Testimony of Rev. David Ugolor, Executive Director, ANEEJ at the Seventh Dublin Platform for Human Rights Defenders: 9-11 October,2013,Dublin Castle, Ireland.

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My Testimony

I am Rev. David Ugolor, the Executive Director of Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice(ANEEJ) an NGO based in Benin City, Edo State, Nigeria.

On July 27th 2012, I was arrested by the Nigeria Police and falsely accused of being the mastermind of the assassination of Comrade Olaitan Oyerinde, the Principal Private Secretary of the Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, who until his gruesome murder was a close family friend.

Comrade Olaitan Oyerinde was a senior staff of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) before he joined the Government of Edo State and we had a very good working relationship.

On May 4th, 2012 when he was assassinated I was the first family friend that was contacted by the wife and in company of his wife rushed to the house which was about five minutes drive from mine. I met him in a pool of his blood after several gun shots were fired at him by some gunmen.

With the assistance of some of his immediate family members, I carried him into my Hilux Pick Up drove down that very early hour of the day to the Government Central Hospital in Benin City. Unfortunately before the Doctors and Nurses on duty could respond he passed on and we started crying and later returned to Olaitan’s house to pick up his wife and children to my house for safety and succor.

Following the pressure from the Edo State Government, President Goodluck Jonathan ordered the Inspector General of Police to commence investigation on those behind the killing of Comrade Olaitan Oyerinde. The Police Investigative team was led by Deputy Inspector General of police (DIG).The Police invited me for interrogation and On the 27th of July, 2012 a team of heavily armed police invaded the premises of the international secretariat of ANEEJ, holding staff and visitors hostage for more than three hours. The police officers who had invited me to the state police command, also brought me to my office in handcuffs and also took me in cuffs to my house where they ransacked my apartment.

I was kept at three different inhuman detention facilities in the country for a period of 41 days, (July 27 to September 11, 2012), in clear disobedience of a Court of competent Jurisdiction ruling which ordered my immediate and unconditional release. I had to resort to another court process to secure my release from prison custody after I was granted bail by a High Court in Benin City, Edo State.

Expectedly, Civil Society activists from all over the country, who could attest to my character took to the streets to condemn my unwarranted arrest. A huge campaign calling for my release was launched by my office working in cooperation with human rights groups, Faith Based Organisations, both at home and abroad as well as the media. Street protests for my release continued for as long as I was held by the police in flagrant violation of my fundamental human rights.

Interestingly, four days after my arrest, the Department of State Security Service (DSS) of the Federal Government of Nigeria, paraded six suspects DIFFERENT FROM THE FOUR POLICE SUSPECTS who gave graphic details of how they plotted and hatched the killing of Comrade Olaitan Oyerinde.

It will be significant to note that when the DSS paraded their suspects before the media and the public, they were specifically asked if they knew David Ugolor or any Reverend in Benin and they responded negatively. That drama changed the whole story around my wicked frame up by the Nigeria Police.

In a callous desperation to stand truth on its head, the Nigeria Police claimed that one of the suspects in their custody, Garuba Masamari alleged that one David had promised his gang of four a total of Twenty million Naira (N20m) (£80,000) and that the said David paid them only 200,000 Naira (£800). It was on the strength of this trumped up allegation that I was arrested and detained under grueling conditions.

When nine other suspects and I were eventually charged to a Magistrates’ Court in Benin City, on the 31st of August, 2012 the presiding Magistrate remanded all suspects including me at Oko Prison in the Edo State capital. On our way to the prison and even at the prison, Garba Masamari, the purported accuser and two others; Danjuma Musa and Muritala Usman confessed to me that they were tortured by the Nigerian Police Officers to deliberately implicate and point at me. They told me that my photograph was brought to them to study two weeks before my arrest. Before then, the Police had invited me to their office and photographed me. These three men were shot by the police, while a spoke was poked into Danjuma Musa’s penis in a frantic bid to implicate me. Today, still in Prison, Danjuma Musa has difficulty in passing urine as a result of the police brutality and torture. Garba Masamari kept on apologizing to me and told me he pointed me at a kangaroo “identification parade” following the real threats of the policemen to kill him in their custody if he refused to do so.

During my detention I was kept in police prison without toilet and I had to defecate and urinate in a bucket that was emptied at the behest of the police all day and in the process contacted skin diseases before my release.

In November 2012, I was discharged and acquitted by the Magistrates’ Court following the advice of the Ministry of Justice/Department of Public Prosecution (DPP), as there was no evidence, whatsoever linking me to the crime outside Maisamari’s trumped up accusations, which he has since recounted.

At the moment all suspects both of the police and DSS with grounds for prosecution are being held in prison custody without trial. Not pleased with this scenario, Civil Society Organisations in Edo State under the aegis of Conference of Non Governmental Organsiations headed to the National Assembly and demanded public hearing on the matter. This was achieved as the well attended public hearing was attended by the Governor of Edo State, police high authority who from all cross examinations could not explain why they framed me up and a host of stakeholders. Unfortunately for us, the House Committee on Police Affairs did not visit the suspects in prison custody. The report of the committee was consequently bungled as some elements of the state allegedly infiltrated their ranks, making it impossible for it to be table at the committee of the whole for debate.

However, it is pertinent to note that I was just being persecuted by the Federal Government of Nigeria following my dogged campaigns against corruption in the Oil and Gas sector; in favour of credible elections that are inclusive of all stakeholders; for better, transparent and accountable use of oil resources; and a better deal for our kinsmen in the oil-rich Niger Delta.

Since my release, the police do not seem to have given up on me as there are clear threats to my life and that of my family. I have told the Nigerian public through the newspapers and electronic media, that should anything happen to me, the Inspector General of Police should be held responsible.

Undeterred though, it is heartwarming to note that ANEEJ in January 2013 launched a campaign against Impunity of the Nigeria Police Force. We crusade against torture, extra-judicial killings and capital punishment and we have recorded some successes since then.

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