The violence that erupted last Sunday in Port Harcourt, Rivers State following the shooting of Senator Magnus Abe, spread to his constituency in the Ogoni part of the state, yesterday morning. His kinsmen took to the streets, damaging vehicles and disrupting traffic. Senator Abe, was on Sunday, wounded by alleged rubber bullet the state government said was fired by members of the Nigeria Police, who had gone to disperse supporters of Governor Rotimi Amaechi in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of the state from holding a rally.
The protesters made of youths, claimed that the shooting of senator Abe was an attempt to stop the Ogoni people from producing a governor for the state in 2015.
Meanwhile, Senator Abe has arrived in London for further treatment. His Media aide, Mr Honour Sirawoo told Vanguard that what he could say was that Senator Abe arrived London safely, and had been admitted in a hospital.
Also, the Senate, yesterday, directed the Inspector-General of Police, Mr Mohammed Abubakar to investigate the attack on Senator Abe, representing Rivers South East.
Similarly, the Save Rivers Movement, has accused the police of telling lies against it, insisting that it notified the Police of the rally in a letter dated January 7, adding that the Police duly acknowledged receipt of the said letter.
Protesters warn against threat to Abe’s life
The protesters made up of Ogoni youths, in Eleme, Port Harcourt suburb, gathered under the aegis of Ogoni Youth Council, yesterday, blocked Elelenwo Junction, the Petrochemical and Refinery axis of the East West Road in protest over the shooting of Sen. Abe.
A contract staff of Eleme Petrochemicals, resident in neighbouring Akpajo, said: “ The youths gathered as early as 5am. I thought their intention was to take over the East West Road and walk to the heart of Port Harcourt, to register their anger over the threat to the Senator’s life.
One of the cars damaged in Rivers, yesterday. Photo: Jimitota Onoyume.
One of the cars damaged in Rivers, yesterday. Photo: Jimitota Onoyume.
“Somehow, their kinsmen in Akpajo blocked them at the Slaughter Bridge, insisting that the protest must not get to their community. In anger, they went on rampage and a lot of motorists were caught in the unrest and had their vehicles damaged before the police came to disperse them.”
Mr Friday Needam, who spoke on the protest, said: “We want people to pray that nothing happens to Abe because Ogoni people will no longer allow any Ogoni man slaughtered like Saro-Wiwa and others killed by Federal Government and their agents.”
Another protester, Joseph Barinedam, said that the Police arrested about eight of the protesters and many got injured while running for safety.
“They should be ready to shoot us the way they did to Senator Abe if anything happens to him (Abe),” he added.
A youth leader in the area, who spoke to Vanguard, Mr Isaac Obe, said thousands of women in several communities in Ogoni were pained by the alleged shooting of Senator Abe by the Police. “Our people came out to protest to the world against what happened to Senator Abe. We lost Ken Saro-wiwa to the Federal Government, we do not want to lose another son,” he said.
Protest turns violent
The peaceful protest later became violent when Police mobilised to clear the protesters from the road. Some of the youths, who resisted the action of the police hurled stones and other objects at the policemen as they fled. Windscreens of vehicles caught in between the Police and the youths were smashed.
When contacted for comment, the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Mr Ahmad Muhammad, who spokefrom Abuja, said he was at the airport on his way to Abuja when he got a call that some miscreants were smashing vehicles on the road in the name of protesting. He blamed miscreants among the protesters for the damage done to vehicles.
According to him, the Police only moved in to clear the road for road users.
Although the state Police command had denied allegation of firing any rubber bullet to disperse the rally, Governor Rotimi Amaechi’s aides accused the police of being responsible for the alleged shooting of Abe.
The Police had claimed that the pro-Amaechi group did not apply for approval before embarking on the rally, hence, it had to disperse them with tear gas.
Senate seeks probe
But worried by the crises that had gripped the state, the leadership of Senate, yesterday, ordered the IG to immediately arrest the situation and bring to book those behind the violence.
