A coalition of human rights groups in Akwa Ibom on Friday said they were mobilizing for a protest against the continued imprisonment of Odudu Ukpanah, who is accused of masterminding his father’s murder.
Odudu, the only son of the former Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, leader in the state, Albert Ukpanah, has been in prison since May 27, 2014.
He was allegedly arrested on the orders of the State governor, Godswill Akpabio, on allegations that he masterminded the assassination of his father.
The young Ukpanah, 30, a Physics graduate from the University of Calabar, was taken in after he responded to an invitation by the Akwa Ibom State Police Command, Ikot Akpan Abia, Uyo, to make a statement ostensibly to assist security agencies in their investigations into the murder.
The invitation had followed Governor Akpabio’s pledge to the family 72 hours after the burial of the late politician on May 24. Mr. Akpabio had given the family assurances that security agencies in the state would comb everywhere to fish the murderers of the politician.
Last December, more than seven months after the months after the murder and unfulfilled promise to fish out the murderers, the family of the former opposition politician from Ukanafun Local Government Area of the State, sent a save-our-soul plea to the governor to direct security agencies to immediately allow their son to return home for Christmas.
Again, after waiting in vain throughout the yuletide for his return, a coalition of rights groups under Human Rights Defenders, COHRD, said they would join the family to protest his continued incarceration without trial.
The convener of the protest, Inibehe Effiong, said the solidarity march is scheduled for Monday, January 5, 2015 outside the premises of the Akwa Ibom High Court, Abak Division, where the case instituted against Mr. Ukpanah by the Akwa Ibom State government would be heard by Justice Ezekiel Enang.
Initially when Mr. Ukpanah was arraigned before a magistrate court in the area, the first time since his arrest in May, the police had charged two witnesses it called with a two-count charge of murder and conspiracy to murder.
The duo, Obot Monday, who is Mr. Ukpanah’s late father’s friend, and Mokomobong, Mr. Monday’s brother, were later granted bail by the court.
On December 15, 2014 when the application filed by lawyers to Odudu for his bail was presented before the court, the state attorney vehemently opposed it, claiming it would need sufficient time to file a response, as it would need to cross examine the witnesses.
Before adjourning hearing in the case till January 5, 2015, the court later granted the request by the state counsel for the two suspects to be dropped completely from the case, leaving Odudu to stand alone as accused.
Ahead of the court’s sitting on Monday, Mr. Effiong, a lawyer, said notices have already been sent to other civil society groups, including the Human Rights Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, to join in the solidarity march to pressurize the court to free Odudu without further delay.
He said a formal letter was sent to the Commissioner of Police, Akwa Ibom State Command, to give notice of the planned peaceful protest and the need for police to provide security for participants.
“The Akwa Ibom State government is, by this statement, given up to Wednesday 7th January, 2015 to exercise her prosecutorial discretion to discontinue forthwith any criminal trial in favour of Odudu Ukpanah by terminating this case, or face a mass protest unprecedented in the history of Akwa Ibom State,” Mr. Effiong threatened.
“As a human rights organization devoted to the protection of the rights of the poor and oppressed Nigerians, we in the COHRD will never sit back and watch a despotic, oppressive and corrupt government emasculate innocent citizens with impunity,” he added.