By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South
IT was like a bolt from the blue when the news came, during the week, that the founder/president of the Hope for Niger-Delta Campaign, HNDC, based in The Netherlands (Holland), Nigerian-born Sunny Ofehe, was arrested and detained by the Dutch Police for yet to be specified reasons.
Latest information at the disposal of Saturday Vanguard is that his wife, Mrs. Dorothy Ofehe may also have been invited by the police in Holland to answer questions on matters not unconnected with the arrest of her husband. Sunny who has been living in Holland for 16 years is a Dutch citizen.
He is one Niger-Delta activist that has taken his non-violent campaign for the liberation of the region to the international stage.
A native of Isoko in Delta state, he, actually, fled his country to The Netherlands for political asylum when he was being hunted by the military dictatorship in Nigeria over his pro-democracy activities in respect of the annulment of the June 1993 election. He found succor in Holland and like a leopard that will never change its spot, he has remained in activism, much recently against multi-national oil companies, which he believed, are short-changing the people of Niger-Delta with their hostile environmental and economic policies.
How he was arrested – family
His wife Dorothy said in a statement that he was arrested by the police on February 22 at his home in Charlois, Rotterdam. Her words, “A detachment of policemen stormed our home in Charlois, Rotterdam.
They took my husband away before ransacking the house for about five hours in the presence of our children. Till now, the children are still traumatized by the Gestapo-style invasion of the Dutch police, who refused to produce even a warrant for his arrest”.
“Since then I have not been allowed to see him or know where he is being detained. I’m worried that this could be happening in a European country, which claims to uphold the rule of law. At the moment, we are not sure of his condition”, she stated.
His elder brother, Goodie Ofehe, said the family was planning to lodge a formal protest with the Dutch embassy in Abuja. “We are already afraid that he might have been harmed. Our brother does not live in Holland illegally. He is also a Dutch citizen and has been living there for the past 16 years.
So why is he being treated that way?,” he said, adding, “we learnt that they held him because they have not concluded investigation into a matter they refused to disclose.
But why detain somebody for more than 24 hours because you are investigating a matter? Is he a criminal? They should disclose his offence and charge him to court,” Goodie Ofehe said.
Leader of the Nigerian Community in The Netherlands, Chief Lambert Igboanugo told Saturday Vanguard on Thursday that he does not have information on the reasons for Ofehe’s arrest, adding, that he got the news just like any other Nigerian and was waiting for explanation from the police.
He, however, said it was not unusual for the police to arrest persons in The Netherlands and speak on the reasons only after investigations. It was gathered the Dutch police have refused so far to disclose reasons for Ofehe’s arrest because they believe doing so, would jeopardize their investigation.
A Nigerian resident in The Netherlands in comments posted on an online media website, said, “I am resident here in The Netherland and one thing I know for sure is that the police cannot arrest and search someone’s house without a genuine reason and permission from a judge”.
“It is the Dutch law that an accused can be arrested without trial for one week. If there is further reason the detention can be extended with permission from a judge to a period of 90 days.
“We should not be sentimental here. Unlike the Nigerian police, there must be a reason why he is arrested. It is also in the Dutch law that the police are not obliged to disclose the offence to the family but only to the accused lawyer. And the accused lawyer must not disclose the offence to his client or family during this investigation period. The reason is that it could influence their investigation”, he said.
“While some of us will question this procedure, we must not forget that every land has its own laws that govern the society. Residents must comply with the laws that govern the society. If Sunny is, however, unlawfully detained, the Dutch government is obliged to pay him a huge compensation”, he added.
To him, those agitating over Ofehe’s arrest should wait “until the police comes out with its report and not been sentimental”.
A prominent Niger-Delta leader, Mr. Ledum Mitee told Saturday Vanguard when contacted that he was yet abreast with information on the reasons for Ofehe’s arrest, saying that he had sent electronic mails to some foreign Non Governmental Organizations in The Netherlands to find out what was amidst.
In the absence of concrete information on why he was arrested, Mitee said it would be difficult for him to respond.
Lagos lawyer and human rights activist, Festus Keyamo Esq. also found himself in a similar dilemma, as he told Saturday Vanguard that he had been searching for information on the arrest and detention of Ofehe to no avail since the news came to him.
It was discovered that Nigerian activists do not want to jump to conclusions until they have the facts of the matter, but, a number of them suggested that he should be charged to court instead of detaining him unnecessarily.
Comrade Ofehe was due in Nigeria, last week, for the burial of his mother, who was assassinated in 2007. With his current travail in The Netherlands, the activist’s plan to give his mother a befitting final burial, which was postponed since 2007 on account of inconclusive police investigations on her killers, may have been postponed yet again.
A source, which preferred anonymity traced Ofehe’s current travail to the machination of a multinational oil company said to be displeased with the visible role the activist was playing in The Netherlands to make the oil company to be accountable and more socially responsible to the people Niger-Delta.
There is no evidence at the moment that his present ordeal has anything to do with the Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC. In fact, one of the activists who spoke to Saturday Vanguard said, “What I am hearing is that his arrest has nothing to do with his international campaign against Shell, that is why it is difficult for us to react here except when we are sure of the reasons”.
Shortly before the celebrated international hearing in the Dutch Parliament on the activities of SPDC, two months ago, Ofehe, who led a Dutch lawmaker, Miss Sharon Gesthuizen on a facts-finding visit to the Niger-Delta in 2010, cried out that the company was thwarting his efforts to bring it to the court of public opinion.
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Confusion over N-Delta activist’s arrest by Dutch Police