By Ogar Monday
On the night of Wednesday, 8th February 2023, men from the Nigeria Police Force invaded the home of Mr. Akpanke Peter, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) House of Representatives candidate for Obudu/Bekwarra/Obanliku constituency.
The invasion of Akpanke’s country home in Keting, Obudu Local Government Area of Cross River State, was the high point of a battle between the police and the candidate who had described his ordeal as being orchestrated from the governor’s office.
Although the doors to his house were broken, Akpanke was never arrested and would later be declared winner of the Obudu/Obanliku/Bekwarra House of Representatives seat, defeating incumbent Legor Idagbor of the All Progressive Congress, APC.
The opposition in Cross River State has continued to point accusing fingers at the Nigeria Police, claiming partisanship and accusing the police of making themselves available to do the bidding of Governor Ben Ayade, an accusation the police have unsuccessfully shaken off.
The Case Against Akpanke
On the 23rd of May, 2022 at the PDP primaries, two policemen were shot when a fracas broke out among supporters of some candidates. Inspector Emmanuel Martins Ubi was later confirmed dead from the incident.
The police made several arrests, and a source who was privy to the investigation said eleven locally made pistols and cartridges were recovered from the arrested thugs. The source stated that DSP Ibangha, the leader of Patrol Team C of Operation Puff Adder (now Operation Restore Peace), who was on the ground, said in his statement that supporters of Ella Ushie, one of the aspirants in the primary, started firing when his convoy forcibly drove into the premises of the election which led to the death of Inspector Ubi, and another police officer sustained injuries.
The police preliminary investigation also recommended that all the suspects arrested be freed, except Joseph Akin, who was to be charged to court.
But in what shocked observers, the police decided to charge all the PDP aspirants with charges ranging from murder to conspiracy to commit murder. Also charged was KJ Agba, who is said to have not been at the venue when the incident happened.
A few months later, Justice Rosemary Dugbo of the Federal High Court, Calabar, struck out the case, asking the police to get their house together and stop wasting the time of the court.
But the police will not give up, instead, they approached a state high court seeking an arrest warrant for Mr. Akpanke who later won the rescheduled primaries. In a statement signed by the state police PPRO, SP Irene Ugbo, on the 23rd of January, the police command declared Akpanke a wanted man in connection to the death of Inspector Ubi.
Reacting to the police release, Mba Ukweni, SAN, lawyer to Akpanke, said the police had no reason to declare his candidate wanted as he had always been available throughout the course of the investigation.
“The statement is politically motivated and positioned to distract my client as he prepares for next month’s elections,” the legal practitioner stated, adding that “Peter Akpanke is not running away from any trial, but we will bring to the fore the fact that Peter did nothing.
“The person who committed the offense was arrested and handed over to the police. Luckily for us, the extrajudicial statements have been taken by the police. Regrettably, the person who brought those who killed the Inspector is not standing trial.
“The person who fired the shot that killed the policeman is shielded by the state and they had to give fiat to a private prosecutor; it shows the interest the government has in this matter.
“The supposed suspect who fired and killed the inspector, who was interrogated by the police, gave a vivid description of what transpired on that fateful day in a video,” Ukweni revealed.
Police Turn Blind Eye To Alleged APC Infringements
Even as the police dug over the heels of opposition politicians in the state and their supporters, they seem to be turning a blind eye to allegations of infringement by politicians in the camp of the ruling party.
In one such incident where the police have refused to comment till date, men of the Nigerian Army arrested three leading APC politicians in Ugep, Yakurr LGA – Goddy Ettah, Commissioner for Finance; Ubi Itam Etta AKA Bomboy, former Chairman of Yakurr LGA, and another whose identity has been a close secret.
Sources said the duo had been arrested over plans to disrupt the polls in the area and were moved to Abakaliki, where they were subsequently handed over to the DSS.
Also, it was alleged that Eteng Jonah Williams, the Speaker of the Cross River House of Assembly, and the winner of the senatorial seat in central Cross River, had paid security operatives N5 million to set them free, an allegation that Eteng Jones denies.
Hope Obeten, the media aide to the speaker, told CrossRiverWatch that the speaker wouldn’t have done any of that as they were arrested by the army, and released in Calabar with people standing surety for them.
The APC chairman in the state, Barrister Alphonsus Ogar Eba, in a collation center in Okpoma, lost his cool and attacked Emaluji Micahel Sunday. In another location in Yala, the APC chairman’s convoy was attacked by a mob.
Days later, the police paraded 16 suspected electoral offenders, with none of the political heavyweights arrested in Ugep among them nor are the issues relating to the ruling APC mentioned.
We Have No Confidence In Cross River – IPAC
The Inter-Party Advisory Council, IPAC, has revealed that it has no confidence in the neutrality of the state police, saying that the police in the state continue to dance to the tune of the government.
The umbrella group of 18 registered political parties in the state had asked that the IGP redeploy the CP in Cross River and that “We want the next CP, upon resumption of duty, to effect a comprehensive reshuffling of Divisional Police Officers, across the state and especially in Cross River North, which has become a major flashpoint of political violence in the state,” Comrade Bissong Attah, the chairman of IPAC, said.
IPAC has also questioned the deployments of officers in the state, pointing fingers at specific officers, who they accused of conniving with politicians to compromise the polls.
Police Available To The Highest Bidder, Demotivated – Observer
An election observer in the state, Atsu John Joseph, revealed that observation of the actions of the police during the election seasons have shown that the “police were not neutral and were available to the highest bidder,” adding that it affected their on-election-day performance from “the polling unit, to the RAC center and collation center.”
Atsu held that the police’s lack of neutrality was most visible on election day when demotivated officers, “who were always begging and complaining of hunger” were sent to the field, making them available to anyone who could pay for them.
We Are Nonpartisan And Remain So – Police
Reacting, SP Irene Ugbo, the state police command spokesperson, said the police do not wear a political cloak and had remained neutral in the discharge of its constitutional duty.
Irene held that the police in the state have remained professional throughout the course of the elections and will continue to be so, guided by the constitution.
“We are not police for any political party, we are police for the entire citizenry, our duty is to protect lives and property, and we won’t violate that to please anybody.
“So anyone caught breaking the law, shall be arrested and prosecuted according to the electoral act. No man or woman no matter their standing is above the law. All the political gladiators should caution their numerous supporters,” she said.
Published with the partnership of Civic Media Lab