The family of a Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, leader in Akwa Ibom State, Albert Ukpanah, who was murdered in March by unknown assassins in his residence, has called for the release of their son arrested allegedly in connection with the killing.
Late Mr. Ukpanah, an engineer and outspoken opposition politician from Ukanafun Local Government Area of the State, was hacked to death by assassins in the night of Wednesday, March 12, in his Mbiokporo street residence in Abak, Abak Local Government Area.
The deceased was said to have been murdered few hours after he returned from a political meeting in the area during which he was allegedly given some undisclosed amount of money from a high ranking citizen of the state.
During the burial of the deceased on May 24, Governor Godswill Akpabio assured the family that security agencies in the state had been directed to comb everywhere and fish out the murderers of the politician, who was known for his strong opposing views on zoning of political offices.
However, rather than the assassins, the late politician’s only son, Odudu, 30, a Physics graduate from the University of Calabar, who is also a post-graduate degree holder in Gas and Petroleum Management from the Coventry University, United Kingdom, was arrested three days later on May 27 and accused of being the mastermind of his father’s killing.
The young Ukpanah, who was said to have been the only person at home with the father when the assassins visited, was initially remanded in police custody before he was charged to court for murder based on section 38, Volume 2, Laws of Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria 2000.
For the past seven months, his formal trial has been stalled repeatedly, while the police have continued to keep him in prison.
But concerned about his condition in prison, the family on Friday issued a passionate save-our-soul (SOS) plea to the state governor, Godswill Akpabio, to order the security agencies to immediately set their only son free and allow him come home for Christmas.
One of the late politician’s daughters, Uduak Ukpanah, a lawyer, who spoke on behalf of the family, said the continued imprisonment of her only brother, Odudu without trial was taking a high toll on the entire family.
According to the lawyer, though the family had kept quiet these past months, hoping that government would keep its promise, they have been forced to cry out for help as Mr. Ukpanah’s widow, Uwem, has been devastated and shattered by the continued imprisonment of her son.
“We have waited patiently for Akwa Ibom State government to produce evidence and witnesses to support their murder charge against our only brother, whom they said killed our father for the N2 million the Governor (Godswill Akpabio) was said to have given our dad the day he was murdered,” the family said.
The family asked the governor and security agencies detaining the young man to release him and allow him return home for Christmas, if they did not find anything incriminating against him.
Earlier, the family had circulated a text message through with social media hashtag #releaseOduduUkpanah, accusing the police and other security agencies involved in the investigation of frustrating attempts to secure the release of the man
“He (Odudu) has been in prison for seven months. Our father was murdered on the 12th of March 2014 and our only brother in prison three days after the burial on the 24th of May 2014. Recently, his name came out among the people invited for interview for the State Civil Service employment, but because he is still in detention he missed the opportunity,” they said.
“Our sick mother, who has cancer, stroke and Parkinson disease has just been informed today (Friday) and she is so heart-broken. I bet as a mother no one wants to hear about what she is going through. She just lost a husband and can’t lose her only son. We want our only brother for Christmas. This trauma has caused us more pain than we can handle,” the family added.
The family said despite Police investigation report saying late Mr. Ukpanah’s death was “politically-motivated and that the family he left behind has no business with politics”, thus vindicating the accused of any involvement, the security agencies have continued to hold him in prison.