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PDP moves to halt probe of killings, destruction during 2015 elections in Rivers

The Peoples Democratic Party in Rivers State on Monday, boycotted a Commission of Inquiry probing alleged politically-motivated killings in the state after the panel rejected the party’s move to enforce a court order restraining the sitting.

Emmanuel Aguma, a counsel to the PDP, said the party would not be a part of proceedings that flout the rule of law.

“I wouldn’t want to be a part of a process that does not obey the rule of law, so I’m bringing your attention to this,” said Mr. Aguma, tendering a Federal High Court’s interim order restraining the Commission from sitting.

“It is the duty of the panel to obey the court.”

Chidi Odinkalu, the head of the Commission, suggested that since the panel were just seeing the court order, they would fix Wednesday to hear counsel’s arguments and judicial authorities on the issue.

“We would go ahead with today’s proceedings. The Commission does not confer lawfulness where lawfulness does not exist,” said Mr. Odinkalu, a Professor of Law.

“If on Wednesday your objections are upheld, we cannot continue, it means that all the records of this proceedings will be expunged.

“What you have tendered is a photocopy. And we have said that recognising who you are, we will accept this. And we will hear argument on this on Wednesday. I think that’s sufficient.

“We don’t know the authority. We don’t have access to the same authority that you have. It makes sense that we take time to consider this.”

But Mr. Aguma objected to the panel’s suggestion, saying that the Commission is adjourning till Wednesday to coincide with the time the 14 day life span of an interim court order would have elapsed.

He declined to be put on record to be “participating under protest” and asked to be excused till Wednesday when the court order will be argued.

“How do I participate in a proceeding where I have questioned its legality? When I’m questioning the competence of the Commission to proceed?”

Ten people, including a widow whose husband was fatally shot on the day of the gubernatorial election, testified at Monday’s proceedings on allegations of arson, assault, and killing.

Ruth Orukwowu, 41, said her husband, Clever, was killed on the morning of April 11th, during election accreditation.

Accompanied by her brother-in-law and seven children – the oldest is 18 years while the youngest is 11 months – Mrs. Orukwowu said armed men in military fatigues had stormed her husband’s polling unit, ordered everyone to lie face down, before shooting him.

The deceased, 43, was the All Progressives Congress, APC, Youth Leader in the community and was preparing to go to Law School before his death.

“That fateful day, as APC youth leader, he was a Ward Collation Agent of the party. He went for election. We are not in the same polling unit,” said Mrs. Orukwowu, who said she’s an housewife and also a member of the APC.

“In my own polling unit, I went to ease myself, when I came back, they said some people came in military fatigue and told people to lie down. They came and carried my husband.”

Another witness, Kenneth Nwuchegbuo, said that both his house and that of his late father were burnt down by PDP thugs on March 19th.

“I was in the school when I received a call from Mr. Godspower Opurum that he received a call from his wife at about 5:30 p.m. that my father’s house, my mother’s house, including my own is being set down by some hoodlums,” said Mr. Nwuchegbuo, a teacher.

“For security reasons, I didn’t travel that moment. It was on the 20th I travelled. Somebody burning your house, you don’t just go there, they can burn you if they see you.”

Mr. Nwuchegbuo said the attack on his property is politically-motivated because his younger brother, Blessing, is a prominent grassroots politician in the community.

“I want to ask the Commission for three favours: a proper investigation of the people who burnt my house, a protection of my life through the police, and the government to compensate me,” he said.

“I’ve never associated with anything politics in my life because I’m a civil servant.”

Victor Amadi, a member representing Etche Constituency 1 at the Rivers State House of Assembly, said his father’s house was also torched by suspected PDP thugs.

Mr. Amadi accused the Rivers State Police Command of being partisan in their investigations into election violence.

The Commission adjourned proceedings till Tuesday.

The Commission, instituted by Chibuike Amaechi, the Rivers State governor, is investigating damage to properties and grievous bodily harms to persons ahead and during the presidential and gubernatorial elections in the state.

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