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Open Letter to Gov. Obi: Continued Unlawful Detention of Chief Bonaventure Mokwe at Sars, Awkuzu, Anambra State

Gov Peter Obi of Anambra  south-east Nigeria
October 5, 2013
Mr. Peter Obi
The Governor of Anambra State of Nigeria
Government House, Awka, Anambra State.

 Dear Governor Peter Obi,

Gov Peter Obi of Anambra  south-east Nigeria

Gov Peter Obi of Anambra south-east Nigeria

NOPRIN is a network of 46 civil society organisations spread across Nigeria and committed to promoting police accountability and respect for human rights. It was set up in 2000 to provide opportunity for civil society input to police reform and the enhancement of safety, security and justice.

NOPRIN is constrained to write you this open letter and to use its medium to express the utter shock of its network members over the continued unlawful, arbitrary and unjustifiable detention of Chief Bonaventure Mokwe at the Special Anti Robbery Squad (SARS), Awkuzu, Anambra State since August 1, 2013 despite irrefutable evidence that the allegation over which he was arrested and being indefinitely detained is clearly fabricated and malicious.

You will recall that the police arrested Chief Bonaventure Mokwe after a stage-managed police search of his UPPER CLASS HOTEL in Onitsha on  August 1,  2013 and the ‘recovery’ of incriminating objects, including two old dry human skulls, two AK47 riffles and some ammunition, as well as a military cap.

The police also arrested 10 of his hotel workers, including Mr. Justin Nwankwo a PhD student at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University who works in the hotel to earn income to pay for his academic program.

The police then proceeded to the Anambra State Ministry of Justice, Onitsha where Chief Mokwe’s wife- Mrs. Nkiru Mokwe, a lawyer, works as a Chief State Counsel and also arrested her.

Chief Mokwe and his wife were brought back in handcuffs, left in a police vehicle parked opposite his hotel and made to watch as the hotel was pulled down to rubbles on your orders and under your personal supervision.

Recall that you ordered the demolition of the hotel without any prior investigation to ascertain the veracity and credibility of the information you and the police claimed to have received that Chief Mokwe is a ‘ritualist’.

You carried out the demolition with the aid of your security details and a large number of Onitsha youths whose leader has now been identified as the kingpin in the set up plot against Chief Mokwe.

Prior to the demolition, some police officers had watched as a mob of youth invaded, vandalised and robbed several shops belonging to Chief Mokwe’s tenants in his Plaza located beside the hotel.

In our earlier reaction to this sad incident, we already stated and hereby restate that your hasty ordering of the demolition of the hotel based on unverified allegations and under the pretext of fighting crimes in the state subverted the due process. It was an affront on the rule of law and offensive to civilised democratic governance.

We further stated that even if investigation were to confirm the allegations to be true, your action would still be arbitrary, prejudicial, reckless and unlawful because as governor, you have no powers or authority under any Nigerian law to confiscate or order the demolition of any citizen’s property without a valid court order, unless we have to accept that Anambra State under you has turned into a jungle.

It is in this context that we find it extremely saddening that eventually-and as the Mokwes have consistently maintained, Chief Mokwe was framed up by some businessmen acting for themselves and on behalf of some powerful people in authority in Anambra State who see him as a rival, and whose identities have now been fully unravelled.

We are shocked that the police continue to hold Chief Mokwe in unlawful and prolonged detention despite the lack of any shred of evidence to substantiate the allegation against him, and despite the unravelling of the identities of the people involved in the frame up.

The man who lodged and planted the incriminating objects in room 102 of Upper Class Hotel and went away with the room key has been identified as one Mr. Olisa Egbuchiem who checked into the room under the disguised identity of John Obi. His father is said to be in the mortuary business for several years.

Also identified as the chief plotter is one Mr. Ayadi Mba who contracted Mr. Olisa Egbuchiem to plant the incriminating objects in the room. Many others who played various roles in the whole set up have also been identified.

It is worthy of note that prior to Chief Mokwe’ arrest and the demolition of his hotel, he had written petitions to the police and  the Obi of Onitsha alerting them of the invasion of his Plaza/Park by some armed youths led by the self-same Mr. Ayadi Mba. Mr. Ayadi Mba was said to have assaulted, injured and dispossessed traders at the Plaza and also collected at gun point all the money generated from the day’s business from the Plaza caretakers.

Chief Mokwe had on several other occasions alerted the police and traditional authorities in the state about persistent threats by this same man and his gang, but no action was taken by either the police or traditional authorities before this frame up leading to his current ordeal.

In all the cases of threat and attack which Chief Mokwe reported to the police and to the Obi of Onitsha, the same group of youths from Umudei village in Onitsha were involved. They were on all ocassions led by Mr. Ayadi Mba who also hails from Umudei village.

