Due Process Or Political Persecution? Concerns Mount As Prof. Ugbah Goes To Court On June 30, 2011

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Many Nigerians and Benue State citizens believe that while the 2011 Elections were better than those held in the past, the Benue State gubernatorial results were rigged in favor of the incumbent governor Gabriel Suswan against the people’s choice, Professor Steve Ugbah (http://www.saharareporters.com/news-page/analyzing-rigging-perpetrated-governorship-elections). Professor Ugbah was jailed within weeks after his media advisor was assassinated, on drummed up chargers reminiscent of military era antics where state and federal law enforcement agencies were used to carry out anti-democratic harassments (http://www.saharareporters.com/news-page/police-detain-benues-acn-governorship-candidate-over-gov-suswams-false-alarm).

Prof. Steve Ugbah and 14 others will appear in Makurdi, Benue State, Nigeria, on Thursday, June 30, 2011 (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/29/us/29bcnigeria.html?_r=2 ) at Magistrate Court #1 with Magistrate Cecilia Bakare presiding. Prof. Ugbah was charged with breach of peace and security by the Benue State government.

While voluntarily responding to an invitation by the Assistant Commissioner of Police, Rabiu Ladodo, Prof. Steve Ugbah was arrested on May 23, 2011, at the Nigerian Police headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria. Prof. Ugbah was arrested on the orders of his political opponent Governor Gabriel Suswam of Benue State.

At a press conference on Saturday, May 14, in Makurdi, Prof. Ugbah lamented the murder of his close aide, Mr. Charles Ayede, and maintained that persons believed to be PDP assassins murdered Ayede.

"We (http://www.friendsofsteveugbah.org/page10.html) strongly believe that the arrest and phantom charges brought against Prof. Ugbah infringe on his fundamental right of Freedom of Expression and Speech guaranteed by Section 39(1) of Nigeria's Constitution," which specifically states: "Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference." Rather than vigorously investigate and fish out the murderers of Mr. Ayede, no matter how highly placed they are, the Nigerian Police chose to arrest Prof. Ugbah and 14 others on phantom charges.

"We, the friends of Prof. Steve Ugbah (http://www.friendsofsteveugbah.org/page10.html), are concerned about this continuing persecution and harassment of him and his supporters. We hereby request that the charges against Prof. Ugbah be immediately dismissed. We further ask the Nigerian Police to use all their resources to apprehend and bring the killers of Mr. Ayede to justice!"

Prof. Ugbah was the Benue State Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) gubernatorial candidate for the April 26, 2011 elections. Even though Prof. Ugbah was leading by over 70% in Public Opinion Polls conducted by ThisDay/IPSOS, the election was highly rigged and the Electoral Commission said he lost by 91,000 votes. Prof. Ugbah is contesting the results of the election before the Election Tribunal sitting in Makurdi with Justice Mumir Ladan presiding.

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