The immediate past President of the Nigerian Bar Association [NBA], Okey Wali, who was abducted by unknown gunmen on October 11, has been released.
The NBA President, Augustine Alegeh, said in a statement Thursday night that Mr. Wali was released at about 11p.m. on Thursday, after 13 days in captivity.
“I have personally spoken to him and can confirm that he is hale, hearty and in good spirit,” Mr. Alegeh said.
He did not provide details of how the senior lawyer was freed or whether ransom was paid his abductors.
He only thanked Mr. Wali’s professional colleagues, security agencies and Nigerians in general who supported his family or played any role in getting him released.
Mr. Alegeh statement added, “He expresses his thanks and appreciation to members of the Bar and Bench, the Security Agencies, friends and family for their concern, support and prayers during the period of his ordeal. He gives glory to God for his safe release.
“The Nigerian Bar Association is greatly delighted by the safe release of Okey Wali, SAN and wishes to express appreciation to all NBA members and well-meaning Nigerians who supported the Bar and the Okey Wali Family during this trying period. We must also commend NBA members for keeping calm throughout this period and not taking any steps that may have directly or indirectly jeopardised the efforts for his safe release which have now yielded positive results.
“The Nigerian Bar also wishes to place on record its appreciation of the efforts of the security agencies in securing the safe release of Okey Wali, SAN. The Director General of the State Security Services [SSS], the Inspector General of Police and the SSS State Directors and Police Commissioners in Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta and Edo States who worked tirelessly to secure his safe release deserve special mention.
“While we celebrate the safe release of Okey Wali SAN, we must hasten to reiterate the fact that the spate of kidnappings and general state of insecurity in Our Country is cause for great concern. A safe and secure Country is one of the primary roles of Our Government and we call on the Government to promptly address the present state of insecurity in the Country. We cannot continue to live in fear of kidnappers, armed robbers and other criminals.
“We call on the Government to take much more seriously its constitutional duty of providing a safe and secure environment for all Nigerians.”
The The family of a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Okey Wali, has pleaded with lawyers and human rights activists in the country not to openly protest the abduction of their patriarch.
Mr. Wali, the immediate past president of the NBA, was kidnapped in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, on the night of October 11.
Following his abductor’s delay in releasing him, some senior lawyers and activists in the country began to organise “to galvanise the human rights community and the Bar to press for his freedom”, people familiar with the matter told PREMIUM TIMES.
The group, led by the Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Chidi Odinkalu, reportedly planned to issue ultimatum to government to rescue the NBA president from his abductors.
On the expiration of the ultimatum, our sources said, the group planned to mobilise Nigerian lawyers to boycott the courts until the senior lawyer is released.
However family members of the abducted lawyer are putting pressure on the arrowheads of the protest to shelve the plan, saying any open agitation for his release could endanger his life.
Sources close to the family told this newspaper that Mr. Wali’s nuclear and extended family members fear that the former NBA president’s abductors might get even angrier if put under pressure by any form of protest.
“The family is afraid that his abductors might begin to torture him (Mr. Wali) in anger if there’s any kind of protest against their action,” one of our sources said. “The family actually believe that it is better to keep the SAN’s ordeal away from public consciousness.”
Mr. Odinkalu could not be reached Tuesday and it is not clear whether his group is calling off the protest in deference to the family. His associates said he had travelled abroad.
However, the President of the NBA, Augustine Alegeh, confirmed that Mr. Wali’s family is averse to any form of protest over their patriarch’s abduction.
“The family is already working to release him. ,” Mr. Alegeh said. “I have been working with them. And I have issued a release that anybody who does a protest or strike over the matter might jeorpadise the effort we are making.
“We have made a lot of progress, and God willing, he would be released soon. I did not go for the IBA [International Bar Association] conference because I’m working with the family to get him released.”