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Rivers: Protesters declare support for Police barricade at Secretariats

Protesters in support of the police siege across Local Government Secretariats in Rivers State trooped to the streets on Monday. Local government chairmen whose tenures…

Protesters in support of the police siege across Local Government Secretariats in Rivers State trooped to the streets on Monday.

Local government chairmen whose tenures elapsed last week and their loyalists stormed various secretariats in solidarity with the ongoing police action.

Following the violence which erupted at secretariats in the state last week, police officers were deployed across the state.

Inspector-General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, had said the officers would remain there until the court rules on Rivers LG crisis.

In Ikwerre Local Government Area, Dr. Samuel Nwanosike, who led the protesters to the point of police barricade, described himself as the properly elected chairman of the council.

He told the Police Area Commander of Ikwerre LGA that they would never disobey the police.

Nwanosike, who led hundreds of others comprising men, women and youths said they only decided to embark on the peaceful demonstration following information that some labour leaders had mobilised to harass the police out of the council.

He explained that the failure of the state governor to conduct elections in the LGAs compelled the Martins Amaewhule-led House of Assembly to amend the law granting six-month tenure extension to the councils’ chairmen.

He said: “I am still serving this council. Today I have five months and 25 days remaining in office by the laws made by Martins Amaewhule-led House of Assembly.

“We got credible information that those, who are members of the caretaker committees in the name of civil servants and who want to be judges in their own matters, had gone to connive with hoodlums to come and intimidate and harass the police to leave the council.

“Nothing on earth will make us break the laws of Nigeria and nothing on earth will make us disobey your orders. We have been patient with the Nigerian police even when it hurts us we still understand that the Constitution is the grund norm and the judiciary is the last hope of the common man.

“If the judiciary had said all parties should maintain the status quo, we don’t think it will be reasonable for NULGE to come and disobey the order of the Inspector-General of Police and the state Commissioner of Police.”

The Area Commander commended them for their peaceful conduct.

In Obio-Akpor, Mr. George Ariolu, who said he remained the authentic chairman pending the decision of the court on tenure elongation, led residents of the council to the police barricade.

He said they were out to defend democracy and the rule of law against the forces plotting to force the police to vacate the councils to perpetrate violence.

He said: “We are democrats and we must defend this democracy. The beauty of democracy is the rule of law. That is what we stand to defend. We are not going to relent from doing this.

“The police are here to maintain law and order. Their constitutional duty is to protect lives and properties, so when we heard that some people wanted to come and cause mayhem, we decided to say we won’t stand, fold our arms and see it happen.

“It took us a lot to keep the secretariat the way it is today and we won’t allow anybody to come and destroy it. We are here to support what the police are doing. The police will not allow them to enter. If they do, we will also get into the councils and what they want to avoid will happen and it will not be in the interest of anybody.

“The matters are already in court. Why the desperation? Why not wait until the court of competent jurisdiction takes its position? Why are you taking actions that will likely destroy lives and properties?

“We are saying no to that. We are in support of the police. This is why we are patiently waiting for the outcome of the decision of the appeal court. If we had not raised the alarm, the labour leaders would have carried out their planned actions today.

“It was our alarm that made the police to issue a statement to stop them from coming. We will continue to come out here to defend democracy and the rule of law.”

Hundreds of protesters also marched to the Port Harcourt City Local Government secretariat along Bank Road and commended the police for professionally remaining neutral in discharging their responsibilities of maintaining law and order in the state.

They insisted that the action of the police was for the overall interests of Rivers saying it had forestalled breakout of violence in the 23 local government areas.

One of the conveners, who identified himself as Kingsley Ohunda said: “We are Rivers people and as you can see this a harmless and an armless protest.

In Buguma, the Asari-Toru LGA, Onengiyeofori George, who continued to lay claims to tenure elongation, alongside his supporters marched through the streets of the town as they sang songs in solidarity with the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Nyesom Wike.

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