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The Attack and Loot of Warri Shoprite: The Antics of the Police

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“If the Police really want to be fair, they should have demanded for the naval ratings that attacked Baro; these men beat up Baro, and took his Toyota Venza to the Naval Base beside Shoprite, the Toyota Venza is still at the Naval Base, with Baro’s money and personal effects inside.”

Henry Baro Wanted By Delta State Police Over Destroyed Warri Shoprite

The uneasy peace and quiet in Uvwie Local Government of Delta State, since the suspension of its Chairman, Henry Baro last August was again breached by the attack and looting of Shoprite located at the Effurun Roundabout by hoodlums some days ago. 

The ugly incident which resulted in a loss of life, leaving scores wounded and goods worth millions looted, with the eventual declaration of Baro and Uvwie Central Motor Park Chairman, Napoleon Odibu wanted by the Delta State Police Command; was allegedly triggered by an attack on Baro by Naval ratings attached to Shoprite from the Naval Base beside Shoprite. 

Baro, who was also a Special Adviser to former Governor Uduaghan and a former Lawmaker representing Uvwie Constituency in the Delta State House of Assembly, released a Statement immediately after the incidence condemning the attack on Shoprite and distancing himself from the hoodlums that seized the unfortunate event to wreak havoc, saying he couldn’t have orchestrated the destruction of a Project he helped in developing. 

Eyewitness witness accounts tallies with this story and confirms that Baro was simply at the Roundabout confronting the driver of a hit-and-run Truck who had earlier collided with his Toyota Venza, when the naval ratings attacked him and further damaged his automobile with their guns. A resident of the area who gave his name as Aaron Onovughe said he witness the altercation between Baro and the naval ratings, and that the naval ratings were clearly at fault. 

“I don’t really know what led to Baro’s quarrel with the Navy boys, but if they had not manhandled and beaten him up, this whole thing could have been avoided. That’s how the Navy, Army and Police behave. They have killed many innocent people around the flyover here because of their high-handedness, but this time, they did it to Henry Baro who is well-known in his Local Government and people came to his defence; from what I saw, Baro never called for anybody to attack or loot Shoprite.” 

Another resident in the area, Isaiah Akpojene agrees, “Everybody knows Baro was plainly attacked by naval ratings when he was trying to confront a hit-and-run Truck that damaged his vehicle. Why then, would the Police turn around and declare him wanted instead of moving against the naval ratings that started it? How could a victim of brutality suddenly become its perpetrator?”

Indeed, many people in the area considered what happened, particularly the declaration of Baro and Odibu, wanted by the Delta State Police Command, including the N1million reward for any information on them as a grave injustice to Baro; and part of a broad plan of political retribution closely tied to his suspension as Chairman of Uvwie Local Government Area last August. 

A resident in nearby Osubi who is a Civil Engineer in a Construction firm along PTI Road, Effurun-Warri, and who spoke on condition of anonymity because of reprisals, believes Baro is being persecuted by the powers that be in Delta State. He said he knew Baro when they were both first year students on the same Engineering Faculty at the University of Benin, Edo State, Nigeria. “Baro, I think was in either Mechanical Engineering or Petroleum Engineering while I was in Civil Engineering. 

“We both attended same classes together in our first year, and later had some courses together in the Faculty; and although, we weren’t friends, he doesn’t come across as one who would engage in this sort of things. In fact, days after the incidence, hoodlums were still attacking and robbing people in that vicinity and its environs. Was Baro responsible for that too? An indigene of Uvwie who only gave her name as Ejiro and claims she worships with Winners Chapel affirmed the story, “People were still robbed on their way from church and work in the evenings last week. Would the Police also say it was Baro that sent them?” 

“Baro like any other person who have had his automobile damaged by a hit and run vehicle was simply asking the Truck owner why he would allow his motor boy to drive a Truck when the naval ratings in plain clothes attacked him; and when people saw that he was being viciously attacked, they came to his rescue,” said Chief Newton Agbofodoh, a prominent Chief of Uvwie Kingdom, and an uncle of Baro and his closest associate. 

While lamenting the attack and looting of Shoprite by hoodlums who capitalized on the unfortunate situation, he noted that it was only natural for the people to react when an eminent son of Uvwie like Baro, was being humiliated and beaten in such an open and busy place in Uvwie land. “Baro is a popular figure as far as Uvwie and Delta State is concerned; if anybody sees that he is being molested, definitely they will come to his rescue.” 

