Ike Nnachi, Abakaliki
The Police in Ebonyi State has said it has the Labour Party senatorial candidate, Mr Linus Okorie, in its custody.
A statement by the spokesperson of the Police, Chris Anyanwu, debunked reports that he was kidnap.
Mr Okorie was intercepted on Sunday morning in Abakaliki by unidentified gunmen and taken away to an unknown destination.
He was a two-term member of the House of Representatives who represented Ohaozara, Onicha and Ivo Federal Constituency.
He is the Labour Party candidate for Ebonyi South senatorial zone in next year’s election.
The State Governor David Umahi is also contesting for the same position under the All Progressives Congress (APC).
A statement by one, David Ogbonna on behalf of Mr Linus’ CaringHeart Campaign Organisation had claimed he was kidnapped on on his way to his house in Abakaliki by gunmen suspected to be men of Ebubeagu Security outfit.
“The available information confirms that he had been severely tortured to a near-death situation, made naked and pictures of him taken by his abductors.
“The information available as at this moment confirms that their end-point motive is to torture him to death and dump his body at Ebonyi River.
“His phones are currently with the team commander of his abductors,” Mr Ogbonna said.
Continuing he said: “A professional tracking done on his lines revealed “Ogoja Road, near Police Headquarters,” as his current location. The second line showed “Ebun-Nwana, Edda.
“We are believing that his abductors may have kept his half-dead body at old Government House where the previous actions of the indicted militia group usually take place.
“It is also alleged that from tomorrow, and days ahead, all Hon. Linus boys and supporters will be hunted down and made to face similar situation.
“We call on the security agencies to swing into action and unravel this situation, get Hon. Linus out and alive from his abductors and bring the perpetrators of this evil to face the wrath of the law.
“We employ our supporters, CaringHeart members, and friends of Hon. Linus not to give in to unlawful acts but allow the security men do their professional jobs,” the statement read.
A source said the phone lines rang repeatedly on Sunday when called by concerned friends with no one picking it.
“Later, they switched it off. And since then it has remained switched off,” the source added.
Mr Anyanwu, according to the statement, confirmed that Mr Okorie was arrested by Ebubeagu Security operatives and taken to Old Government House Abakaliki.
He said the Police, on hearing reports that he was abducted swung into action and later traced him to the head office of the Ebubeagu Security Outfit at the Old Government House, Abakaliki.
Mr Ayanwu gave reasons for the said arrest of Mr Okorie which include inciting violence in the State, falsely accusing Governor David Umahi and involvement in drug related offences.
“Police detectives were briefed on why he was arrested which include; his activities and utterances that incited and provoked the violence that engulfed Onicha LGA, which led to suspected IPOB/ESN operatives or unknown gunmen to unleash mayhem in the area, leaving seven (7) persons dead at the end of that fracas.
“Hence, the case has now been taken over by the Police Command for a scrupulous investigation,” he said.
Mr Anyanwu also alleged that Mr Okorie was severally invited by the Security and Intelligence Bureau of the Command over a petition dated 23/3/2022, authored by the State’s Attorney General/Commissioner for Justice, alleging that he was spreading fake news against the State Governor, David Umahi.
In the petition, Mr Okorie allegedly accused the Governor of illegally withdrawing N6.7 billion from State Government’s Account to fund the Appeal Court Judgment against his removal from office, etc.
“Similar to the above is another series of false allegations against the Government of Ebonyi State and the Police Command in his social media handles.
“When invited by the SIB over the false allegations/petition, Honourable Linus Abaa Okorie in his characteristic pompous manner refused vehemently to report to the SIB for a chat. Rather he chose to file fallacious suits against the Police Command.
“It is also pertinent to mention that Honourable Linus Abaa Okorie also have a pending case in which he is implicated in a drug-related offence where the suspects purported to be his agents were arrested for hard drug sales and use at his City Hub Inn, Mile 50, Abakaliki. The case was later transferred to the NDLEA for further necessary actions,” Mr Anyanwu said.
Mr Anyawu while re-iterating that Mr Okorie was neither abducted nor kidnapped warned that people should desist from painting pictures of insecurity in the State by propagating unfounded rumours.
“Ebubeagu is a lawfully established local security outfit by the House of Assembly and Government of Ebonyi State. If the outfit as empowered by the State Law, arrests anybody, it shouldn’t be interpreted as abduction or kidnapping because those terms mean different things.
“However, it is expected that the outfit after effecting such arrest, should hand over the matter to the Police for further investigation and other necessary action which has played out in this instance.”
“In view of the above, Dr David Ogbonna of Hon Linus Okorie CaringHeart Foundation is warned to henceforth know the implication of wrong choice of words when next dishing out information for public consumption otherwise he will face the dire consequences as enshrined in the laws of the land,” he added.
Meanwhile, there was tension in Ọnicha Local Government Area on Monday following the incident.
Youths in Onuafor Enuagu Onicha Igboeze on Monday morning barricaded all roads in the area to protest the former lawmaker’s alleged kidnap.
“No movement until we see Hon. Linus Okorie; Onicha will be too hot for everybody,” they chanted at one of the barricades.
The women on their own part were seen lying on the ground crying, lamenting the situation.
The youths under the auspices of Concerned Onicha Ogboeze Youths condemned the arrest.
In a statement signed by Sly Ogbu, the group said state actors are involved in his ordeal.
They said: “We are now convinced that the state and local government actors are at the center of this abduction. It is no rocket science that Linus Abaa Okorie is the leading contender for the Ebonyi South Senatorial seat, a seat Governor David Umahi also wants.
“We can now see who wants Linus Abaa Okorie dead. We will keep the public informed as more developments unfold,” they said.
Mr Uchenna Orji, Commissioner for Information promised to react at a press briefing scheduled to hold later today.
Mr Okorie, a known critic of Governor David Umahi’s administration has had a running battle with the State Government.
Earlier in the year, the State Government issued an order declaring him wanted for alleged acts that could disrupt the peace through his social media activities.
He denied the allegations and sued the State Government and the police at the Abuja High Court.
The court in its ruling barred the State Government and security agencies from arresting him or carrying out the order.