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Slain human rights lawyer Ken Atsuete

The murder of Ken Atsuete demonstrates Nigeria’s failed state conditions

A Port Harcourt, Rivers State human rights lawyer Ken Atsuete was abducted from his home in front of his children on Saturday and was found on Sunday morning after being shot and left in a pool of his own blood near his home in Aluu, Ikwerre Local Government Area.

A “security expert” Chinedu Owhonda said on a Lagos-based news channel that Atsuete was still alive when he was found. However, passersby kept walking past him until someone recognised Atsuete and took action. He was first taken to the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, but he was turned away because staff were on strike. By the time he was taken to a private hospital, it was too late.

Atsuete is reportedly an ally of Rotimi Amaechi, the former governor of the state and current Transport Minister, who is involved in a protracted political struggle with his successor Nyesom Wike. It is not yet clear if there was a political angle to his abduction and murder. The state has been wracked with all forms of criminal violence from both camps, involving cultists, kidnappings and so on for the past few months.

Amaechi and Wike when the going was good between them
Amaechi and Wike when the going was good between them

These crimes are compounded by the criminality of those in power in failing to provide basic public services. A failed state is one that can’t guarantee the safety of its citizens. Atsuete, lying in a pool of his blood and still alive, deserved better than to have to rely on a good Samaritan to get to a hospital within that “golden hour” after he had been shot. Medical intervention as soon as was possible after the shooting would have given him a chance of survival.

While billions of dollars have disappeared from government coffers in oil-rich Rivers State since civilian rule returned to the country in 1999, it is criminal that there are no ambulances in the state capital Port Harcourt to serve its residents that are victims of traumatic incidents. An ambulance with trained paramedics could have provided first aid that possibly would have managed the injuries until specialists took over in hospital. Such intervention could have meant that Ken Atsuete may still be with us.

The people responsible for Atsuete’s death are not only the criminals that pulled the trigger, but those that failed in providing the basic levels of governance that would have given the man a chance of surviving. They should all hand their collective heads in shame, whether they belong to the All Progressives Congress (APC) or the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

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