Commissioner Describes Rivers’ Crisis As A Criminal Activity

Rivers State Commissioner for InformationThe Rivers State Commissioner for Information has described the ongoing crisis in the state as a criminal activity, insisting that ‘it is not political’.

Mr Austin Tam George was a guest on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily on Monday.

The Commissioner said: “I wouldn’t characterise the crisis as political in nature, we consider them as Criminal activities.

“We cannot draw conclusions now because obviously, investigations are still on.

“We got a report about the recent killing and the government has condemned those killings.

“The Governor directed security forces to move into the area and tried to make sure they bring the situation under control”.

Mr George admitted that the state was going through a difficult situation saying that it is not unique to Rivers State, but other parts of the country – Oyo, Ogun and Lagos States.

“What we are doing is to constantly work with the security forces, stakeholders, youth groups, community leaders and traditional authorities to make sure that the perpetrators of these crimes are apprehended and brought to face justice.

“In Rivers State, the Governor has done very well in terms of giving tremendous support to security forces. He was the first, in this political dispensation, to give over 60 security fitted vehicles to the police,” the Commissioner said.

Talking about what the government had done in Onelga, one of the communities that had witnessed violence recently, the Commissioner said that “the Governor held a security summit that brought all stakeholders together to discuss a way forward – whatever the grievances might be, whether the activities involved cult members or political disagreement”.

At least six persons were killed in Rivers State when Omoku community in Onelga, came under heavy gunfire late on Friday, February 12, till the early hours of Saturday, February 13.

Police said it was a cult battle for supremacy.

The attack occurred less than 48 hours after a former lawmaker, who represented ‘Onelga Constituency One’ in the Rivers State House of Assembly between 1999 and 2003, was killed by yet to be identified gunmen in Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State.

Security Architecture

Mr George said no arrest has been made, noting that he understands that the Police Commissioner arrived in the state on Sunday night. He, however, reiterated that  investigations were actively on in the area.

“We’ve had so many deployment and redeployment of Police Commissioners.

“But what seems to be logical is that, when we have some longevity in terms of how long a Police Commissioner remains in office within a state, he gets to know the security architecture, he gets to know the topography of the area, he gets to form alliances with stakeholders in the state, he gets to meet the communities and get them involved in the security architecture he had built. But it takes time for all of these to mature and take place.”

He likened the group to cultists because they seem to have a common identity.

“They seem to be fighting for tough control – they want to control their own territories.

“The nature of these activities made it a little bit difficult in Rivers State because of the difficult terrain and because sometimes, we have not had the constituency that you would expect in terms of security personnel in the state,” he added.

#SaveRiversRally: Police Area Command Was 400 Meters Away

The Chairman of Eleme local government area in Rivers State, Oji Ngofa, on Monday alleged that a Police Area Command was 400 meters away from the venue of the Save Rivers Movement (SRM)rally which was marred by violence on Sunday, wondering why officers of the Force did not come to the rescue.

“The venue of the rally was not up to 400 meters from the Bori Area Command but police didn’t do anything and the hoodlums (from wherever they came from) started shooting, chasing people away, damaging property and all that,” he said.

Ngofa whose LG is near to Khana Local Government, where the attack occurred, disclosed that problem started at about 4 AM on Sunday morning when the hoodlums started shooting and then returned when organisers of the rally started setting up.

“There was no way they would say that they didn’t hear the gunshots,” Ngofa said, adding that efforts of the SRM to secure police assistance yielded nothing.

However, the Commissioner of Police, Joseph Mbu told Channels Television via a telephone interview that the group did not invite the Police and also did not request security presence for the rally.

In response, Mr Ngofa said “that is not true” because the same letter written to the Police, seeking security, last week covered two events including Sunday’s rally.

On allegations that the group was trying to stage campaign rallies, Ngofa said the mission of the Movement was to “promote good governance.”

Although the identity of the attackers remains unknown, Ngofa said residents of Khana local government would be able to point out the perpetrators.

Contrary to claims by the State Police Commissioner, Mbu, Mr Ngofa disclosed that the group had made attempts at informing the police of the event beforehand. He added that the lawyer of the group, Ken Asuette went to the Police command on Friday to remind the Force of the rally which was to hold on Sunday.

He further stated that the refusal of the Police to do its job indicates that they are lying and playing games.

“It is a gang up to bring a reign of terror on Rivers people.”

