It is indeed a trying moment for the Gberegbes, whose son, Dr. Ferry Gberegbe, was shot by a security operative during the governorship and House of Assembly elections in Rivers State. He gave up the ghost exactly seven days after the brutal shooting, and since then family members, friends, colleagues and concerned persons from near and far have been mourning his exit. He left behind a wife, two children and a father who was almost in tears when he spoke about his son's death. His widow, Mrs Funke Gberegbe, said that the family was yet to fully celebrate the doctorate degree Gberegbe bagged before he was brutally murdered. She said that her late husband was the pillar of the family whose sudden death would negatively impact their lives. Across Ogoniland there is anger and some are asking questions, wanting to know why unarmed civilians should be shot at by the security operatives that were trained with tax payers money to protect lives and properties.
Some of those that were strongly against the involvement of security operatives, especially soldiers during the elections, said the killing of Gberegbe, by a yet to be identified security personnel, have argued that the killing was an indication that the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) needs to improve on how future elections are conducted. The governorship and State Assembly election held on Saturday, March 9, in Rivers State, according to one observer, “is the most violent in the history of Rivers State and should be condemned in the strongest terms by those who really value democracy.
”To him, and a few others who have made comments on what transpired on that very day, the election was there was violence because security operatives inflicted violence on innocent citizens and disrupted the electoral process in some targeted areas. When a combined team of soldiers and operatives of the Federal Anti Robbery Squad (F-SARS) stormed Bori, the headquarters of Khana Local Government Area, where collation was taking place, they shot four persons, including Dr. Ferry Gberegbe, a lecturer at the Ken Saro Wiwa Polytechnic, who was also the returning officer of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
While others are still battling with their lives after the shooting, Gberegbe who was rushed to the hospital after the shooting died because of the injury he sustained in the stomach. Samson Barisi, an Ogoni activist, who was at the scene of the shooting, said: “…Immediately this man, Dr. Ferry Gberegbe, fell at the MOSOP Secretariat field, I knew we were in trouble.
I only muted one prayer Lord please, don't allow this man to die.” He was not the only one that made such prayers, because throughout the one week that Gberegbe battled to stay alive, Barisi was joined by other Rivers indigenes who detest violence, and are fed up with the negative narratives associated with the state's elections. On Election Day, very early in the morning, the movement of security operatives who patrolled the major roads by the seconds had sent fear among residents to the extend that some refused to vote.
“What would I gain if I come out to vote and get killed at the end of the day. Wherever you go, you see armed soldiers or police officers. I am afraid,” said a tailor, who declined to give his name. In fact, the complete lockdown of the major roads by soldiers and policemen, who only allowed patrol vehicles of fellow uniformed men, was a sign of what was to happen on that day. At the Education Bus Stop, along Ikwerre Road, both commercial and private vehicles that were on the road before 6 a.m. had a swell time convincing security operatives w h y they had to be on the road by that time.
The shootings and killings in Abonnema Community in Akoku Toru Local Government Area and other council areas during the presidential and National Assembly elections were still fresh in the minds of some residents. Surprisingly, people trooped out across the state to cast their votes. It was after voting had ended, that problem started.
There is a video being circulated on the social media on how security operatives stormed the collation centre in Bori and started shooting after party agents, INEC staff and others exchanged words with F-SARS operatives who appeared to be on a particular mission at the collation centre. In the amateur video, it is difficult to identify Gberegbe from the crowd during the argument with the F-SARS operatives, who eventually started shooting. A journalist, Pastor Jerry Needam, who reported the invasion of the Bori Collation centre, alleged that he was threatened and intimidated by men of F-SARS. Needam, who is also the media and communications aide to the state's PDP chairman, Felix Obuah, was rallied round by the party, who issued a statement on the alleged threat to his life.
The PDP said: “We expect that by now, the authorities of the Nigeria Police and other agencies, leaders of Rivers State, journalists, election observers, traditional leaders and all men and women of good conscience in the State would have risen to this challenge and condemn it. “Election is not war and we cannot watch innocent people being killed in the name of hijack of materials by security agencies that are supposed to protect the people and election materials. If we are all killed, who will these desperate politicians in the All Progressives Congress, APC, govern?” As the chairman of Academic Staff Union of Polytechnic (ASUP) of Ken Saro-Wiwa Polytechnic, Gberegbe directed lecturers to call off their strike in 2016 after a kidnapped lecturer, Abiye Ogan was set free by his abductors.
