Published On: Wed, Apr 9th, 2014

Delta: Controversy Trails Murder of Two Lawyers as Relatives Accuse Govt of Complicity

LAGOS APRIL 9TH (URHOBOTODAY)-The murder of two lawyers by unidentified gunmen in Delta State last week has continued to generate controversy, with a relative of one of the victims accusing the state government of being behind the gruesome crime.
Eguono Dafiaghor, the principal in the law firm of Whytfort Jurisconsult, and Samuel O. Ekuwangji, a junior lawyer in the same firm, were murdered on March 24. The crime took place in Olomoro/Otor-Owhe in the Isoko North local government area of Delta State as the lawyers traveled to the High Court in Ozoro to represent some kidnapping suspects.

A legal source described Mr. Dafiaghor as a well-known lawyer who was good at defending kidnapping and other criminal suspects in court. On the day of his murder, he was scheduled to represent some suspects who were accused of having kidnapped the son of the Secretary to the Delta State Government, Ovuozorie Macaulay, in 2013.
A police source claimed that Mr. Dafiaghor had a reputation for fraternizing with kidnappers and other criminals, adding that Ughelli was the meeting point between the lawyer and the criminal elements.
The source stated that his murder might be connected to a deal with a kidnapping gang whose members may have felt cheated by the lawyer.
“The kidnapping case has been going on for some time now. It became obvious that there was no hope for the kidnapping suspects. I understand that some members of the gang approached Mr. Dafiaghor and pleaded with him to devise a different means of saving their members. I hear that the gang gave Dafiaghor money running into millions of Naira and he assured the gang that he was going to approach the SSG for the case to be settled out of court.
“But after all the promises and assurances, there was still no hope. The gang later discovered that Mr. Dafiaghor was playing a fast one on them, and that he had used parts of their money to buy a ‘Tokunbo’ Camry car for his wife and bought for himself a ‘Tokunbo’ Jeep [SUV]. We hear that this infuriated the gang and they mobilized to murder him.”
This account has however been dismissed by a relative of Mr. Dafiaghor, who pointedly accused the state government of being behind the crime. He said his uncle was one of the human rights lawyers who intervened in the case concerning the son of Mr. Macaulay, who had staged a kidnap of himself in order to obtain money from his father.
According to him, the younger Macaulay asked his friends to help stage the kidnap, and a ransom was subsequently paid by the Delta State Government. When those friends were however apprehended by the police, however, they confessed that it had all been stage-managed. He added that out of love for his friends who had only helped in making phone calls for the ransom, the younger Macaulay threatened to tell the press the truth if his friends were killed, as he was the mastermind behind the matter.
He said this was the case that his uncle, Mr. Dafiaghor took to court and was making great progress with, to the discomfiture of the government.
“After many calls among Delta State government officials they finally asked for the release for [the friends of young Mr. Macaulay] but being that the media are aware of the case and were following up, the police went and [arrested] innocent people and killed them as cover up for the previous arrest in order to close the case that the real culprit has been killed,” he wrote.
“The 27th of March 2014 was the day [Dafiaghor] wanted to plead with the judge with a request to ask the police to bring Ovuozorie Macaulay son to court for questioning. He was on his way to court when assassins stopped him on the road and shot him and his co-barrister on the head,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Delta State Government has expressed its condolences to the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and the families of the two murdered lawyers. The attorney general, Charles Ajuyah, condemned the killing, adding that the state government has ordered a full and painstaking investigation.
The Forum for Justice and Human Rights Defence and the Warri chapter of the NBA have also called for a thorough investigation.
In a statement signed by Mr Oghenejabor Ikimi, a Warri based lawyer, the Forum noted that the dastardly murder underscored the worsening level of insecurity nationwide and the urgent need by all the three tiers of government to protect Nigerians’ lives and properties.
“In the light of the foregoing, we call on the Inspector General of Police to order a thorough and independent investigation into the above assassination in a bid to apprehending and punishing all the culprits involved, as Nigerians are tired of cases of unresolved murder pervading our polity.”
Lawyers in the state converged in Warri on Tuesday to carry out a peaceful protest, calling for justice and the unmasking of those behind the murders.
Source: Saharareporters

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