Continuing, he said, “What is happening now is a clear case of political assassination of Baro’s character and person, because of what I am hearing. I have not been in town. Instead of the Police to diligently investigate the matter, they declared Baro wanted. They said they invited Baro, but there was no invitation, if there is any, they should produce proof of delivery. 

Gov Okowa

What they did was to come to Baro’s residence the day after the incident, broke into his compound without an arrest order or search warrant; and put his wife at gunpoint, threatening to shoot her if she does not produce her husband. The Police have been doing this; the day Baro was invited by the Delta State House of Assembly to respond to dubious charges against him as Chairman of Uvwie Local Government last year, the Police tried to arrest him on his way out of the State Assembly Complex; where it not for the intervention of the Speaker, Rt. Hon Monday Igbuya, perhaps something else might have happened to him. 

The Delta State Government has been using the Police to harass and witch-hunt Baro because he is former Governor Uduaghan number one man who joined the former Governor to support Obuh during the last Governorship Primaries in the State; Obuh is also from Delta North as Ifeanyi Okowa, but when Okowa won the Primaries, they all campaigned to deliver him as Governor, yet Okowa never forgave the Uduaghan boys who did not support him in the Primaries, including Baro; and he is joined in this witch-hunt of Baro by one of his closest allies, and the Lawmaker representing Uvwie/Okpe/Sapele Constituency in the House of Representatives, Evelyn Oboro. 

I want you to put it in black and white, they want to eliminate Baro; they want to do to Baro exactly what they did to Onokpite, and as we speak, the Governor is using the Police to move against every person around Baro. Even though I am not a politician, they will say he is my son and that I am the one standing for him. They have done it before, and they want to repeat it; I am waiting for them at home. Ekpan community has nothing to do with this issue, so they should leave us out of it, we are not in Government, and we don’t work in Garage or Motor Parks, so they should leave us alone. 

If the Police really want to be fair, they should have demanded for the naval ratings that attacked Baro; these men beat up Baro, and took his Toyota Venza to the Naval Base beside Shoprite, the Toyota Venza is still at the Naval Base, with Baro’s money and personal effects inside. The number plate is Asiwaju. The name of the naval rating that started the attack on Baro is Ma’arafu. I just got reports also that the vehicles of Baro’s Aides, S. Eshenake and Julius Emonefena, including that of his Personal Assistant parked in Tegaton Hotel, Ekpan are being towed away by the Police, so you can see the Police is encircling Baro’s inner circle and moving against any person related to him.” 

On suggestion that Baro should submit himself to the Police to correct the notion that he is on the run as alleged by the Police, Chief Agbofodoh said, “Baro cannot do that when the Police had already declared him wanted without bothering to hear his own side first; so, he is afraid for his life under this Government, he has lost confidence in the Police in Delta State and he does not want the Onokpite treatment to be given to him by them; hence he has appealed to the Inspector General of Police to protect his life and wade into this matter to ensure he gets the justice he deserved. If not, they would just kill him and silence him.” 

The reaction of the Delta State Police Commissioner, Usman Alkali Baba; when contacted for this story and when asked if he had thoroughly investigated the incident before reaching his conclusions, seems to confirm Chief Agbofodoh’s fears that he is being used to persecute Baro, as he simply said he was in a meeting, and he knew why he declared Baro wanted, and had already given details of that in his Press Briefing with Journalists. He then offered to send the full text of his Press Briefing by mail. 

He actually send the Press Briefing hours later, but other than what the public already knows, there is nothing in that Press Briefing that shows that a proper investigation has been carried out to warrant Baro and Odibu being declared wanted. 

A close Aide of the Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, who pleaded anonymity said even though the Speaker was not really in agreement with the suspension of Baro as Uvwie Local Government Chairman, he just have to do it to save his own neck from impeachment by loyalists of the Governor who are in majority in the House. 

“This is why he did not allow Baro to be arrested by the Police when he was invited to the State House of Assembly just before his suspension, and even had to deflate the tyres and impound the vehicle of one of the hoodlums who came with the Police to harass and arrest Baro at the House of Assembly Complex. 

“Those allegations against Baro were hastily prepared to give backing to the suspension because there was really no financial misappropriation by Baro as no Local Government has received revenue allocation for a very long time in the State, and the House did not follow due process in suspending him. The State has an extant Local Government Bye Laws which guide the administration of Local Government in the State in line with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, and parts of Section 31, Subsections 2, 3 and 6 of that Local Government Bye Law clearly states that before any punishment can be meted out against a serving Local Government Chairman, there must be a resolution to that effect from the Legislative Arm of the Local Government Council to the State House of Assembly. 

