The Anambra State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Police Brutality, Extra-Judicial Killings and other Related Matters, has extended an invitation to a former Governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, to appear before it to give his testimony on the #EndSARS protests that rocked the country last month.
The Chairman of the panel, Justice Veronica Umeh, made the declaration on Thursday, November 12, while reacting to the testimony of a petitioner, Mr. Bonaventure Mokwe, who accused Obi of taking ‘rash actions’ and making incendiary comments following the protests.
Mokwe had claimed that he was arrested and tortured by men of the state Special Anti-Robbery Squad while his hotel was demolished on Obi’s orders while he was the state governor, over an alleged involvement in kidnapping activities.
The petitioner filed a five-page application to the panel and is also demanding a public apology from the state government for being branded a kidnaper and kept in SARS custody for 81 days without any charges against him.
During his testimony, Mokwe:
“I was arrested by SARS operatives on the orders of Peter Obi and kept in custody for three months without being charged to court. While in detention, I witnessed a lot of gruesome killings perpetrated by the police unit, and I am ready to open up on their operations.
“Since we are talking about SARS and all their atrocities, I think this panel can give me the opportunity to say most of the things I saw, which happened at SARS, just to help us unravel the level of destruction they were into.
“I stayed there long enough to know the workings of SARS and also where they derived their powers to act the way they did, especially SARS under James Nwafor.”
In her response, Justice Umeh told Mokwe that the panel had terms of reference and that asking the state to apologize to victims was not part of them.
She, however, asked the petitioner to file an additional petition covering other testimonies he intends to give about SARS operations, while assuring that anyone who is indicted in a petition would be invited.
“We cannot entertain testimonies that are outside what you filed in your petition. If you want to file an addendum, we will give you time. Be rest assured that all the people you are mentioning, including the former governor would be duly invited by this panel,” Justice Umeh said.
Speaking with journalists after the sitting, Mokwe said he was set up by Obi and the demolition of his hotel was a vendetta against him.
He narrated that his trouble started when someone who lodged in his hotel room was arrested by SARS operatives and during a search, a human skull was discovered in the room.
“The whole thing was a setup. Somebody lodged in room 102 of my hotel and in the morning, SARS came and found human skulls in the room.
I bet you that SARS didn’t come to check who the man was or how the skulls got there; they just came to uncover the planted exhibit and destroy the hotel because they did not ask for the name of the lodger who brought in the skulls.
“I know it was a setup. The then governor, Peter Obi had converted Ose Motor Park to Onitsha Park, giving Onitsha people the right to collect levies there.
My park, Mokwe Park is beside Ose Park. So when transporters who use Ose Park felt the fee they were paying to Onitsha people were much, they came to my park to do their business. Onitsha people were not happy with me. It was just two weeks after that the skulls were planted in my hotel.
“On the same day, without any form of investigation, my hotel which was built in 1973, was demolished. I have evidence that the bulldozer that was used to demolish my hotel was paid for, two days before the incident and demolition. So, how did they know skulls were going to be found in my hotel if they were not planted?
“James Nwafor, the former SARS boss, did not just come from Ebonyi State and start killing people; there were people who gave him the latitude under which he operated, and we are ready to reveal them.”
Reacting to Obi’s involvement in the demolition of Mokwe’s hotel, former Anambra Commissioner for information, Barr. Joe Martins said the petitioner has no case as the former SARS boss, Nwafor, was “a very junior officer when Obi was governor, and could not have had any form of relationship with Obi.”
Martins added that whatever Nwafor is accused of doing was in his capacity as a police officer posted to the state and that Obi did not hire him as an aide nor even knew him personally.
“The allegation that SARS derived its powers from the governors is a complete betrayal of one with a mission. It confirms the information that some people have been heavily suborned to use the panel to play the game of vendetta.
“Who in Nigeria does not know that the clamour for state police is because governors have absolutely no control over the police as presently constituted? It is an attempt to smear Obi. It has always failed and that the present ‘last dance’ will equally come to nought.”
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