There is outrage in Delta State over the release of some police officers accused of complicity in cases of kidnapping as State House of Assembly accuses chairman of Police Service Commission of abuse of office
When on April 4, 2012 Dickson Osamnwonyi, a chief superintendent of police and officer-in-charge of Anti-Kidnapping Task Force in Delta State, was disarmed, arrested and whisked away to Abuja with some other members of his squad, not a few Deltans breathed a sigh of relief. They assumed that they had seen the back of a man who allegedly betrayed the trust reposed in him by doing business with the same criminal elements he was supposed to shield the people from. The state governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan, who broke the news of the arrest of Osamwonyi to journalists in Warri after a meeting of the State Security Council at the Government House annex in the oil city, said the police officer allegedly aided and abetted kidnapping in the state by providing information to kidnappers on the movement of highly placed personalities in the state and releasing his vehicles for them to carry out their operations.
Uduaghan who disclosed that pastors were also among the over 98 suspects arrested by the police, operatives of the State Security Service, SSS, and men of the Nigerian Army, said members of the anti-kidnapping squad were also giving out details of police effort to track down the kidnappers, thereby aiding them to evade arrest. He would also sympathise with his friends whom he had sold out to kidnappers after they had coughed out huge sums as ransom. But shortly after that celebration, the state government was shocked to learn that the police officer had been released and was back at his duty post. Osamwonyi even held a thanksgiving service in Asaba, the state capital, to celebrate his return.
Last Tuesday, visibly enraged and agitated members of the state House of Assembly cried foul over the reappearance of the police officer and his allies. Osamwonyi was reportedly released on the orders of the acting Inspector-General of Police, IGP, Abubakar Mohammed. At its plenary, the lawmakers, many of whom had been victims of kidnapping in the state, indicted the Nigeria police and passed a resolution calling for the re-arrest of the police officer. They claimed that since his return, incidents of kidnapping had spiralled. Johnson Erijo, deputy majority leader, in a motion under matters of urgent public importance, called on President Goodluck Jonathan to “immediately direct the IGP to re-open investigation into the allegation against certain police officers led by Dickson Osamwonyi.”
Monday Igbuya, majority leader, added a new dimension to the matter when he accused the chairman of the Police Service Commission, PSC, Parry Osayande, a retired Deputy Inspector-General of Police, DIG, of complicity in Osamwonyi’s release. According to Igbuya, “We are aware that Mr. Parry Osayande, chairman of the Police Service Commission, is related to the Osamwonyi. Mr. Osayande brought his son to demand for N3.5 billion surveillance contract from the state government. Since he did not get it, he has inflicted CSP Osamwonyi on Deltans.” The magazine gathered that the lid was blown on the alleged complicity of the anti-kidnapping squad in aiding and abetting kidnapping in the state when the brother of the speaker, Victor Ochei, and a former law-maker, Okpunor, were kidnapped.
Only recently, Christian Obodo, Italy-based international footballer and Super Eagles midfielder, was kidnapped in Warri. He was later rescued. Last Tuesday, the footballer who was happy to breathe an air of freedom paid a thank you visit to the governor for his concern and effort in mobilising the security agencies to secure his release. The governor, who was equally agitated over the release of Osamwonyi, could not hide his feelings when the IGP visited the state to receive 60 vehicles donated to the Force by the state government.
Uduaghan said he was concerned because the release coincided with the resurgence of kidnapping in the state. According to him, “The people of Delta State want me to send a message to you on recent happening in the state and even the state House of Assembly deliberated on it. Few days ago, some persons, your police officers suspected to be involved in kidnapping who were earlier apprehended, were released. What is bothering us is that their release coincided with the recent upsurge in kidnap cases in the state… so, we want you to have a second look at that issue.” The police boss was however silent on the issue in his remarks.
However, Osayande denied any involvement in the Osamwonyi case. Responding to the allegation against the PSC chairman, spokesman of the commission, Comfort Obi, said Osamwonyi’s case file was never referred to the PSC for consideration because “the Police Service Commission has nothing to do with police officers at that level.” According to her, “The IGP is the operational person. He was the person that picked him and he was the person that sent him back. So, Osayande has nothing to do with the case. In fact, when I saw the story and I called him (Osayande), he was asking me what is the name of the man? What is the man’s position in Delta? He did not even know him not to talk of being related to him. So, without holding brief for him, I will be surprised if something like that ever happened.” On the alleged N3.5 billion surveillance contract allegedly demanded from the state government by one of the sons of the retired DIG, Obi explained: “Osayande is a refined old man. He is 75 years old; his children are grown up and are entitled to look for contracts anywhere. The fact that their father is the chairman of the Police Service Commission does not preclude them from doing their business; they are grown up. So because the state government did not give his son a contract, he would now meddle in a case under investigation.”
Obi cautioned that “we should learn to investigate before we make spurious allegations,” noting that Osayande has built his reputation over the years and it should not be rubbished. Obi, who was boiling with rage over the allegation, described it as a sad development.