Suspected assassins yesterday killed a Port Harcourt, Rivers State lawyer, Ken Atsuwete.
The late Atsuwete was handling several cases involving the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its members in the state.
He was killed two weeks after he raised the alarm that some strange persons were threatening his life on phone.
The Itsekiri man, from Koko in Warri North Local Government Area of Delta State, had his chamber at 42, Isiokpo Street, Off Agudama Street, Direct Main Line (D-Line) in Port Harcourt and was a pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG).
It was learnt that the suspected assassins shot sporadically into the air to scare the neighbourhood before attacking the lawyer at his bungalow at Omoko-Aluu, near the University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT) in Ikwerre Local Government Area.
The hoodlums reportedly entered the expansive compound as the activist was returning from a church service at 8p.m. on Sunday.
Our reporter, who got to his home at 1:45 p.m yesterday, noted that the main red gate was locked without any family member inside.
It was gathered that the late lawyer’s wife, also a lawyer, relocated to her father’s home in Port Harcourt with her three young children.
Atsuwete’s neighbours, who pleaded not to be named, recalled that shortly after the motorcycle and car were parked in front of the deceased’s house, they started hearing deafening gunshots.
The lawyer was reportedly shot several times at close range in front of his wife and children before the hoodlums dragged him into his car and sped off.
Mrs Atsuwete was said to have raised the alarm and reported the incident at the nearby police station, while she joined the search party till daybreak.
The gunmen reportedly dumped Atsuwete at Omuchiolu-Aluu, near UNIPORT, presuming him dead. But the lawyer was alive till yesterday morning.
He was said to have called for help from passersby but could not get any, even after introducing himself.
It was learnt that one of his neighbours took him to a police station for a report and rushed him to the nearby University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH).
But the consultants and nurses did not attend to him because the doctors were said to be on strike.
At UPTH, Atsuwete’s wife, with the help of empathising residents, took Atsuwete to O. B. Lulu Briggs Health Centre on UNIPORT campus, where he was confirmed dead.
The lawyer’s body moved to UPTH’s morgue.
One of Atsuwete’s neighbours, who did not want to be named, said he and his family were scared by the incident.
Our reporter, who visited the late lawyer’s chamber, said it was deserted.
Rivers APC, through its Publicity Secretary, Chris Finebone, described Atsuwete’s killing as politically motivated.
It said: “We of the APC have been labelled as prophets of doom for telling the world that the Nyesom Wike’s government in Rivers State is the architect of the insecurity ravaging the state. They stage-managed private conferences at huge costs to the Rivers taxpayers just to show that there is peace in the state.
“…This morning (yesterday), a very energetic, promising and vocal member of the NBA and popular human rights lawyer, Ken Atswete, was gunned down in his home by assassins.
“The APC believes that this assassination was politically motivated because Atsuwete was a leading counsel to APC chieftain, Ojukaye Flag-Amachree (ex-Chairman of Asari-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State, being remanded at Port Harcourt prisons for over four months), who is being persecuted by the Wike administration in Rivers State.”
Rivers State APC chieftain, Dr Dakuku Peterside, yesterday condemned Atsuwete’s killing.
In a statement in Port Harcourt, Peterside said: “I condemn in strongest term the barbaric, nasty and heinous assassination of Barrister Atsuwete in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, today (yesterday). This is perhaps the deadliest of several politically motivated killings perpetrated in Rivers State in recent times.
“Atsuwete was a prominent activist, political commentator, ferry critic of bad governance, citizen activist and, most recently, lawyer to Ojukaye Flag-Amachree, the APC leader held for trumped-up charges.
“Without any doubt, the killers of Atsuwete have the objective of instilling fear in the rank of the opposition, silence every voice of reason and stifle opposition in Rivers State. The killing of Atsuwete is perhaps the height of impunity which is now an everyday way of life in my home state, Rivers.
“I call on the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), the Director-General of Department of State Service (DSS) and other national security authorities to carry out extensive investigation of this awful incident, bring the perpetrators to book and restore sanity to our state.
“The current government in Rivers State owes us a responsibility to protect lives and property, no matter the political persuasion of who is involved.
“I mourn with the immediate family of Ken Atsuwete, his associates and APC political family on this needless loss of the voice of reason.”
Lawyers, right groups and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Rivers State yesterday condemned Atsuete’s killing.
One of his friends, who was at UPTH when the lawyer’s body was deposited there, said Atsuwete was assassinated by enemies of the truth.
The Chairman of Lawyers Network For Change (LNC), Iheayichukwu Dike, said: “On behalf of Lawyers Network for Change, we hereby condemn the murder of our very own Ken Atsuete. We are worried by the incessant killings and kidnapping in the state. We urged the security agencies to unmask his killers.
“Don’t forget that Ken was recently on radio, discussing the purported court order on Tai Local Government Area’s election results and other sundry issues, only to be assassinated today (yesterday). We have been shouting that insecurity is on the rise in the state but they told us that it is a peaceful state.”
The President of Voice of Community and Environmental Right Initiative Mr. Alban Paulinus said: “If he was assassinated because he was doing his best as the defence lawyer to former chairman of Asari-Toru Local Government Area, Mr. Ojukaye Flag-Amachree, then those who killed him have just opened a big wound.
“Niger Delta residents will continue to condemn any desperate action that will lead to the spill of blood. We are not happy to hear the news of the gruesome murder of Mr. Ken. His killers should know that we have a committed President who places zero tolerance for assassination and other criminal acts.”
The Secretary General of Ikwerre Citizens for Democratic Movement (ICDM) Mr. Justice Amadi said: “We are giving the police in Rivers State two weeks to fish out those who murdered a respected lawyer and a friend of Ikwerre people. We will not keep silent. As far as we are concerned, Ken was murdered, not by unknown gunmen but by those who are always uncomfortable when he spoke the truth.”