Wednesday, 17 July 2013 15:02

Anti-Amaechi Protesters Pelt Northern Govs with Stones

Written by Ernest Chinwo, Chuks Okocha and Mohammed Bello - THISDAY
Amaechi and Northern governors Amaechi and Northern governors photo: Thisday

•Govs threaten to stop funding police, seek removal of Rivers CP

•Atiku, lawmaker, commissioner flay attack


Anti-Amaechi protesters stormed the Port Harcourt International Airport  Tuesday as four northern governors arrived Rivers State on a solidarity visit to the state’s embattled governor, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi.


THISDAY gathered that the governors: Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, Alhaji Sule Lamido, Alhaji Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, and Vice Admiral Murtala Nyako (rtd) of Niger, Jigawa, Kano and Adamawa States respectively, were scheduled to take off from Abuja with Amaechi.


However, due to flight problems, Amaechi arrived Port Harcourt first. But on arrival, he met a crowd of protesters, mostly members of the Grassroots Democratic Initiative (GDI), a youth movement loyal to the Minister of State for Education, Chief Nyesom Wike, and the executive members of the state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).


The protesters were carrying placards condemning the visit of the governors, saying it was another attempt by Amaechi to fritter away the resources of the state to the north. One placard read: “Join Your APC Let the People Decide”.


As Amaechi was waiting for the other governors to arrive, the crowd milled around the gate of the VIP lounge, while some pro-Amaechi supporters also mobilised to the airport.


When Aliyu, who was the last to touch down, joined his colleagues, the governors drove in a convoy out of the airport. However, it was when the convoy, led by an armoured personnel carrier (APC) got to the gate of the VIP lounge, that the crowd of protesters left the gate.

2402N.-Babangida-Aliyu.jpg - 2402N.-Babangida-Aliyu.jpgGovernor  Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu

Some of the protesters pelted the convoy with stones, thus shattering the windscreens of some of the vehicles.


On reaching the Government House, the four governors held a closed door meeting with Amaechi at the end of which they issued a statement, saying their visit was to ascertain the things they had heard about the threats to peace, security and democracy.


The statement signed by the four visiting governors said: “We are pleased to notice the peaceful atmosphere in town and that people in the state are going about their normal businesses and that the governor and government are in charge.

“This is especially reassuring as opposed to the organised protest by a handful of persons at the Port Harcourt Airport when we arrived.”


They said after interacting with Amaechi and other persons, they were convinced that the police were partisan in their handling of the crisis in the Rivers State House of Assembly.


“Having interacted with our colleague and other persons, we are shocked at the role of the police in Rivers State and condemn its clear partisanship in the show of shame that took place at the Rivers State House of Assembly,” they said.


Although they said they were troubled by the development in Rivers State, the governors commended the House of Representatives for “its proactive leadership in the crisis” and also the Senate committee’s thoroughness in addressing the matter.


The governors called for the redeployment of the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Joseph Mbu, and threatened to stop funding the police if people like Mbu remained in the service.


The statement continued: “We wish to call on the Inspector General of Police (Mohammed Abubakar) to hearken to the voice of reason and immediately redeploy and discipline Commissioner Mbu. His actions smirk of unprofessionalism and political partisanship, which is unbecoming of his office.


“With the way the police is being used and abused, and with officers like Mbu in the force, we do not see the need for state governments to fund an antagonistic police and may be forced to reconsider our position on the financial contribution of the states towards the funding of the Nigeria Police.”


They said with the action of the police in Rivers State, it had become imperative for the call for state police in the ongoing constitutional amendment.


They added: “Events in Rivers State have again brought to the fore the question of true federalism and the need for institutions derived from constitution be allowed to function without undue interference.


“As federating units, we must be allowed the space to guarantee our people sustainable development as provided by the constitution.”


The governors called on well-meaning Nigerians to call on all political actors to diffuse the tension and stop “actions capable of overheating the polity and derailing our nascent democracy”.


