Nigeria: MEND Leader, 62 Others Missing


Indications have emerged that the leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), Otomyemie Kuna, aka Obese, and two of his lieutenants, standing trial along with 62 others may have gone missing from the PortHarcourt prison where they were being remanded for three days.
Lawyer to the trio, Kenneth O. Atsuwete, told THISDAY yesterday in Port Harcourt that his clients may have disappeared from the prison custody where they were remanded on December 16, 2010.
Atsuwete said he contacted their erstwhile leader, Farah Dagogo, the following day and the leader called the Rivers state Director of State Security Service (SSS) Mr. Dogo who told him that they had been returned to the prison.
Atsuwete, however, said he made discreet inquiry in the prison and discovered that the suspects were yet to be brought back. According to him, he again called the SSS Director yesterday and the latter affirmed that the suspects were in the prison. Incidentally, according to him, the information turned out to be false.
All the 65 suspects who were taken to court on November 29 were lawfully remanded in prison by Chief Magistrate EC Woke but were allegedly taken out of the prison by men of the SSS on November 16. When THISDAY called the number purported to be that of the SSS director, a man answered denying the allegation he described as ‘stupid’.When the number was called again, a man said that it was a wrong number.
THISDAY gathered that Obese who was Farah’s second in command before the amnesty window period was directed by his boss to stay back in the creek and await his return from Abuja where he went to contact the Federal Government to find out the genuineness of the programme.
It was alleged that when Farah got to Abujqa he got a better deal and decided to jettison his initial pledge to his back up team. Obese and those standing trial now decided to draw the attention of the government to their plight but got no response.
In November, in three different attacks, they abducted fourteen expatriates and five Nigerians. Following this development, the JTF raided their hideouts in Degema. According to their lawyer, Atsuwete, prior to the raid Obese had tried to strike a deal with the task force that he was willing to surrender and dialogue with the government. JTF was said to have agreed but later after his surrender he and his missing colleagues were maltreated by the JTF.
They were taken to Bonny. Thereafter, they were transported to Abuja and held in an underground cell for four days. Eventually, they were bundled back to Port Harcourt where they and 62 others were taken to court but no charge was formally made against them and the chief magistrate declared that they were to be taken to Prison from where they have now disappeared.
Atsuwete said he has petitioned the Attorney General and Minister of Justice yesterday. The letter urged the minister to expedite action “in ascertaining the whereabout of our clients”.