMIUM TIMES.

The Commission was instituted in April by the immediate past Rivers State government, to probe politically motivated killings and destruction of properties before and during the elections.

The inquiry opened on May 4, and undertook seven days of public hearings during which it heard over 18 hours of oral testimony, in respect of 43 memoranda concerning incidents of violence from 11 of the 23 local government areas in Rivers State.

On May 22, the Commission submitted its final report to the Rivers State government.

“Evidence presented to the Inquiry included allegations and perceptions that either the first lady in person on persons claiming to represent her interests, including one Evans Bipi, who is a member of the Rivers State House of Assembly, exercised undue or negative influence on the security agencies in Rivers State or on other persons or entities involved in the violence reported,” the report stated.

“The Inquiry was unable to put these allegations to the First Lady and could not, therefore, verify or form an independent view of these allegations.

“They are recorded here as proof that they were made not necessarily as confirmation of the allegations made.”

PREMIUM TIMES has been unable to reach Mrs. Jonathan. Those close to her said she is vacationing abroad with her husband.

They also prefer that she responds to the allegations herself.

‘Unwilling’ security agencies

The Inquiry received evidence of 83 incidents of destruction of property, including acts of vandalization or arson during the elections, the report said.

No allegations of political violence was recorded after the elections.

“It is quite possible that the numbers or tallies on similar incidents maintained or produced by the NPF (Nigerian Police Force) or other security agencies could be different,” the report said.

“The Inquiry received ample evidence indicating that security agencies were unwilling or unable to attend to incidents of political violence or that in some locations, they were overwhelmed by the intensity and frequency of reported incidents.

In the course of its sittings, the Commission met in confidence with the Department of State Services in Rivers State, and then arranged to meet with the Rivers State Police Command.

On May 20, the day scheduled for the meeting at the police headquarters, the police instead requested the Commission to submit a questionnaire to be completed and returned at an agreed time.

The Commission’s questionnaire did not receive any response from the police as at the time the report was finalised.

“The attitude of the security agencies that the Inquiry encountered was largely defensive, tending towards avoidance of the subject. This corroborated the perception of institutional indifference, reluctance or avoidance reported by most witnesses and victims.”

Several witnesses testified to killings and destruction of lives and properties across the state.

Vincent Ogbuagu narrated how one Ezekiel Thompson, the security guard of Emmanuel Ogbuagu, was shot and killed; Christopher Adube and his three children and four other relations were murdered; and the APC ward secretariat burnt down.

Austin Ahiamadu, the Chairman of Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni (ONELGA), spoke about how thugs attacked Godspower Ahiadu, an APC leader, and his family and vandalized their properties. The victim and one Tony Okanu, according to him, went to report the attack at the police station but were detained and later transferred to Force headquarters in Port Harcourt.

Two weeks after the attack on his family, Mr. Ahiadu was murdered.

On March 24, Sampson Oreke was murdered in Okposi town.

The next day, George Eweh and Nwabueze Robinson were murdered in Obizimini community.

On November 28, 2014, Gladys Emeka’s brother, Emenike Obulor, was shot and killed at Ogbakata community.

On the same day, Augustina Wilson’s husband was fatally shot at Omoku.

On January 8, 2015, the APC office in Okrika local government was razed down with dynamites. A police officer was shot and killed during the party’s campaign rally.

A lot of the witnesses who testified mentioned Felix Obuah, the Rivers State PDP Chairman, as a mastermind of the killings.

Efforts by PREMIUM TIMES to reach Mr. Obuah were unsuccessful. He would not return phone calls or text messages.

‘Assist the widows’

The Commission recommended that the allegations of murder and illegal possession of firearms be referred to the police for further investigation.

It also recommended a coroner’s inquest to ascertain the cause of the deaths.

The Commission noted that it is necessary to restore credibility and public trust in the role of elected political office holders in protecting the public good.

“Given this problem, the Commission recommends that the National Council of State should play a significant role in restoring public confidence in state security agencies to be able to effectively deal with cases of political violence,” the report stated.

“The Council of State may also offer non-partisan standards or guidance for mediating cultures of internal democracy in political parties.”

The report also stated that the police proved incapable of containing the political violence during the 2015 general election in Rivers State.

“The Inspector-General of Police should develop and issue for the NPF (Nigeria Police Force) a clear doctrine of zero tolerance for and clearly spelling out the kinds of acts or circumstances which the Force would regard as political violence.

“Reflecting the seriousness of crimes of political violence, the Inspector-General of Police should designate an officer of a rank not below that of Commissioner of Police with responsibility at the federal level to lead the operationalization of this Force Order and the development of a new Force disposition on political violence.”

The report also recommended assistance to widows and children of those killed during the political violence.

“For those widows who may be dispossessed because of security issues as a result of the loss of the breadwinner in the family, the Commission recommends that the Government take steps to provide alternative secure accommodation.

“For those of school age, scholarships should be provided to those children up to and including the completion of university education for those who are accepted into university.”

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