A Legal Practitioner, Idaye Opi, who was in Port Harcourt when the Police raid of the ‘Save Rivers Movement’ rally occurred on Sunday, January 12, has thrown more light on the role of the Police in the issue.
Contributing to Channels Television breakfast programme, ‘Sunrise Daily’ on Tuesday, via telephone, Opi clarified that by his observation of the overwhelming view in the city, the Police used only tear gas to disperse the crowd, as there was no bullet.
He also said that the Police, asides saying that the organisers had no permit, also claimed that they got reports that some people were planning to invade and cause mayhem at the rally.
The Police stated that the way and manner the organisers went about their activities, it may have degenerate into skirmish, but Opi also noted that the Police did not act right.
He said: “We are not in the State of Emergency in Rivers State.”
He reiterated his position in the state as “not being an Amaechi apologist. “In this instance, I believe that the Police was very wrong, as nobody needs a police permit for a public gathering.”
He argued that labour unions, political parties, churches and other organizations could organise rallies without such demands being made of them.
Opi added that if indeed the Police had fears that the event was going to degenerate into a breakdown of law and order, they should have gone to watch over them in order to step in when they sense trouble approaching.
A Lawyer and Journalist, Richard Akinola, has joined the group of Nigerians who are against the Rivers State Police raid of the ‘Save Rivers Movement’ rally on Sunday, January 12, 2014, but not without some warning for the Nigerian media.
Akinola noted on Channels Television’s ‘Sunrise Daily’ that by the laws of Nigeria, the Police do not have any right to stop anyone from gathering.
He explained this by citing the case of the Inspector-General of Police vs. ANPP, in which sections of the Public Order Act had been declared null and void by the court, due to its inconsistency with the provisions of Section 40 of the Nigerian Constitution, which gives a right of Peaceful Assembly to every Nigerian.
He noted that if the Police according to their claims, indeed had fears that the rally could have degenerated into a crisis, the criminal code was enough to cover for their act of stepping in to prevent the degeneration, and not totally disrupting the holding of the gathering itself.
People are only meant to notify Police about their actions for the purpose of coverage and not to obtain permit; in the case of ‘Save Rivers Movement’ rally organisers, their claim that they informed the Police in a letter to apply for security already amounted to a notification.
Akinola also said that the relationship between the organisers and the Police could have been more civil, recalling several protests he had been part of, in which the Police played what he believed to be their expected role.
He submitted, “This is all politics, and unfortunately the Rivers State Commissioner of Police is too involved in the politics of Rivers State.” He likened the situation to the case of former Anambra State Governor, Senator Chris Ngige, during his tenure as the Governor, when the Anambra State Commissioner of Police was also a prominent feature in his tussle to keep his position.
He alleged that the plan of the perpetrators is to push Rivers State into a State of Emergency, but “This is not about Amaechi, it is about principle, and true democracy.”
Akinola was however reminded that the Rivers Police Commissioner, Joseph Mbu, had worked in other states and with other governors without any problems, but he dismissed the claims saying that whatever his claims were, do not match up with what Nigerians have seen him do in Rivers State.
In further nullifying CP Mbu’s claims, he cited the case of the arrest of Rivers lawmaker, Chidi Lloyd, for murder. He wondered why the Police went straight to accuse him of murder when the case of manslaughter should have been the first consideration. He alleged that despite revealations that Chidi Lloyd was not the one who drove the car, with the driver having made a statement to that effect, the Police has been keeping those details from the people.
He said, “I feel disappointed in the Inspector-General of Police particularly…because I have been a silent supporter of his ideals.”
He noted that whether an event is tagged rally or gathering, the rights to peaceful assembly has been provided for, in Section 40 of the Nigerian Constitution. We need to “Remove this military hangover and allow democracy to grow.”
A Channels Television viewer however brought another angle into the discussion with his contribution; a certain Dr. Bright questioned the validity of Senator Magnus Abe’s claims on the severity of his injury during the raid, as he was of the opinion that politicians take advantage of such issues to seek public sympathy.
