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 Ogoni youths yesterday took to the streets in protest against the shooting of their kinsman Senator Magnus Abe, who was allegedly shot by policemen.
The angry youths damaged vehicles and disrupted traffic as they made their displeasure over turn of events in the state known.
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 up of Ogoni youths, in Eleme, Port Harcourt suburb, 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 Senator Abe arrived London safely, and had been admitted in a hospital, declining to give further information.
The protesters 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.
“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 to be 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.
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.
The state Police command had denied allegation of firing any rubber bullet to disperse the rally, as accused by Governor Rotimi Amaechi’s aides.
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.
However, 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.
He said further that 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.
“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”.
As the crisis in the state deepens, the leadership of Senate, worried by the recent happenings, 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,” Abaribe said.