Civil society groups and human rights activists in the country are planning a protest for Wednesday to demand the immediate release of the Executive Directive, Afri Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), David Ugolor, detained by the police since last Friday for alleged involvement in the killing of a former personal aide to the Edo state governor, Adams Oshiomhole.
Olaitan Oyerinde, the Principal Private Secretary to the governor, was murdered last April by gunmen in his residence in Benin City, the state capital.
Last Friday, armed operatives of the Federal special anti-robbery squad (SARS) reportedly stormed Mr. Ugolor’s office and private residence in Benin City and arrested him after claiming that one of the suspects arrested in connection with late Oyerinde’s murder had mentioned “DAVID” as his sponsor.
“Before taking him away with some items, the police team had ransacked his (Ugolor’s) private home and office and took away,” Programme/Policy Officer of ANEEJ, Innocent Edemhanria, said in a statement. “ During the about three hours the operation lasted, ANEEJ staff were taken hostage, their cell phones taken away from them and switched off.”
The suspect reportedly claimed that Mr. Ugolor had advanced him the sum of N200,000 as part payment for an agreed N20million price for the killing, though he said he did remember not his office, house address or cell phone, apart from the mental picture of him he has from his regular appearance on television.
Mr. Ugolor’s friends and colleagues from various civil society groups and human rights organisations say they are ready for one day of action in Benin, Abuja and Lagos to protest his continued detention without trial.
“Several civil society groups and the human rights community are planning to hold a one-day of action to demand that the police charge Mr. Ugolor to court, or the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to order his immediate release,” Mr. Edemhanria said.
“We believe strongly that Mr. Ugolor is being framed up by some powerful individuals in privileged positions in the corridors of power to shut him up. Everyone knows Mr. Ugolor to be a very outspoken and vocal person who has been in the forefront of those campaigning for equity and justice in the country.
“As a civil society organisation, ANEEJ has discharged its duties creditably and professionally, including being critical of government’s policies and programmes. But we suspect strongly that somebody high up somewhere is framing up our Executive Director over the murder of the personal aide to the Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.”
Describing police allegations against Mr. Ugolor as spurious, Mr. Edemhanria said the impeccable relationship his boss enjoyed with the late Mr. Oyerinde was not what any of them could plot to kill the other.
He said as a group that has entrenched a non-violent approach to development in its policy document, ANEEJ abhors violence in any form and shape, pointing out that Mr. Ugolor, who is a life saver, took a “natural penchant for poverty eradication, enlarging the voice of the voiceless, assisting the poor and needy and result-oriented activism.”
“Tomorrow has been declared a day of action in Benin, Abuja, Lagos and other places in the country to press for his charge to court or his immediate. Some groups have also agreed to organise the protest march in their various states. It is going to be a massive day of action, because if a person like David Ugolor could be framed up, then nobody in the entire civil society is safe,” he said.