Akinola agreed with the view on Magnus Abe, explaining that he did not feel that rubber bullet could have been shot at the Senator when the Nigerian Police was not known to use rubber bullets. He explained that what hit him may have been the canister of the tear gas. He however believed that the tear gas was indeed shot at close range.
He then berated the role of the Nigerian media in the heated political atmosphere in Rivers State and the entire country, as there were too many interests from the media. He said that he could almost tell where a story was coming from and its underlining interest, just by looking at the headline.
He warned, “Let’s be frank, the media is part of the problem and there needs to be some soul searching in the media, otherwise the media would have been totally destroyed by 2015.”
He added, “We should be very careful as a people, and never make any mistake that would allow the military to come back because the damages they made were enormous.”
Anti-corruption activist and public affairs analyst, Olanrewaju Suraj on Monday described the disruption of the Save Rivers Movement Rally in Rivers State, as an ‘unconstitutional act’ encouraged by the Goodluck Jonathan led administration, adding that organisers did not need the permission of the police to hold a peaceful rally.
“There’s nowhere in Nigeria where you need to obtain a permit to hold a rally” as “it was the decision of a competent Court of Appeal in Nigeria that the demand for police permit to hold a rally is illegal and a violation of the Constitution,” Suraj said, adding that the issue of a permit was a ploy by the Police to hoodwink Nigerians.
Speaking on Channels Television’s flagship programme, Sunrise Daily, Mr Suraj stressed that the disruption of the event, ordered by the State Police Commissioner, Joseph Mbu, was against the law as organisers had the right to associate as stated in the Nigerian Constitution.
He also said that the organisers did not need to obtain a permit from the Police before staging the rally as stated by Mr Mbu who claimed that the rally was political in nature.
“It tells us how much the law enforcement agents are either ignorant of the law or consciously violating the laws of the lands in a bid to protect and promote a certain interest within the system at the expense of the country,” Mr Suraj said.
A fresh spate of crisis drew nationwide attention on Sunday when men of the Rivers State Police Command at about 5.30am on Sunday, stormed the Rivers State College of Arts and Science in Rumuola, venue of the proposed Save Rivers Movement (Rally) scheduled to hold at 1 PM.
A member of the Rivers State House of Assembly, Kelechi Nwogu, on Saturday told Channels Television via a telephone interview that Police had received two letters from two different Speakers, notifying them of their intention to resume session.
Speaking on Sunrise, Mr Nwogu who had initially denied the existence of factions among lawmakers, said that Evans Bipi, who he (Nwogu) referred to as ‘Speaker’ “had issued a statement that the house was supposed to reconvene on Friday and sent a letter to the Police” but the Police informed Mr Bipi that they received a letter from another party also claiming to be Speaker.”
According to him, this caused the Police to barricade the House of Assembly as a means to avoid the repetition of violent acts which led to the National Assembly take-over in the first instance.
Nwogu also said the “National Assembly took the Rivers State job in a hurry” and added that the authenticity of the recognised Speaker, Otelemaba Amachree, must be ascertained before progress can be made.
In July, mayhem broke following an attempt by 5 members of the House, led by Hon. Evans Bipi to impeach the Speaker, Amachree.
5 months later, Justice Ahmed Ramat of a Federal High Court in Abuja declared the National Assembly take-over of the Rivers State Assembly as ‘unconstitutional, null and void’ based on NASS’ failure to produce evidence that the State Assembly could not transact legislative business.
On Thursday, and barely 24 hours after the court ruling, the lawmakers gathered for session in front of the State Assembly but were dispersed by the Police.
Speaking on Sunrise, Chairman of the Civil Society Network Against Corruption, Olanrewaju Suraj, said that the crisis which has engulfed the state is as a result of the competition between two political opponents which the judiciary and the (presiding) judge pretended to be “completely oblivious” of.