The lecturers had embarked on a strike in solidarity with their kidnapped colleague. Gberegbe, while confirming the release of Ogan said: “We thank God for his release and the efforts of security agents who ensured his release last night due to credible information gathering and successful rescue operation by the security agents.” Following the killing, Governor, Nyesom Wike has vowed to set up a judicial commission of inquiry to ensure that the (F-SARS) personnel who killed Gberegbe, are brought to justice. Wike also announced a N200million scholarship for Gberegbe's four children and directed the deceased's widow to open bank accounts for each of the four children.
The governor, who spoke when he led leaders of the state on a condolence visit to the family of the slain lecturer, decried the shooting by F-SARs operatives. Wike said: “We will set up a judicial commission of inquiry to ensure that the culprits are brought to Justice. It is unfortunate that F-SARs killed the PDP collation agent. “The state government will offer scholarship to the four young children left behind by the deceased. The mother of the children should open dedicated account for each of the children. The state government will pay N50 million to each of the four children for their education ” He added: “It is most unfortunate that the young man was shot dead by F-SARs in an attempt to cart away election results.
“Instead of us to allow people to choose who will represent and govern them, the security agencies will not allow that. Rather they prefer to kill us. “He died in the course of the defending the PDP. He died in the course of defending democracy. I want to assure the family that all those who killed him will not go free”. Wike said that Gberegbe remained committed to the PDP even on his sickbed, pointing out that the deceased sent him a text message saying that he would be very happy when he (Wike) is declared winner of the election. He promised that the state government would also construct a house for the fam-ily of late Gberegbe and participate in his burial. Also speaking, PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus said the late lecturer was a victim of the calculated oppression of the oil-rich states by the Army and the F-SARs. He said that the country is in distress, noting that the nation is sitting on the keg of gun-powder. The police and Army have become politicians, always responding to politicians “, he said. Surprisingly, the police are yet to comment on the killing of Gberegbe.
The state's PDP chairman, Felix Obuah, has, however called on the Inspector General of Police, Abubarkar Adamu, to institute a panel to probe the alleged involvement of the state's F-SARS commander Mr. Akin Fakorode and other police operatives in the alleged organised invasion of polling units, collation centres, abduction of electoral officers and the shooting and killing of innocent persons during the general elections in parts of the state. According to Obuah, the affected council areas are Khana, Gokana, Ikwerre, Eleme, Tai, Oyigbo and Ogu/Bolo Local Government Areas of the State. Obuah, who spoke to reporters in Port Harcourt, said that other victims of the alleged police attack, such as Mr. Marvin Lezor Kpea-ue, Raymond Ledogo and several persons are presently battling with life-threatening injuries inflicted on them by the men of F-SARS. He commended the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Yusuf Buratai for inaugurating the Major-General TA Gagariga-led committee to probe the allegations of misconduct, including the assassination attempt on Governor Wike by soldiers during the general elections.
“In the same vein, we wish to call on the Acting Inspector General of Police, Mr. Abubakar Mohammed Adamu, to institute a similar panel to probe the brazen involvement of the F-SARS in the alleged organised invasion of polling units, collation centres, abduction of electoral officers and the shooting and killing of innocent persons during the general elections at Khana, Gokana, Ikwerre, Eleme, Tai, Oyigbo and Ogu/ Bolo local governments of the state,” he said. Similarly, the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN), Khana council chapter has called on President Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Wike to immediately set up a panel of inquiry, to unravel those security agencies behind Gberegbe's death. The NYCN, in a statement by the coordinator of Khana LGA chapter, Comrade Dormene Mbea, also expressed dismay over the alleged reckless shooting of unarmed youths of Khana who only came out to vote. According to the statement: “they in no way resisted the security agencies from carrying out their illegal plot of subverting the wish of the people of Khana, and wonder why security agencies who ought to protect their lives and properties would open gunfire to kill unarmed youths of Ogoni.
“From video evidence circulated on social media, Dr. Ferry was moving from the collation centre towards the MOSOP peace and freedom centre when he was gunned down, by suspected security men who allegedly came to snatch electioneering materials from the collation center. “Khana Youths has lost confidence in the security agencies for killing our youths instead of protecting us and therefore will not accept any form of election in Khana henceforth if the Federal and State government don't guarantee the safety and security of our lives and properties. “ Therefore We are calling on President Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Wike to immediately set up a panel of inquiry, to unravel those security agencies behind this devilish and satanic act of killing our people.”
Culled From Saturday Telegraph