Pro-police protests rock Rivers councils’ secretariats

…We came out to defend democracy, rule of law – chairmen

From TONY JOHN, Port Harcourt

Peaceful protests to support the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) by the 21 local government chairmen, who are holding tight to tenure elongation and their supporters have rocked the 23 councils’ secretariats in Rivers State.

The chairmen contesting tenure elongation and their loyalists stormed their various secretariats in solidarity with the ongoing barricades of the secretariats pending the decision of the Court of Appeal on Speaker Martins Amaewhule-led House of Assembly.

In Ikwerre Local Government Area, Samuel Nwanosike, who led the protesters to the point of Police barricade and described himself as the duly elected chairman of the council, told the Police Area Commander of Ikwerre LGA that they would never disobey the Police.

Nwanosike led hundreds of others comprising of men, women and youths, said they only decided to embark on the peaceful demonstration following information that some labour leaders had mobilised to harass the Police out of the council.

He explained that the failure of the state governor to conduct elections in the LGAs compelled the Martin Amaewhule-led House of Assembly to amend the law granting six-month tenure extension to the councils’ chairmen.

He said: “I am still serving this council. Today, I have five months and 25 days remaining in office by the laws made by Martin Amaewhule-led House of Assembly.

“We got credible information that those, who are members of the caretaker committees in the name of civil servants and who want to be judges in their own matters, had gone to connive with hoodlums to come and intimidate and harass the Police to leave the council.

“Nothing on earth will make us break the laws of Nigeria and nothing on earth will make us disobey your orders. We have been patient with the Nigeria Police; even when it hurts us, we still understand that the Constitution is the grand norm and the judiciary is the last hope of the common man.

“If the judiciary had said all parties should maintain the status quo, we don’t think it will be reasonable for NULGE to come and disobey the order of the Inspector-General of Police and the state Commissioner of Police.

“We are not here to foment trouble. But, if they want to take their luck too far, we are here to state that we own this council. I and this men and women here laboured and inconvenienced ourselves to rebuild this council from scratch when these hoodlums struggling to enter this council embezzled all that was available to them and refused to work for this council.

“Today, the council is a beautiful edifice, an envy of all and everybody is doing everything to come and occupy it. It is a good thing but what we are saying is we didn’t create the lacuna that is happening today.

“Our governor refused to conduct elections as provided by law and you know in governance there is no vacuum. We are here to state that as long those miscreants don’t come here we will continue to stand by the side eat and drink.”

The Area Commander commended them for their peaceful conduct.

In Obio-Akpor, Mr. George Ariolu, who said he remains the authentic chairman pending the decision of the court on tenure elongation, led residents of the council to the Police barricades.

He said they were out to defend democracy and the rule of law against the forces plotting to force the Police to vacate the councils to perpetrate violence.

He said: “We are democrats and we must defend this democracy. The beauty of democracy is the rule of law. That is what we stand to defend. We are not going to relent from doing this.

“The Police are here to maintain law and order. Their constitutional duty is to protect lives and properties, so when we heard that some people wanted to come and cause mayhem, we decided to say we won’t stand, fold our arms and see it happen.

“It took us a lot to keep the secretariat the way it is today and we won’t allow anybody to come and destroy it. We are here to support what the Police are doing.

“The Police will not allow them to enter. If they do, we will also get into the councils and what they want to avoid will happen and it will not be in the interest of anybody.

“The matters are already in court. Why the desperation? Why not wait until the court of competent jurisdiction takes its position? Why are you taking actions that will likely destroy lives and properties?

“We are saying no to that. We are in support of the Police. This is why we are patiently waiting for the outcome of the decision of the Appeal Court. If we had not raised the alarm, the labour leaders would have carried out their planned actions today.

“It was our alarm that made the police to issue a statement to stop them from coming. We will continue to come out here to defend democracy and the rule of law.

Hundreds of pro-police protesters also marched to the Port Harcourt City Local Government secretariat along Bank Road and commended the Police for professionally remaining neutral in discharging their responsibilities of maintaining law and order in the state.

They insisted that the action of the Police was for the overall interests of Rivers people, saying it had forestalled breakout of violence in the 23 local government areas.

One of the conveners, who identified himself as Kingsley Ohunda said: “We are Rivers people and as you can see, this is a harmless and an unarmed protest.

“The Police have asked everybody to steer clear of the council premises. We got information that there are people who are trying to protest and ask the Police to leave the gate, but we are saying no.

“The matter before the court is going to be decided soon. When that matter is decided, whoever is supposed to be in the council, should go to the council.

“So what we are saying is that the police should remain and maintain peace and order. As you can see, we are peaceful and law abiding. What we are doing is to ensure that democracy survives in Rivers.

Ohunda urged the Police to keep their words and ensure no one was granted an access to the council premises pending the decision of the court.

“If not, we are also going to gain entrance there and you know that it won’t be nice for all of us.”‘

Another protester, commiserated with the police over the killing of their personnel in the wake of the transition crisis appealing that such should no longer occur in the state.

Another lady identified as Mrs Rose Wori, reiterated the call for the police to remain at the council premises pending the court’s ruling on the matter.

She said: “We are here to make peace and order, we want peace in our state, we want peace in our LGAs. We the women of Rivers State have come to tell the police to stay until court decides what happens next”.

In Buguma, the Asari-Toru LGA, Onengiyeofori George, who continued to lay claims to tenure elongation, alongside his supporters, marched through the streets of the town as they sang songs in solidarity with the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Nyesom Wike.

 

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