A week after she showed up in her Port Harcourt, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, in Rivers State, Mrs. Gesila Khan’s whereabouts remains unknown to her family, her employers and security agents.
Khan was first arrested and detained by operatives of the Department of State Service (DSS) in Abuja 20 days ago.
She was released after a public outcry against her detention and the DSS intervention in the proceedings of the Rivers State Election Petitions Tribunal.
After her release, Khan showed up in her office last Monday and has not been seen since then.
The earlier arrest was at the instance of a petition by the state All Progressives Congress (APC), over allegations that she was reluctant to release relevant materials required to pursue its petition before the election tribunal.
Since she has not been seen, the question being asked by her family, politicians, especially of the sympathetic Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and officials of INEC in the state is: “Where is Mrs Gesila Khan?”
Khan was quizzed twice in July by the DSS over her role in the Rivers general elections, especially those of the National Assembly and Governorship elections which the PDP won.
Her traducers within the APC alleged that the sum of N700million and N900million were found in two different accounts belonging to the REC, an allegation she denied through her lawyer, Mr. Selekeowei Larry, SAN.
It was gathered that the REC was released after answering questions posed to her by the DSS and has been reporting to duty intermittently.
According to sources, the DSS sent another invitation to her last Wednesday, August 5, but it could not be established if she was detained by the agency.
When contacted, the Public Relations Officer of INEC in Rivers State, Mrs. Tonia Nwoye, said Khan reported for duty last Monday but could not give details if she was later detained by the DSS.
She said: “When I confirm I will let you know, I don’t know I don’t have those details you have just told me; when I have, I will let you know. I have been on leave but we were all in the office on Monday.”
Also, the Rivers State Police Public Relations Officer, Deputy Superintendent of Police, DSP, Ahmed Mohammed, claimed not to have any idea of Mrs. Khan’s whereabouts.
At the Yellow House Headquarters of DSS in Abuja, efforts by Nigerian Pilot to establish the whereabouts of Khan were futile as no operative was ready to speak on the matter.
The situation was compounded by the fact that the DSS has no official spokesman since the removal of Ms Marilyn Ogar, a few months ago.
One Tony Opuiyo, who issued two statements recently on behalf of the DSS, refused to oblige reporters his phone numbers, claiming that he was not the spokesman of the service.
When our correspondent visited the service headquarters yesterday, stern-looking operatives turned him down because “it is not a working day and there is nobody to attend to your demands,” one of them said.
She is held by DSS in Abuja
But when contacted, the Rivers state chapter of the PDP, said the INEC REC was being detained in Abuja headquarters of the Department of State Security, DSS. The Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the state party chairman, Mr. Jerry Needam, said the woman was a guest of the security agency on Wednesday last week and had not returned.
“The Rivers REC, Mrs Gesila Khan, was asked to report to the Abuja Headquarters of the DSS last week Wednesday in continuation of her interrogation over the Rivers state general elections which she conducted. As at now (yesterday Sunday 3:42pm) she is still in the DSS custody,” Needam stated.
In a statement issued by Mr. Okubama Johnbull on behalf of the REC’s family, he said: “The family of Mrs. Gesila Ekiotonye Okubama Khan of Peretonu, Bayelsa State, wants human rights organisations, public spirited individuals and the world to come to our aid over the unlawful detention of Mrs. Khan.”
He said added that “It is alleged that she is being forced to make an undertaking to upturn the results of the Rivers State general elections in favour of the All Progressives Congress, APC, by the ruling party at the national level.
The family also raised the alarm on her health saying she was being denied her medication by the DSS.
“As a woman diagnosed with hypertension and diabetics, she has been denied of her medication, and the development has affected her health.”
Disturbed by her continued detention, 31 members of the Rivers State House of Assembly petitioned the leadership of the Senate and condemned the arrest and detention of Mrs. Khan.
Also, the Rivers State Caucus in the National Assembly condemned the detention of the REC and DSS alleged interference with the election petition tribunal.
Speaking on behalf of the caucus, Senator George Thomson-Sekibo, accused the DSS of intimidating officials of INEC in Rivers with the intent to influence the outcome of the 2015 elections petitions currently before the tribunal in the state.
He said it was curious that the DSS only chooses to summon, and later detain the Resident Electoral Commissioner soon after former Governor of the State, Rotimi Amaechi visited the Director-General, Lawal Musa Daura, describing the act as “signs of creeping dictatorship.”
According to him, “The invitation and subsequent arrest of Mrs. Khan followed the private visit of the Ex-Governor of Rivers state, Amaechi Rotimi to the Director SSS on or about Tuesday 7 July 2015.
We are constrained to conclude that part of the script being played by the DSS is to concoct evidence in support of the petitioners case at the tribunal where the petitioners pleaded that they shall rely on security reports at the trial, particularly ‘the SSS report’.
“It is also not a coincidence that the invitation to parties (INEC Officers) came after the private visit of the Ex-Governor of Rivers state, Rotimi Amaechi to the Director SSS on or about Tuesday the 7th day of July 2015. Shortly after his visit, Amaechi assured the petitioners that “the DSS is game.’
However, the development took a new twist last Thursday when DSS denied that Mrs. Khan is in the custody saying they only invited her to take her statement and never detained her.