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Rivers crisis: Protesting women storm Govt House, Port Harcourt

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Women from the 23 Local Government Areas of Rivers State yesterday staged a peaceful protest at the Government House, Port Harcourt, calling for the immediate removal of the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Mbu Joseph Mbu. The protesters, who started arriving in the Garden City as early as 6 a.m,  gathered at the Civic Centre, where they held a prayer session to ask  God to intervene in the state’s crisis, before marching to the Government House. At the gate to the Government House, the women, who carried placards, started rendering religious songs.

Some of the songs were: “We have no power of our own, Holy Spirit, we depend on you, help us, we have no power of our own”. “We heard about you (referring to Governor Amaechi’s travails), that is why we are here.” Some of the placards displayed by the protesting women had inscriptions like, “CP Mbu must go, “Police is partial,” CP Mbu, anti-democracy, “CP Mbu, give peace a chance”, “CP Mbu, no be our friend,”  “Mbu leave us in peace, Mbu Joseph,” among others.

The women said they were protesting Mbu’s role in the political crisis rocking the state. They called on the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr. Mohammed Abubakar, to transfer the police boss. According to them, the political crisis in the state had degenerated since Mbu took over from the former police commissioner, Indabawa. One of the women leaders, Princess Urey Ejims, Said: “There has been no peace since Mbu came to the state.”

She also recalled the state of insecurity in Rivers, before Amaechi became the governor. “We were not sleeping with our two eyes closed. God used Amaechi to restore peace to the state but since Mbu came, there is no peace. He should resign,” she said. Another women leader, Chief (Mrs.) Goodness Okwu, said the role of the commissioner in the crisis was worsening the situation. She also recalled how people were ordered to raise their hands as they moved from one point to the other, in the days of militancy, adding that it was Amaechi who brought it to an end.

While begging God to restore peace in the state, Mrs. Okwu  also urged the authorities to remove the CP. She said the governor had achieved a lot in the areas of education, health, infrastructural development, among others. She alleged that the CP was posted to the state to execute the political interest of some people, at the expense of majority of Rivers people. Responding, the Deputy Governor, Tele Ikuru, who addressed the women, commended them for conducting themselves peacefully and seeking the face of God  in  resolving  the political crisis in the state. The deputy governor described women as architect of peace, adding, “when women stand up to ask for peace, everybody must succumb.

He said prayers had become necessary in the state, especially, during this time he described as, “challenging and difficult time.” He said he would convey their message to the governor and urged them to always be peaceful while demanding for their rights. Reacting to the protest, state Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Felix Obuah, accused Speaker Otelemaba Dan Amachree of heating the polity.  He urged politicians to leave police out of politics. He said the Speaker was asking for the removal of the CP for refusing to do his bidding. He also called on IGP Abubakar to ignore the call to remove the CP. Obuah reiterated his ealier statement that there was no plan to impeach Governor Chibuike Amaechi.

”I challenge the Speaker, let him bring the proof that we are planning to impeach Amaechi,” he said Meanwhile, the police have filed an application  at the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, seeking a stay of execution of  last Monday’s High Court ruling which ordered the force to withdraw officers and men, from the premises of Obio/Akpor Local Government Area. The defendants in the matter; the Attorney-General of the Federation, IGP, the Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Zone 6, Calabar, Commissioner of Police, Rivers, Divisional Police Officer in charge of Rumuokoro, police division, had appealed against the ruling/decision of Justice H.A. Nganjiwa. The judge had on May 13, 2013, ordered the police to withdraw their personnel from  the council’s premises.

In the suit, the appelants said that the grounds of appeal involve questions of law, including issues of fair hearing, which borders on the jurisdiction of the court. However, the state police command has withdrawn its men from the council’s secretariat. The action took place few hours after the peaceful protest by some Rivers women, asking for redeployment of CP Mbu.

The vacation of the LGA headquarters, Daily Sun gathered, was not unconnected with last Monday’s order.  About 12 patrol vehicles were seen  in the area, the highest since  the occupation of LGA secretariat on  May 3, 2013, by the police. And later in the afternoon, the vehicles, including the officers, started leaving. Justice Nganjiwa had ruled that police should vacate the secretariat, but to provide minimal security for workers, pending the determination of the case.

Justice Nganjiwa described the barricade as using a sledge hammer to kill a fly, adding that the order would enable the caretaker committee (plaintiffs) to do its job and pay workers their salaries. He said  that people  transacting genuine businesses  in the area should be allowed access to the  council, pointing out that by sealing it off  had caused untold hardship to workers and their dependants.

The new state Police Public Relations Officer, Mrs. Angela Agabe, a Deputy Superintendent, confirmed the withdrawal of policemen from the secretariat. Recall that policemen stormed the Obio/Akpor Local Government Secretariat on May 3, and chased   away the caretaker committee Chairman, Mr  Chikodi, Dike and members of his seven-man committee, and staff of the council. Police had claimed they were there, after they received information that some thugs were planning to bomb the secretariat.

The caretaker committee was set up by the governor after the pro-Amaechi lawmakers suspended the council chairman, Mr. Timothy Nsirim, his Vice, Solomon Eke, and 17 councillors, over allegation of misappropriation of funds. Meanwhile, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has criticized the state government over what it called, wastage of taxpayers’ money on sponsored solidarity visits by the government.

The state chapter was reacting to yesterday’s peaceful protest at the Government House by women. The party’s spokesman, Mr. Jerry Needam, alleged that each of the women was given N10,000. He said the  women, who were calling for the removal of the commissioner of police were doing so out of ignorance. He, urged the new police chief to ignore the protesting women.


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