Members Of Save Rivers Movt. Are Victims Of Political Megalomania – Mbu

The Commissioner of Police in Rivers State, Joseph Mbu, has accused the members of the Save Rivers Movement, a non-governmental organisation, of being victims of ‘political megalomania’ for being bold enough to stage yet another rally on Sunday despite the mayhem which occurred at their programme, last week.

“They (SRM) are trying to tell the world that they are really victims of political megalomania. They are power drunk,” he said adding that the decision of the SRM to go ahead with its rally despite the mayhem which occurred last week is a bold attempt at telling people that “they are still in control.”

Speaking on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, via a telephone interview, Mr Mbu responded to claims that the Police did not rush to the scene of the rally when armed hoodlums attacked citizens and destroyed property, including Channels Television’s Open Broadcast Van and bus.

Mr Mbu who had been in the eye of public after ordering his men to disrupt the rally last week based on the argument that he did not grant permission for the event to hold, insisted that the Police was not invited to ensure law and order at Sunday’s event.

On the botched rally of last week, the CP said “I sent men as early as 5 0’clock to dominate and take over that premises.” However, “that of yesterday, nobody applied to the Police. It was about 4 hours later that the area commander called me and said that the Chairman of the local government went to his office to report that hoodlums invaded where they were going to hold the rally and everything was scattered.… I told him that this Save Rivers Movement is government instrument. They feel they are above the law and if you know that you are above the law and a thing of that nature happens, you should go and contact the thugs to go and fight for you. You don’t need to come to the police station because you think you are above the law.”

He continued by saying “If they had applied to us and we have considered the security location and that the place is safe, I would have approved and I would have given them enough policemen.”

Describing the group as disorganized and lacking respect for law and order, he further alleged that “the policemen who were shooting there were the orderly of the Chairman of the Local Government and four other policemen brought in by the Commissioner for Works.”

The Commissioner of Police assured that investigations are on-going and promised that “whoever authorised such policemen is going to be disciplined, whether he is a civil commissioner or he’s a police officer.”

He said the Police was not aware of the mayhem but only deployed “a unit of conventional policemen as well as a unit of mobile policemen” after a report was made at the station.

He also hinted that the Police will not rule out possibilities that the group was involved in the fracas. “Sometimes, the person who commits the offence is the one who cries foul,” he said.

“The information we have is that the policemen attached to the DPO and to the Chairman and the ones attached to the Commissioner for Works were responsible for the shooting but we are investigating it.”

“We are the police and we are in charge of security and order. If anybody is in distress and calls us, whether you have made a mistake or not, we must come there to salvage and then to save your life. We were not invited. We were invited only after the destruction had been done and we don’t know who did that destruction.”

Rivers Crisis: Police Used Only Tear Gas – Opi

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.


Rivers Crisis: Nigerian Media Needs Some Soul Searching – Akinola

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.”


Court Frees Rivers PDP Chieftain Charged With Sedition

The chairman of the People’s Democratic Party in Omuma local government area of Rivers state, Mr Charles Ahamefule charged with sedition by the police has been set free by a magistrate court in Abuja.

Mr Ahamefule was arrested in Rivers state and arraigned in Abuja over an interview he granted to a Port Harcourt based radio station on the crisis in the state chapter of People’s Democratic Party.

The police said the Ahemefule interview amounted to criminal conspiracy, false statement and incitement.

Mr Ahemefule was then kept at the Kuje prison, where he spent a week before his case was heard in court.

The prosecutor, Usman Shuaibu had filed two applications in the case. The first application sought to transfer the case to another magistrate court in Abuja where he is said to be standing trial on different charges.

The defence counsel, Miss Rosmary Okotie-Ebo applied for his bail, since the case was going to be transferred but the prosecutor countered this and told the court to terminate the case.

After listening to both parties the magistrate ruled that according to international laws the rights of every person is key and an accused person is innocent until proven guilty and as such the application for termination is paramount. He therefore discharged Mr Ahamefule.

However, attempt by Mr Ahamefule to leave the court a freeman was resisted by the police, which led to a disagreement between the prosecutor and the defence.

Following the disclosure by the prosecutor that the police are yet to conclude its investigation of the accused person, magistrate Anthony Enahoro set free Ahamefule.

It took the intervention of one of the senators representing Rivers state, Senator Magnus Abbe who promised to take Mr Ahamefule to the force headquarters and stand surety for him before he was allowed to leave.



Is National Assembly Right To Takeover Rivers Assembly?

