Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State has lamented the rising level of violence in the state following the violent disruption of a rally organized by the Save Rivers Movement (SRM) at the All Saints’ Anglican Church, Bori, for the second consecutive Sunday by suspected militants.
The daring militants, who reportedly staged their attacks in three phases beginning from 4am on Sunday, vandalized vehicles belonging to individuals and the state government even as Channels Television, which was billed to transmit the rally live, had its Mercedes Benz Outside Broadcasting (OB) van (Lagos FST 928 BX) and a Toyota Hiace bus, with registration number: Lagos: AGL 250 AP and equipment damaged in the ensuing violence.
Reacting to the attack on SRM members and invitees to the rally, Amaechi, who is also Chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) described President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration as worse than the late dictator Gen. Sani Abacha’s regime. He also accused the commissioner of police, Rivers State Command, Mr Joseph Mbu, of being aware of the plan to use armed youths to disrupt the rally at Bori.
“When they say President Obasanjo (Olusegun) is lying about snipers and 1000 names, they say Nigeria Police have no rubber bullets. From where did the rubber bullets come? Is it one of the snipers that shot at Magnus (Abe)? Could it be that they were aiming it at me? For the first time, I will want to expose myself. I will be there (Bori’s rally). I will be there on Saturday; let them come and shoot.
“There is serious danger for democracy. What you are seeing here (in Rivers State) is close to what Abacha was doing. This is an Abacha government. Tell me the difference. Lives were being lost, people were being shot. Journalists were being arrested. This is worse, because even governors were not arrested under Abacha, but as a governor, hmmm!” he retorted.
Accusing the commissioner of police of complicity in the reign of violence in the state, Amaechi said: “We heard Mbu called a meeting at the Police Officers’ Mess and declared war against the Rivers State government and Rivers people. He is determined to ensure that they are not protected and warned them in advance not to protect anybody at the rally. The interpretation of that means that he knew that there was going to be an attack and he must have been part of the process of the attack.
“If he did not, then, when the people started shooting from 4am, what did the police do? It shows how desperate the federal government is to win 2015 election. As the governor of Rivers State, if you heard gunshot from 4 am, we would seek protection from that 4am; we would go and look for those who are shooting from 4am to 6am are; then they attacked press men and the commissioner of police did not care, did not respond.
“They attack citizens — I hear two persons are lying critically ill in the hospital, which I have to visit them in Bori, and I have told them, even if I have to come they should transfer them to Port Harcourt so that we will make sure they do not die. So, they want to win presidential election and governorship election at the cost of human lives; they don’t care”.
He called on President Jonathan to differentiate between his position as the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the leader of the Peoples Democratic Party, as he owes the people of Rivers State the responsibility to protect their lives.
Amaechi said: “One responsibility government has, and that is the oath of office you take, is to protect lives and property. There is no oath of office that says I must provide water, light. What the oath of office says is that I must protect lives and property, and as the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan owes Rivers people the responsibility of protecting their lives, and their lives are not being protected because he sent a police commissioner through the wife (Dame Patience Jonathan), who is here (in Rivers State) to pursue an election that is one year away. It is ridiculous.
“There is a difference between President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the leader of the PDP. The reason for electing him (President Jonathan) is to protect me. He wants to win Rivers State at all costs, even if all the human beings die”.
The NGF chairman pointed out that the rampaging militants would have killed the journalists, who covered the rally, but they managed to escape the gunshots.
Amaechi said: “Is President (Jonathan) saying he has lost control of Mbu? He cannot remove Mbu. He cannot tell Mbu what to do or is it that Mr. President has directed Mbu to kill me and kill others?
“Who do you turn to? When the people you ought to turn to (policemen) are the people shooting you. Just one week ago, Senator Magnus Abe was shot by the police and he is in a hospital (in London). He is not in a Nigerian hospital, that they will say they went and arrange. He is in a hospital with heart condition, caused by Mbu and the President (Jonathan) is quiet.
“You will ask yourself, what is going on? Don’t I have opponents? Am I not able to provide for them, the services I ought to provide for them? Let the President take charge. I do not know of alternative security arrangement, but I will be there on Saturday (rescheduled SRM’s rally at Bori). I am going there for a rally on Saturday.
“Mbu is pretending to be relating well with me or has cordial relationship with me. From the first day Mbu stepped into this place (Rivers State), he arrested the orderly of the SSG (George Feyii) and detained him. From the Port Harcourt International Airport, as he arrived. He had not got into town. Is that cordial relationship?
“Mbu met with me and I told him that the rumour all over town was that he was posted to Rivers State by the wife of the President to come and protect her interest and her political ambition. He said ‘no’, that he was in Rivers State to work with me and I said we would see. From the day Mbu stepped into Rivers State, he has neither rested nor slept.
“SRM not only applied for police protection. They applied; even the last one, but the police commissioner (Mbu) refused to grant the permission, that he is now ready for war. Not only did they apply, but the law does not say that they must apply. The law does not give the Commissioner of Police the power to deny them. It gives the power to the governor.
“Commissioner of Police does not even have the power to approve. The governor must approve, except the governor delegates that function to the Commissioner of Police. When the Commissioner of Police denies you that approval, you have the right to appeal to the governor. Which law is Mbu talking about? I am not aware that there is any request by the GDI before the governor that they want to hold a rally; if they are going by the law. Even at that, the law has been set aside by a court of competent jurisdiction.
“There is a police command in Bori. If they were not aware there was a rally, at least they heard sounds of gun, from 4 am, to the risk of your lives. Suppose you had died, what will Mbu say? We speak because we are involved. Compare what is going on now with what was happening under Abacha’s regime”.
The governor pleaded with Rivers people and his teeming supporters to remain calm and law abiding, in the face of intimidation and lawlessness, adding that the truth would prevail.