From CHRIS ANUCHA, Port Harcourt
Rivers State Police Commissioner, Mr. Tunde Ogunsakin, has banned what he called unauthorised gathering and political activities in the state.
The police boss, in a statement signed by him and issued yesterday, said the ban was as a result of security and the political situation in the state.
He said: “On the assessment of security situations in the state, it has become necessary to re-enforce the ban on political rallies. As the chief law enforcement officer in Rivers State, I have a responsibility to ensure that all gatherings for whatever reason, whether politically-motivated or otherwise, are carried out within the ambits of the law and in a way that there will not be any break down of law and order in the state.
“It is also imperative to re-iterate for the umpteenth time, that political rallies remain banned in all parts of the country, in compliance with Section 99 (1) of the Electoral Act which states as follows:
“For the purpose of this Electoral Act, the period of campaigning in public by every political party shall commence 90 days before polling day and end 24 hours prior to that day.”
Ogunsakin advised persons, political associations or groups intending to hold any gathering to give the police five days notice to enable the force provide adequate security and protection.
“It is important to emphasise that the duty to provide adequate security is imposed on me by Section 94 (1) of the Electoral Act which states as follows: For the purpose of the proper and peaceful conduct of political rallies and processions, the Commissioner of Police in each state of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, shall provide adequate security for processions at political rallies in the states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.”
He stated the need to obtain security clearance from his office before any political rally could hold. The need for security clearance has become inevitable in order to prevent a seeming plot unveiled by intelligence reports by a group aimed at disrupting the meetings of a rival group, in order to cause serious crisis in the state.
“Henceforth, any group, persons or political parties of whatever persuasion, that flouts this directive to embark on demonstrations or processions, without security clearance will be removed from the road,” he said.
He added: “Consequently, security clearance will only be given after the police have conducted a security analysis and evaluation of the security situation and intelligence at its disposal.
“It is after we have given security clearance that the police can put in place, adequate security mechanisms to prevent any form of breakdown of law and order. This is further meant to ensure that law and order are maintained in Rivers State for the interest of all.’’
The police boss stated: “I will be consulting shortly with the heads of all the political parties and groups in the state. This is to enable us evaluate the situation on ground and see if there are grey areas that we can brainstorm over with a view to arriving at a common ground in the interest of all.”
The decision to ban political rallies may not be unconnected with the developments in the last three days, as a result of the appointment of the Chief Judge of the state.
Supporters of Governor Rotimi Amaechi had on Wednesday, June 11, staged a protest against the directive by the National Judicial Council that Justice Daisy Okocha play the role of Administrative Judge of the state.
The following day, Supervising Minister of Education, Nyesom Wike’s group also staged what it called pro-Daisy Okocha protest, supporting the directive by the NJC.
It would also be recalled that at the peak of the Rivers State crisis, the controversial former state Police commissioner, Mr. Mbu Joseph Mbu, banned political rallies, gatherings and protests. The ban, which many believed was one-sided, attracted cricisms from lawyers, human rights groups, among others.