Following the incessant threats, harassment and attacks by this same Mr. Ayadi Mba on the life and business of Chief Mokwe, and the failure and neglect by the police and the Obi of Onitsha to respond to his written complaints, he approached the court and obtained a court order restraining Mr. Ayadi Mba and a police officer whom he was using to harass drivers in his Park. The Court issued restraining Orders which were served on Mr. Ayadi Mba, the aforementioned police officer and the Commissioner of Police, Anambra. A copy of the Order was also sent to the Obi of Onitsha through his palace secretary, by one Mr. Dubem Chude. With this Court Order, Anyamelum bus drivers started loading at Chief Mokwe’s park.

Rather than being restrained by the Court Order, Mr. Ayadi Mba became more determined in his excesses culminating in his hatching the frame up  plot which saw him and others planting incriminating objects on Chief Mokwe with the intent to use the police to eliminate him in custody.

Despite several petitions by Chief Mokwe’s lawyers informing the Police authorities in Anambra about the criminal activities of Mr. Ayadi Mba and his cohorts, and linking them with the planting of the objects at the hotel, the police are yet to arrest them or commence investigations into the complaints against them.

Dear Governor Obi, it is over  three months now  since a man who is entitled, under the due process of the law,  to be presumed innocent, has been held in police custody without being charged to court and without any court order warranting his continued detention. And this is even despite the fact that his innocence has been established.

In their defence in the suit filed by Chief Mokwe at an Onitsha High Court for the enforcement of his fundamental human rights, police tendered written Statements credited to Chief Mokwe and his co-detained workers implicating them. However, they collectively disown all the statements credited to them as they are outright fabrications.

The desperation to nail Chief Mokwe is illustrated by this narrative by Chief Mokwe himself: ‘Few days after I was sent to Awkuzu SARS, I was called up one morning along with a team of policemen who took me to Nkwelle Ezunaka Area to an expanse of land that was fenced, mistakenly believed to belong to me and an old decayed dead body covered with brand new waterproof was exhumed inside the fenced land. Depth of the grave was shovel length. The intention of the plotters was to place the dead body on any of my lands but I thank God that fortunately they placed it on another person’s land. My picture was taken with the body. The owner of the very land was not contacted for any information whatsoever. The person that lodged in the Room 102, Mr. Olisa Egbuchiem knows the source of all these dead body and old human skulls.’

We understand that part of the original plan was to eliminate Chief Mokwe in police custody and then malign him in death with the false allegation of being a ‘ritualist’; this will create the leeway for the masterminds of the evil plot to take over his property. However, this plot was foiled by the early alert sent out by NOPRIN and others.

Seriously concerned about the condition and safety of Chief Mokwe in SARS custody, NOPRIN made a telephone call to the O/C SARS, Awka- CSP Nwafor who assured that Chief Mokwe was alive and well. NOPRIN later sent communications to the Inspector General of Police pointing out the illegality of the actions of Governor Obi and the police in Anambra. We have not received any further feedback after the IGP forwarded NOPRIN’s petition to the CP Anambra.

We are also informed that the reason the police have been unable to charge Chief Mokwe to court is because they found no evidence to prosecute him. They found out the truth about this whole shocking episode.

However, we are further informed that there is a concern that if Chief Mokwe is released, he will reveal the shocking details of how he was framed up and all those involved, thus highlighting the lack of any justification for, and the irrationality of, Governor Obi’s role in this scandalous episode.

To save Governor Obi this embarrassment, it has therefore been deemed necessary that Chief Mokwe has to be continually held in unlawful custody. The liberty and dignity of an innocent man have to be sacrificed on the altar of Governor Obi’s personal ego and the consideration of his self preservation.

We are informed that in furtherance of this higher consideration of Governor Obi’s self-preservation and to save him a self-inflicted embarrassment, the police are under pressure to frame charges against Chief Mokwe, arraign and have him remanded in prison custody. The scheme is to consign him to rot for a longer period in custody- perhaps until Governor Obi leaves office, so that Chief Mokwe will not have the opportunity and space to reveal the truth and to pursue a legal action against the Governor for his illegal, criminal and barbaric action of demolition of his property.

It has become necessary that the police disclose the identity of the person who gave them information about the human skulls and other incriminating objects purportedly found in Chief Mokwe’s hotel. It is also necessary that the police disclose those behind the burying of a dead body on a piece of and mistaken to belong to Chief Mokwe.

It is an unjustifiable act of wickedness to continue to detain a man more than three months after he was arrested over a fantom crime. Why should people in authority partake in or acquiesce to punishing a man unjustly? Why should a man’s business be destroyed to settle scores? Why should a whole family, dependants and employees be denied the presence and responsibilities of their bread winner and employer?

Dear Governor Obi, NOPRIN challenges you to demonstrate courage to face the truth and allow justice to prevail in this matter. Chief Mokwe should be released without further delay and the injustice of the unjustified demolition and/or confiscation of his property redressed.

The Nigeria Police and Governor Peter Obi must, as the law requires of them in such circumstance, apologise to and compensate Chief Bonaventure Mokwe for unlawfully detaining him, violating his human dignity and destroying his means of livelihood.

We call for the arrest and prosecution of all those found to be responsible for or involved in this wicked act of frame up and causing untold suffering to an innocent man.

Okechukwu Nwanguma
Program Coordinator
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