The Rivers State Police Command says it did not receive any request from the Save Rivers Movement to provide security at the disrupted rally venue in Khana Local Government Area.
In a telephone interview with Channels Television on Sunday, hours after the rally was disrupted by hoodlums with machetes, the spokesman for the police in the state, Ahmed Kidaya, said that the police only got the information that the rally was disrupted by hoodlums who attacked those present at the rally ground.
“We are not aware that the group was having a rally in Khana. From the report I had from my people there, there are no casualties so far, for now.
“The Rivers State police command did not receive any letter of request for police security from the Save Rivers Movement.
“There were instances before now that they requested for police security and the police provided security as needed to ensure that their rally was hitch free.
“How can somebody accuse the police of disrupting their rally when everybody knows that it is the duty of the police to ensure peace and security in the entire country? He questioned.
Mr Kidaya called on anyone with a any evidence of police’s involvement in disruption of the rally to present it.
“The claim is baseless and misleading. It is a misrepresentation of what happened there and the Police have no hand in their meeting or rally,” he said
The president of the Save Rivers Movement, Mr Charles Ohuru, said that the group had notified the police of the rally before the date it was held.
Recalling the death of Chuba Okadigbo following a police raid at a rally in Kano state in 2003, Mr Asuette, a guest on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, said the intention of the Police commissioner was to harm citizens.
“Let us remember what happened to Chuba Okadigbo, it was tear gas inhalation that killed him. Now, the same tear gas is what Mbu has released against innocent Nigerians which means that Mbu’s intentions are to kill Nigerians just the way tear gas was used to kill Chuba Okadigbo,” he stated.
He further challenged the CP to prove that his allegations are untrue.
He gave his account of the events which led to the disruption of the Save Rivers Movement Rally by men of the Rivers State Police Command, adding that “there’s no justification whatsoever” for the act.
According to Asuette, a letter was sent to the Commissioner to Police, Joesph Mbu, notifying him of the inauguration for last Sunday 12th January, another for next Sunday and members of the group had “specifically asked for police protection.”
The letter was acknowledged and stamped by the Police but “no information (written or unwritten) was related to this group to say you are banned or your inauguration (not a rally) should not hold because there are security reports that there might be some public disorder.”
He noted that the Save Rivers Movement is a registered organisation with ‘credible members’ including lawyers, doctors and engineers and so the said rally was to “inaugurate the Obi Akpor branch” of the association “within a particular confine, at the Rivers State College of Arts and Science.”
Mr Asuette also mentioned that he had noticed a trend in the activities of the Rivers State Police command
“In July 2013, the Niger Delta Civil Society Coalition that I belonged to wrote a letter to the Commissioner of Police notifying him of our intention to hold a (peaceful protest) rally in the Port Harcourt stadium.
However the event could not hold as the “police barricaded that part of Port Harcourt a day before that programme. Our members were beaten and dispersed even when we tried to say we have the constitutional right to gather, the police acted with impunity thinking that we were a political organisation.”
“Courts have decided in ANPP and IGP that nobody should stop any Nigerian from gathering and in that judgment affirmed by the Court of Appeal, there is an order of perpetual injunction against the IGP his agents which include Joseph Mbu from restraining anybody from gathering,” Asuette stated.
He stressed that “there’s no justification whatsoever for what happened on Sunday.”
Asked if there was a possibility of the Police obtaining an intelligence report of impending doom at the last minute necessitating the raid, Asuette said such report was yet to be made public.
He added that the police commissioner was “running wild without respect for the Constitution and elected authorities” as neither the President nor State Governor, could not have given him the order to carry out the raid.
“Every right provided for in the whole hog of section 33 of the constitution to section 45 of the constitution has been breached collectively by one police command under one police commissioner who does not respect constituted authorities,” he said.
Sunday’s event led to the hospitalization of Senator Magnus Abe while several others sustained injuries. Asuette added that properties including cars were also destroyed.
The Senate Committee on Police Affairs is currently conducting an investigation on the matter which has attracted national interest. The Committee, chaired by Paulinus Uwagwu, is expected to submit its findings to the Senate when the House resumes plenary.