In this instance, there was no such resolution as two-third of the Uvwie Council Lawmakers refused to be browbeaten by this Administration.” He also said others like Hon. Ejiaife Odebala, the Chairman of Sapele Local Government Area would have suffered the same fate as Baro if he hadn’t knelt to beg the Speaker and make concessions to the Administration. “If truly, it was just a mere suspension in order to investigate the allegations drummed up against him, why hasn’t the House Committee setup to do that for more than five months now finished its work, and why hasn’t the report been debated?”

One top Administration official in Governor Okowa’s Government, who initially declined comment because he was not authorized to speak on the matter, conceded much. “I do not have authority to speak on this issue because it is a Security matter but I am aware that even though the Police are still investigating the matter, they have declared him wanted; and on a personal note, I think Baro should have been more circumspect because he has just played into the hands of his enemies.”

Another Administration official puts it in stark terms, “The political process and power game is being rigged against Henry Baro and most of those who were close allies of former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan.” Some of the nation’s Activists and Constitutional Lawyers who shared their views on this issue at the time of filing this report all agree that the nation’s political process and even the Constitution is painfully and unlawfully rigged against the Local Governments and their Chairmen because its provisions on it are hazy, and until these provisions are amended, the Governors would always assume the positions of “Lord of the Manor” while the Local Governments Chairmen who are not willing to play ball are treated as mere appendages or worse still, as slaves. 

Lagos Lawyer and Social Critic, Liborous Oshoma said, “Basically, the House of Assembly of a State under the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution is empowered to legislate for the administration of the Local Government in the State, even though the Local Governments has their own Legislative Arms; that is an aberration that we have faulted in the Constitution, and so it is under those powers that you see most Houses of Assembly acting to suspend or remove a Local Government Chairman. The Courts have not had the opportunity to interpret whether they have the powers to do that or not. Why should a State House of Assembly usurp the powers of the Local Councils Legislative Arms?” 

Speaking further, Oshoma said, “We all know full well how politics is played in Nigeria, and the Local Governments are used mainly by Governors to empower and reward loyalists. What is happening to Baro now is exactly what happened to the late Michael Friday Ani before him; he has obviously fallen out of favour with the incumbent State Governor, and the Governor is using all in his powers, including the Police in Delta State to deal with him. Such arbitrary use of powers by these Governors is one of the reasons cited by those who have kick against the establishment of State Policing in Nigeria. The Police have Constitutional responsibilities to investigate crimes, and in investigating, they can declare anybody wanted, but how do you prove if a man is really guilty? The onus is on the Police to prove that.” 

Constitutional Lawyer and Human Rights Activist, Ubani Monday Onyekachi agrees with Oshoma that the Constitution grants a State House of Assembly the powers to legislate the administration of Local Governments in Nigeria but that those Constitutional provisions are fuzzy and so, the State Governor in collusion with the House of Assembly which is often a rubber stamp to the dictates of the Executive abused those Constitutional privileges. 

“Any law made by a State House of Assembly with respect to the administration of Local Governments, which does not allow for fair hearing to be given to the Local Governments Chairmen before they are punished or stripped of their rights and privileges must be a very bad law…the Chairman can enforce his fundamental human rights and challenge that suspension in Court. All of this as regards Local Governments administration in this country is actually wrong as Local Governments are supposed to be a distinct layer of Government. It is this fundamental defect in the Constitution that has enabled State Governors to misuse the Local Governments in this country.” 

Similarly, Pro-democracy Activist and Executive Chairman of the Coalition against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL), Debo Adeniran said, “Actually, the Police ought to invite him, and it is only if he fails to honour the invitation or resist arrest (If there is any arrest order), that the Police can then declare him and any other person wanted. But again, if Baro really wants to clear his name of all of this, he can willingly volunteer or submit himself to the Police regardless of an invitation or not, or he can send his Lawyers on his behalf to the Police to state his own version of the story. 

To be sure of his safety, if he is to take this course of action, he can go to the Police with his Lawyers and supporters, after he might have issued a Statement to that effect; and then he can go to the Police under the full radar of the public to checkmate any foul play…Except Baro has done any other thing, he is not at fault for what transpired at Shoprite, because everybody has the right to fight for his rights, and no sane person, can allow his automobile to be hit and damaged without doing anything lawful to seek redress; even the Insurance Companies, if your car is insured, will not pay you a Kobo, if you willingly allow those who commit such infractions on your car to get away…the whole thing looks politically motivated, it is high-wired politicking that is going on there in Delta State. 

As these unfortunate events in Uvwie Local Government of Delta State continue to unfold, the days ahead will be interesting to watch.

Posted by Conscience Reports


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