THE political crisis in Rivers State took a new turn on Monday as two High Court Divisions in Ahoada East and Okehi in Etche Local Government Areas were hit by bomb explosion and fire respectively.
The two incidents are coming on the heels of a similar explosion that occurred at the premises of the Ahoada High Court under Justice Charles Wali on December18, 2013.
In Ahoada, eyewitnesses said the impact of the explosion, which occurred at about 2am on Monday, destroyed the office of the Nigerian Bar Association with in the court complex.
The Ahoada High Court was expected to hear arguments on the vacation of an order restraining a member of the state House of Assembly, Mr. Evan Bipi, from parading himself as the Speaker of the Assembly.
Sources said the court registrar had noticed two strange objects when he resumed duty at about 8am and alerted the police.
“One of the bombs exploded near the Nigerian Bar Association block before the anti bomb squad arrived the scene around noon. The building was badly damaged,” an eyewitness added.
There were suspicions on Monday that the explosion and fire outbreak might not be unconnected with the involvement of the two courts in handling matters relating to the political crisis rocking the state.
It was learnt that an anti-bomb squad had stormed the premises of the High Court, defused and evacuated two explosives.
The state Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Ahmad Mohammad, said the command received a report of an explosive that was sighted at the premises of the Ahaoda High Court.
Mohammad said, “We received a report that an object suspected to be an explosive was sighted at the premises of the High Court in Ahoada. Our team of anti-bomb squad was dispatched to make it safe.
“Their findings reveal, through its technical operation, one unexploded improvised explosive device was recovered and rendered safe while traces of an unexploded IED were identified.
“At the end of the operation, it was established that two IEDs were thrown into the premises from outside. The two were initiated, but one went off while the other failed to go off due to technical error.
“The exploded IED caused minor damage to the court building. Neither injury nor death was recorded. Considering the strength of the materials used in making the devices, the devices are very weak and cannot cause severe harm, but will make noise and not pull down the building or cause death.”
On the fire incident at Okehi High Court, the state police spokesman said, “It was a mere fire incident.”
He, however, said that investigation into the incident had commenced with a view to apprehend the perpetrators of the crime.
Meanwhile, the Rivers State Government has accused supporters of the Minister of Education, Chief Nyesom Wike; and the leader of the anti-Rotimi Amaechi lawmakers, Mr. Evans Bipi, of being responsible for the explosion in Ahoada High Court and the fire incident in Okehi High Court.
The State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, specifically accused the Grassroots Development Initiative, a political platform sponsored by the minister of bombing the court.
Semenitari said, “The bombing and arson look like the handiwork of people who are close to the Supervising Minister of Education, Nyesom Wike, and the member of the House of Assembly representing Ogu/Bolo Constituency, Mr. Evans Bipi.
“Members of the GDI and the Peoples Democratic Party as it is currently constituted are those likely to be behind this sort of violence.
“You will recall that there was an explosion at the Office of the State Deputy Governor, Engineer Tele Ikuru, towards the end of the year. You know also that there was an explosion at Abonema Wharf last year.”
The commissioner, who spoke with newsmen, declared that her life and those of her colleagues were in danger as a result of the violence in the state and the bias shown by the State Police Commissioner, Mr. Joseph Mbu.
Reacting, Bipi described the Rivers State Government’s claim as false and explained that he was not in the state when the two incidents happened.
Bipi, who spoke through his Media Assistant, Mr. Friday Itoho, expressed surprise that the bombing of a court could be linked to him.
Itoho said, “The claim that he (Bipi) is one of those responsible for the bombing of the Ahoada High Court is false. He was not in the state as at the time the two incidents happened.
“Honourable Bipi is a gentleman that will never be involved in such an act. I am surprised that somebody could accuse him of being responsible for the bombing of a High Court.”
by Chukwudi Akasike