The Rivers State political crisis worsened yesterday when Senator Magnus Abe representing Rivers South-East was hit by rubber bullets.
Police denied culpability. Also, the Chief of Staff, Government House, Chief Tony Okocha, was among those allegedly teargased at a rally organised by the state chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC). Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and four other Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governors defected to the opposition APC late last year.
The APC rally was held at the state’s College of Arts and Science, Rumuola Road in Obio/Akpor area.
The event, organised under the aegis of Save Rivers Movement, a mobilisation arm of the APC, was billed to start at 12 noon.
As soon as Senator Abe and Chief Okorocha arrived, over 25 Toyota Hilux vehicles carrying policemen stormed the venue at about 8.20am and allegedly started firing teargas and rubber bullets. Canopies, platform, chairs, tables, public address system and other electronic gadgets were allegedly destroyed.
Police allegedly sealed off Rumuola Road and those attending church services did so trekking there. Reporters were said to have been attacked. A claim that two children died in the melee couldn’t be verified by Daily Sun at press time.
When the “Save Rivers Movement” relocated the venue of the rally to Rumuigbo, the participants were not allowed. There is now palpable tension in Obio/Akpor and its environs. For instance, people living in the affected area and passers-by have expressed fears about their health condition, because of the inhaled teargas
When Daily Sun visited Kelsey Harrison Hospital, D-Line, where Senator Abe was rushed to, the Medical Director, Dr. Mckay Anyanwu, said the patient came in a state of shock.
He told journalists that the senator could neither drink nor eat. Anyanwu said the senator was restless because of the shock and internal bleeding he suffered after he was hit by the rubber bullets.
Anyanwu said: “He was unable to talk or eat and he was feeling restless as a result of a traumatic shock. The implication is that there is haemorrhage; this is a blood trauma, it is not a sharp one.
“So, we don’t know the layers that are affected. This can only be detected through the use of MRI. We have given the necessary resuscitative medication. He was bleeding internally (haemorrhage).
“If you check the two sides of his chest, the affected side is so enlarged, as compared to the unaffected area. My immediate concern was to revive the patient. It was later that I was being told that he was hit by a rubber bullet,” Anyanwu noted.
Senator Abe, who was said to be in critical condition, was later moved from Kelsey Harrison Hospital in Port Harcourt to the airport enroute London for further medical treatment..
Meanwhile, Chief Okocha, has condemned the attack. He accused the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Joseph Mbu, of mobilizing policemen to the venue of the Save Rivers Movement/APC rally, to disrupt it and torture Amaechi’s supporters.
He said: “The state police commissioner ordered operatives from all formations to the venue of our rally. We have written the police to inform them that we will hold a rally today. But they still came here to destroy all we have put in place for our rally,” he said.
Reacting, the police command blamed yesterday’s crisis on the state government. The command’s spokesman, Ahmad Muhammad, said the Save Rivers Movement did not apply for permit to hold the Sunday rally. He said that was the reason for dispersing the group. He also told Daily Sun it was Amaechi’s opponents that were responsible for the destruction of platforms, canopies, public address system, adding that policemen were there to protect lives and property.
He said: ”They have not applied for police permit to hold a rally, so, the police had to disperse them. They were telling lies about the application they said they made.”
Muhammad also denied knowledge of the attack on Senator Abe. He said: “I am not aware that Abe was injured or any casualty. No ammunition was fired. The police had to disperse them. They (organisers are telling lies about the situation.”
But the Chairman of the Save Rivers Movement, Aholu Okechukwu, made available to journalists, copies of the application for permit, to hold the rally, written to the state police command on January 7, 2014 .
The letter, which was received by an officer on behalf of the command on same day, was signed by one Charles Aholu. The letter was entitled: “Request for Police Safety.”
A look at the letter showed that it gave details of the date and time of the rally and the nature of the event.
The concluding part of the letter reads “I make these requests for security in order to maintain law and order during the programme. I shall subsequently furnish you with detailed schedules for all the other local government areas of the state.”
In his reaction, a chieftain of APC, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode said: “The attack on Senator Magnus Abe and other members of the APC by agents of security forces are disheartening and exceptionally dangerous. Just a couple of days ago, Governor Kwankwaso’s father was attacked and some of his people killed in Kano by unknown gunmen.
“Such wickedness, intolerance and evil is rarely seen. Let those that believe that they can silence the voices of the opposition with threats of violence and death be rest assured of one thing- we cannot be intimidated and neither can we be silenced. First we heard about snipers being trained and lists of opposition figures being drawn up for assasination. Now policemen are openly attacking the same innocent Nigerians and opposition figures that they are being paid to protect.
‘This government has lost its mind and its bearing. The madnesss, the attacks, the killings, the insults, the persecution, the wickedness, the impugnity and the intimidation have to stop forthwith or else the consequences will be grave for the continued unity of our country.
“Once again, I ask where was Major Hamza Al-Mustapha on the day that Obasanjo released his letter to the press? Once again, I wish to know whether there is any truth in the allegation that he was in North Korea on that day and if he was what was he doing there?, he queried.