Chairman, Senate Committee on Information, Media and Public Affairs, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, in a statement in Abuja, said that the Senate was disturbed that what should have been a peaceful gathering turned violent, resulting to injuries.
The Senate said it associated itself with the admonition of President Goodluck Jonathan on his pronouncements to mark the armed forces remembrance day, where he warned that no Nigerian blood was worth spilling in the name of politics.
“Consequently, the Senate urges the Inspector General of Police to investigate the latest incident and ensure that it never recurs. In the same vein, the Senate advises politicians and their supporters to exercise greater restraint and avoid acts that will not only overheat the system but also harm the country’s democracy.”
Save Rivers Movement, SRM, the group behind the Sunday rally where Senator Magnus Abe, was allegedly shot by the Police has dismissed as untrue allegations by the Police that it did not notify the Police of the rally. Chairman of the group, Mr Wolu Charles, who spoke yesterday, said they notified the Police of the rally in a letter dated January 7, adding that the Police duly acknowledged receipt of the said letter.
“I want to debunk the statement by the Commissioner of Police that there was no communication between the Police and the Save Rivers Movement. The Police stamped our letter written on January 7, for our rally in Obio Akpor and Khana local government areas.”
He added that what made them to notify the Police of its planned event, was for them to provide security and not to secure a police permit to hold a legitimate function. According to him, Section 1 of the Public Orders Act which the Police relies on to insist on Police permit had been quashed by the Court Appeal in a well celebrated judgement, adding that it was inconsistent with the provisions of the constitution.
According to him, it had become evident that the state was clearly under siege by the Police, adding that what the Police did on Sunday was barbaric and an attempt to replace democracy with autocracy.
According to him, five members of the forum were missing as a result of the action of the Police on Sunday.
Asked for the names of the members, he said they would still conceal them from the press in the meantime.
Our members missing — SRM
“Some of our members are still missing as a result of the rascality of the Police. We want to state without fear that the SRM shall be available to defend the Rivers man”.
Also counsel to the group, Mr Ken Atswuete, condemned the action of the Police on Sunday. He said that the Police infringed on the freedom of movements of residents of the area that Sunday, when it barricaded the Rumuola Road, Port Harcourt.
He condemned the alleged attack on Senator Abe, accusing the Police of gross abuse of federal might.
Abe arrives London hospital
Meanwhile, Senator Abe, has arrived in London for further treatment. Media aide to the Senator, Mr Honour Sirawoo, told Vanguard that what he could say was that Senator Abe arrived London safely, adding that he had been admitted in a hospital.
Also, a civil society leader, Mr Celestine Akpobari, has portrayed Sunday’s alleged shooting of Senator representing Rivers South East District, Magnus Abe, as a conspiracy to deny Ogonis of Rivers State, the chance to produce the next governor of the state.
Akpobari, Coordinator of the Ogoni Solidarity Forum, spoke in Port Harcourt, yesterday, as mixed reactions continue to trail intrigues over police decision to disperse the crowd at the Rivers State College of Arts and Science, where the Save Rivers Movement was billed to stage a rally.
“Out of thousands of people who were at the venue of the planned rally, why should the Police single out Sen. Abe to
manhandle? I see this as another grand plan to deny the Ogoni their genuine demand for the 2015 governorship.
“This incident is a manifestation of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s fear that the government of President Goodluck Jonathan was training 1,000 snipers outside the country for political reasons.
“What the Police did on Sunday was a clear prelude to what we should expect in 2015. As we progress in the year, we are likely to see more acrimony. My prayer is that politicians in this country should tread with caution in the interest of the common masses.”
Livingston Wuchie, Spokesperson for Rivers State chapter of the Civil liberty Organisation, CLO, however, doubted if Senator Abe was shot by the Police.
“Let them show proof and then drag the police to court the moment the truth is established that he was actually shot. Every Nigerian should be given the equal treatment no matter the person’s social standing.
“People are crying today because it is senator Abe. What would have happened if it was an ordinary Nigerian? If Abe was not shot as they claim, then his party, APC will now have a credibility problem,” Wechie said.