A Legal Practitioner, Ikechukwu Ikeji, says the Police raid on the Save Rivers Movement rally in Port-Harcourt on Sunday, January 12, may be justifiable under the Nigerian Constitution.
He threw his weight behind the point of view that everybody’s right of association is guaranteed under the Nigerian Constitution and those rights of association “include the right to hold demonstrations and sundry kinds of rallies.”
He, however, noted that Section 45 of the same constitution goes further to derogate from that right by saying that “nothing in the constitution or in some of the sections mentioned, including the right to freedom of association shall render invalid any law that is made by the National Assembly, that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society for the interest of public safety.”
He explained that this implied that a law could be made by the National Assembly in any form to curtail some of those rights so as to ensure public safety.
He went further to state that the Police Act is such law that the National Assembly had made which curtails the citizens’ rights of association for the sake of ensuring public safety, law and order. This according to him, empowers the Police to step in if it sees “that a particular situation may be likely to result in breakdown of law and order.”
Ikeji was asked to clarify the key elements that the Police would need to identify for it to conclude that a situation may result in breakdown of law and order, he referred to antecedents as the key elements that the Police would need to consider. These include the volatility of the polity and the environment, the parties involved, and the prevailing security situation.
Ikechukwu made this assertion on Channels Television’s daily breakfast programme, ‘Sunrise Daily’.
He insisted that it would be left for the court to decide who was right or wrong in the Rivers State crisis.
Watch this video for more of Ikechukwu Ikeji’s arguments.
A Legal Practitioner, Emeka Onohwakpor, has advised members of the Save Rivers Movement who had their rally disorganised following a police raid, to sue the Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Joseph Mbu, for ordering the attack.
According to him, the Police Force as well as the Rivers State Commissioner of Police himself can be sued for disrupting the Save Rivers Movement Rally, an act which analysts said was ‘unconstitutional.’
Mr Mbu had told Channels Television that the organisers of the rally failed to obtain permission from him before going ahead with their rally which he claimed was political.
However, Onohwakpor said that Mr Mbu’s actions were against the law and “If it’s outside his purview as a Police man, sue him in his name.” The Police Commissioner’s reason for ordering the raid was wrong and he was acting beyond his purview. “I watched the Commissioner of Police arrogating to himself powers he doesn’t have.”
He further stated that the “Constitution as well as the Police Act did not envisage that powers to grant permission to persons interested in conducting rallies would be granted to the Police” because there are forms for different activities involving the Police including application for bail or exhibits but “the Police has no form for permission for rally.”
“It’s not something that was envisaged to be part of their jobs,” he added.
Speaking further on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, ‘Sunrise Daily’, he disclosed that there are several cases in court against the Force, as well as the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, and that judgment had been pronounced on some of the cases.
The disruption of the rally was an ‘unnecessary reaction from the Police because people have a right to gather and as long as they have not started constituting themselves in a breach of public peace, they should not have been attacked.”
He added that the action of the Rivers State Police Command, led by Joseph Mbu, whose integrity has been questioned by critics and analysts, attempted to label the organisers and the rally a ‘threat’ even though the right to assemble is an ‘overflogged fact’.
He maintained that the participants of the rally should not have been attacked with the use of teargas and rubber bullets but should have been advised to disperse on the condition that the rally had become volatile.
According to Mr Onohwakpor, the only reasonable solution to the problem is the court, because “If you don’t take these people to court, they will use self-help and you cannot even match them. Your last bet is to go to court.”
He also wondered why the affected individuals are yet to proceed on a legal battle. “Why the people of Rivers State are afraid of going to court, I don’t know,” he said.
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.
The Police in Rivers State at about 5.30am on Sunday morning stormed the Rivers State College of Arts and Science in Rumuola, venue of the proposed Save Rivers Movement (rally) scheduled to hold at 1Pm.
The Ikwere Road DPO stormed the venue and dismantled all the canopies and stage for the event, scaring off the youths who were helping in getting things ready for the rally.
Channels Television’s crew were not spared as some persons believed to be members of the Grassroots Development Initiative attacked some of our staff, seized their iPads, threatened to stab them with knives if they tried to run.
Pictures and videos were deleted from their iPads and cameras before setting them free.
Tear gas was shot at our crew as well as passersby who were on their way to church.
Here are some of the visuals of the police presence at the venue.