“The only thing that judge (and the judiciary) has done with the decision on that Wednesday is to bring about the total collapse of Nigeria” because “what you had in Rivers State prior to the intervention of the National Assembly was a dangerous trend.”
The President, Leadership Watch, Martins Nwayawu, agreed with Mr Suraj’s assessment of the situation and added that the ruling of the judge showed that “he is living in a different planet.”
He continued by saying “no judge in his right senses would sit somewhere and give a judgment that the members of Rivers State House of Assembly can go back to resume their legislative functions.”
Security expert, Oladeinde Ariyo, faulted actions of men of the Police in barricading the State Assembly Complex on basis that it did not receive instructions to permit the lawmakers to enter.
In light of the unresolved issues amongst the lawmakers, a peace meeting should have been called to help reconcile their difference in order to avoid violence.
An anti-corruption activist, Olanrewaju Suraj, has blamed Nigeria’s poor assessment in achieving the Millennium Development Goals on political corruption which the citizenry allowed to fester.
“The bane of Nigeria’s crisis is political corruption and political corruption is why we could not meet the MDGs,” he said.
In a message to commemorate the 2013 World Anti-corruption Day, on Monday, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said “corruption is a barrier to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and needs to be taken into account in defining and implementing a robust post-2015 development agenda.”
Speaking on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, Suraj blamed the government for lacking a clear cut plan in putting an end to corruption.
“Corruption has crippled the government’s efforts in achieving success in the MDGs. Corruption thrives because moral values are not well promoted in schools,” he stressed.
“It boils down to the government,” he said and added that “the erosion of the culture of the people and our tradition to uphold and appreciate our values in terms of promoting it on the part of the government.
“Rarely would you see a clear defined agenda or programme of action to continue sustaining the values of the people.”
He decried the absence of basic moral instruction in primary and secondary schools across the nation.
The failure of government to provide basic social amenities for the people is the vacuum criminals take advantage of by providing succor for the people.
As part of this year’s activities, each country is expected to showcase what it has been doing to mitigate encumbrances to the achievement of the MDGs but Nigeria has not been able to achieve much despite the fact that the problems and solutions have been identified.
He however stressed that the citizenry should be held accountable for the failures experienced.
“We need to stop lamenting and we need to stop blaming the government for many of these anomalies,” he said and added that “the people will need to start taking responsibilities for our failure to ask the appropriate questions, to stand up when it is right to say no this cannot continue.”
He blamed the citizenry for allowing charlatans to attain leadership positions.
A public Affairs analyst Olanrewaju Suraj urged Nigerians following the latest trend of events rocking Taraba state, that they should wake up from their slumber and challenge unscrupulous characters in the present day government of the country, else there will be further re-occurrence of events unfolding in Taraba state, in the country.
The public affairs analyst who was on Channels Television’s breakfast show, Sunrise Daily commended the media for taking it as a responsibility to delve into the Taraba imbroglio by questioning and engaging critics, however, he criticized some part of the media for not standing on the right part of the issue.
Suraj hinted that the media should further beam its searchlight on the state and the issues surrounding it, as a lot of foul play will be unfolded as time went on as he opined that the state of the governor is still questionable despite the fact his supporters claimed that he is sound, hale and hearty, while referring to the clip of governor Danbaba Suntai’s arrival.
Suraj said “what was shown to the people in Taraba state was a clip of about 26 seconds, where the governor was shown sitting down and you can only see the lips moving with no voice.
On the sacking of the Exco members by the state governor, Suraj hinted that all treacherous moves to ensure the governor remains in place has started to unfold as earlier stated that a proper watch should be on the state and the state of events because, after the sack, the swearing of the of the Secretary to the State Governor (SSG) was done in the dining room of the governor Suntai and not in the Exco chambers, while does seated were not officials of the government but individuals “that have constituted themselves into a ‘cabal’.