Expectedly, the attack on Amaechi and his guests elicited reactions, one of which was from former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, who urged actors in the Rivers State crisis to tread with caution in their conduct to avoid endangering and derailing the country’s democratic journey.


Atiku described the escalating situation in the state as unhelpful, and advised that leaders of whatever hue be given the respect they deserve wherever they go. He reminded politicians to be mindful of “our political history” in all that they do.

He said he was still vividly reminded of the chain of political crises that had disrupted democracy in the past.


According to him, politicians should not push their luck too far by placing impunity above the constitution for selfish gains.


The former vice-president warned that this kind of political rascality should not be tolerated at the expense of governance and service delivery issues crying for attention.


Also, the federal lawmaker representing Andoni/Opobo-Nkoro Federal Constituency of Rivers State, Hon. Dakuku Peterside, described as barbaric, sadistic and dangerous the hiring of thugs and ex-militants by desperate Rivers politicians to deliberately embarrass the northern governors who were in Port Harcourt to pay solidarity visit to Amaechi.


“When did we degenerate to this Hobbesian and primitive state?” the lawmaker asked.


He warned that those fanning the embers of discord must be ready to reap the whirlwind, adding, “They should reflect on the events of the Western Region parliament in Ibadan that eventually led to the end of the First Republic and the disputed Ondo State election in 1983, and decide if this is the path they want to go.”


He expressed concern over the indifference of the police in the attack. “I wonder why the police in Rivers State under Commissioner Joseph Mbu chose to play politics with the safety and security of the people of Rivers State and tarnish the image of Rivers people.”

In her reaction, the state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, said members of GDI had mobilised hoodlums to disrupt the visit.


She alleged: “Wike had boasted after the failed impeachment attempt at the Rivers State House of Assembly that he would set Rivers State ablaze and render it ungovernable. This portends grave danger and has far-reaching implications for our fledgling democracy.”


However, in his attempt to explain away the incident at the airport, Mbu rather glibly said: “The airport is a public place and it can therefore be accessed by anybody or groups of persons.”


In the protesters’ defence, the Secretary General of GDI, Mr. Samuel Wanosike, also alleged that members of the organisation had embarked on the protest because the resources of the state were being siphoned to other states by the Amaechi administration.


“There was a peaceful protest at the airport. GDI was not the only group at the protest. There were other women and youth groups there but the GDI was more prominent.


“We are protesting because Rivers people are tired of northern governors coming to take away our resources. Our people are not happy with Amaechi,” he said.


But while the crisis festered, one of the Wike-backed lawmakers and self-acclaimed “new speaker” of the Rivers assembly, Hon. Evans Bipi Bapakaye,  Tuesday insisted that he was the de facto speaker of the state legislature and had not been impeached by his colleagues as claimed by some media organisations.


Bapakaye, who was a guest at the State House, Abuja dinner organised for delegates to the African Union Summit on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Malaria and Other Related Diseases on Monday, said a quorum was formed as over 23 lawmakers were present when he was elected.


Only five of the lawmakers believed to be in the opposition in the House supported his emergence as speaker. The constitution, however, requires two-thirds of the members of the House to remove a speaker and elect a new one.


Giving glory to God and the people of the state for the opportunity given to him to serve, Bapakaye said: “Of course, it is not contestable, I remain the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly, because I have not been impeached. A motion for impeachment was placed on the speaker and I emerged as the new speaker and I have not been impeached.


“I want to thank God Almighty for making it possible for me to serve my people once more.”


The self-acclaimed speaker also attacked Amaechi for his role in the assembly fracas, saying: “The only regrettable thing was the governor coming to the hallowed chamber to supervise the beating of my honourable colleagues.


“It is so sad. A governor of a state bringing down all the security apparatus in the Government House including his ADC (aide de camp) and CSO (chief security officer) to beat duly elected honourable members in the hallowed chamber.”

Sourec: ThisDAY
Last modified on Wednesday, 17 July 2013 15:17