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.”
A lawyer and former Rivers State Commissioner of Information, Emmanuel Okah has described the leadership style of Governor Chibuike Amaechi as suppressive and dictatorial. Mr Okah, who was a guest on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, said Mr Amaechi runs the affairs of Rivers state as though it was a one man business.
He said the governor determines “who becomes Chairman; he determines who becomes the Secretary; he determines who becomes a Councillor; he determines who goes to the House; he determines who goes to the Senate.”
The former Commissioner accused Governor Amaechi of using his office to persecute anyone who challenges the decisions of his administration.
He said for merely going to court to challenge the election of Godspowe Akeh, who is loyal to Governor Amaechi , as the chairman of the Rivers state executive organ of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the governor revoked the Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) of the petitioner, Felix Obuah’s hotel in Omoku.
Governor Amaechi suffered a great political setback last month as the Rivers state chapter of the PDP executive led by Mr Akeh was sacked by an Abuja High court presided over by Justice Ishaq Bello.
Justice Bello approved the election of the faction loyal to the Minister of State for Education, Nyson Wike led by Mr Obuah and the entire members of the factional executive.