Okafor Ofiebor/Port Harcourt
The human rights community in Rivers State has been thrown into mourning with news of the abduction and gruesome murder of a foremost human rights, lawyer, Ken Atswete, last night in his house in Aluu, a suburb of Port Harcourt, the state capital.
It learnt that Atswete was abducted in his Aluu home by unknown gunmen who left him in critical condition in Rumuocholu community. At the time passersby saw him (critically injured and rolling in the mud where he was dumped) and rushed to the hospital, he was later confirmed dead.
When contacted, Comrade Anyankwe Nsirimovu, Director of Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, HRHL, Ken Atswete’s former boss said: “Ken is a critical voice silenced. It is a clear message to some us in the human rights community is clear. He is a man who whenever he holds a view he puts it out there.It is sad.”
Atswete is the lawyer representing Ojukaiye Flag Amachree, a Chieftain of All Progressive Congress,APC, and former Chairman of Asari Toru local government whose bail application has been a subject of controversy and legal battle.
He also handled controversial purely human rights cases regarded to be too hot to handle by other lawyers.
The lawyer was said to have been rushed to the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Harcourt, UPTH by passersby who identified him rolling in the mud in the early hours of today but they were told the doctors were on strike. But later, he was confirmed dead by another hospital and the body deposited in the UPTH.
However, Klem Ofoukwu, former News Editor in Nigeria Info fm and and now a Trainer of Journalists with British Council, recalled how Ken represented him pro bono when he was detained by State Security Service, SSS in a case between him and the Rivers state government over a story in 2006.
“Ken was a man who handled cases concerning the poor and downtrodden free, not minding who you are and where you come from”.
On the part of Blessing Olomu, head of news, Nigeria info, Cool fm and WAZOBIA in Port Harcourt, she said some of the cases on human rights violations the stations handled the late lawyer took up the cases free of charge.
Rivers State Police command is yet to react to his death.