With the takeover of running the Rivers State House of Assembly, this week’s edition of Politics Today analyses the implication of the takeover.

The Felix Obuah led Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) claims the decision is biased and uncalled for while some of the lawmakers in the Governor’s camp are saying it is the right decision to help resolve the crisis rocking the assembly and the state politics.

We also focus on the controversial constitution amendment as the House of Representatives have removed the immunity clause.

Lawyer Says Rivers Crisis Could Have Triggered Emergency Rule

Reactions and divided opinions continue to trail the 9 July mayhem which ensued at a botched sitting of the Rivers State Assembly with a legal practitioner, Ladipo Johnson, on Tuesday raising concerns of the possibility of a declaration of a state of emergency in the troubled state had the situation gone worse.

The situation which led to protests by citizens in Port Harcourt, the Rivers state capital, he said “is quite dangerous for the country.”

Speaking on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, Mr Ladipo said that if the situation had gone any worse than it did, “it would have opened the path for a declaration of a state of emergency”.

The crisis, which is currently being investigated by the Senate, has been touted as ‘a cocktail of misdeeds’ by analysts. Mr Ladipo added that a lot of people “are not convinced that the executive arm at the Federal Level isn’t involved.”

House of Representatives passed a resolution that the National Assembly take over the duties of the state assembly. However, being more cautious, the Senate set up an investigative panel and also directed the Inspector General of Police to redeploy Joseph Mbu, the Rivers state Commissioner of Police, a debate which caused the Senate to conducting physical vote for the first time in nine years.

Mr Ladipo stated that although the House of Representatives’call for an immediate take-over is in a bid to restore peace and order. He believes the Senate’s position is “more mature”.

He noted that the National Assembly should have looked into the issue as the Rivers Assembly had been inactive for 3 months before the fall out last Tuesday.

“They probably didn’t know such a thing will happen at the time it happen,” he said.

PDP problems

Owing to the fact that majority of the persons involved in the Rivers Assembly fracas are members of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), many have criticised the silence of the party with respect to the issue.

Reacting to this, Mr Ladipo said that the PDP is bound to have problems as a result of its size and diversity.

“The PDP is such a big party size-wise. It takes in various interest groups, various ethnic groups/interests, divergent interests in the country, so it is bound to have problems”.

He went further to say that “the people there are politicians, they are not saints.  They are Nigerians. We know what we are, we know how we are,” he said implying that the characters of the party members is a reflection of the society.

We can be better but “Unfortunately, that mirrors what the average Nigerian is like at the moment,” he said.

He encouraged people with honest motives to become involved in politics.

“Nigerians have to be involved.” The solution to the issue, he said, lies with the people.

He also said that “the party (at the National level) should have stepped in much earlier. If there’s a problem with the state PDP, the National level should have stepped in

If they haven’t to date, then questions need to be asked”.

Rivers PDP Chairman Denies Impeachment Moves Against Amaechi

The chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Rivers state, Mr Felix Obuah has denied claims that the party is making moves to impeach the embattled Governor of Rivers state, Mr Rotimi Amaechi. 

Mr Obuah made this known during a live phone-in session on Channels TV Politics Today.

The party leader however confirmed that he submitted the petition that led to the suspension of the Governor by the party’s National Working Committee but alleged that the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly and some of the lawmakers are the mischief makers behind the political crisis rocking the state.

Rivers Crisis: It is Payback Time For Amaechi – Inko Tariah

A human rights activist and former aspirant to the House of Representatives in Rivers state, Opunabo Inko-Tariah, has described the ongoing crisis being faced by the governor of Rivers state, Chibuike Amaechi, as “referendum of peoples disapproval of Amaechi.”

Mr. Inko-Tariah who was a guest on Channels TV breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, admitted that the incumbent governor of Rivers State is the best governor the state has had since the era of Alfred Diete-Spiff in terms of infrastructural development, but he likened the governor to a man who has been transformed from an elected officer to a dictator.

He alleged that the Peoples Democratic Party leadership under the governor compelled him to step down as the party’s candidate for the House of Representatives in the 2011 general election for  the candidate of their choice.

Mr. Inko-Tariah then defected to the Action Congress of Nigeria, where he contested for the House of Reps and lost. He has now returned to the PDP.

He also alleged the dismissal of a number of local government chairmen by the Amaechi administration, adding that the recent development in the party is now a way of paying back to the governor for his doings.