By Emma Nnadlozie, Crime Editor
It has been revealed that the Deputy Commissioner of Police, in-charge of Federal Special anti-Robbery Squad, FSARS, Bayelsa state, Kolawole Okunola, who was abducted by armed thugs during the just concluded Presidential and National Assembly election, was seriously manhandled and was at the point of being beheaded when help came.
Eyewitness account said the unassuming officer who had served gallantly in almost all the hot spots in the country was invited to the scene after armed hoodlums in their numbers attacked INEC officials who earlier arrived the community with electoral materials in Bassambiri community in Nembe Local government area. They reportedly hijacked and carted away the electoral materials meant for 7 wards in the area and took them to a popular hotel where they manipulated the results.
It was learned that after they brought back the alleged fake results to INEC office another opposing group who were alerted of the development started protesting. While they were protesting, the armed thugs that earlier hijacked INEC materials arrived at the jetty accompanied by a great number of armed youths and insisted that INEC officials must authenticate the manipulated results before leaving the community.
The police officer who was on duty in that area was alerted to the scene after hearing loud noise coming from the INEC office between INEC Officials and Party agents disagreeing about election materials and results which were escorted by APC party agents from Bassambiri to INEC office.
While the party agents were arguing that there were no elections in Bassambiri and wondered where the results came from, the officer tried to calm them down and asked them to write their petition to INEC but all efforts proved abortive. The number of the youths grew and the INEC officials felt unsafe and demanded to be escorted to Yenagoa with the election materials. Then in order to avoid imminent break down of law and order by the thugs around, the officer informed the Commissioner of Police, Balyesa and he directed that both officials of INEC and the materials should be moved to the state capital, Yenagoa for safety. This was agreed with the military officers on duty.
Crime Guard learned that it was in the process of embarking on the jetty, that one of the party candidates led youths in their hundreds and attacked the officer, dragging and assaulting him with threats to kill him and everyone if he failed to direct the INEC officials to go back to the office and continue collation of results. The INEC officials were forced back to continue with the collation of results under a very tensed condition with sporadic shootings all over.
Meanwhile, as soon as they abducted the officer, the armed youths numbering hundreds dragged him to an unknown place where they subjected him to untold torture and severe beating and in the process, his uniform including his rank were torn to pieces. Sources said the youths were chanting war songs and saying that the police officer must die. They later sat him down in a wooden box and brought out daggers and other dangerous weapons preparatory to beheading him in spite of passionate pleas by the officer.
Luckily, while they were waiting for the final order by their leader to carry out their threat, mother luck smiled on the officer as a message came from one of them that INEC officials have gone back to authenticate their manipulated results. That was how they left the police officer and trooped to the venue to complete their mission. The officer who reportedly regained his freedom around 11 am that same day was rescued by members of a police Marine unit who were already dispatched to comb the creeks for their missing officer by the Inspector-General of Police.
He was rescued and taken to AGIP by the Police Marine unit after which he went back to his station.
An eye witness told Crime Guard that the same armed group had earlier in the night invaded the quiet community of Bassambiri with the aim of scaring away all opposition party members and the electorates in general. According to him; all through the night of that fateful Friday, the hoodlums shot, maimed several persons and killed one person. “They also forcefully seized INEC officials with their materials and placed them under duress to assist them in manipulating the card reader and other technical aspects of the electoral process.
As at press time, it was reliably gathered that the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Frederic Lakanu, who was swiftly dispatched by the Inspector-General of Police to Bayelsa to investigate the ugly incident had already set the ball rolling by visiting the troubled area in Brass Island. While addressing senior officers at the Bayelsa State Police Command, he condemned the act in its entirety and vowed to identify arrest and prosecute all those connected with the assault, their proxies and sponsors. He appreciated the conduct displayed by the officers in the face of the obvious provocation and ordered the reinforcement of officers to flashpoints in the state in order to forestall any break down of law and order in the state.