Doctors were battling all yesterday to save Senator Magnus Ngei Abe, who was shot at a rally in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.
He was flown to London, United Kingdom, last night after the doctors stabilised him.
The rally by the Save Rivers Movement (SRM), a non-governmental organisation with affiliation to Governor Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi and the All Progressives Congress (APC), was smashed by policemen, who stormed the venue in Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) and vans. The college of Arts and Science, Rumuola, was turned into a scene of madness.
The police shot tear gas canisters at SRM supporters.
Abe, 49, was shot twice by policemen with rubber bullets in his chest and leg, on the orders of the Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Mbu Joseph Mbu, leading to internal bleeding. A baby and a man were feared dead in the confusion.
The shots knocked Abe, a former Secretary to the Rivers State Government (SSG), off his feet. He was in severe shock.
Worshippers in churches in the neighbourhood and residents battled to breathe as the teargas assaulted their nostrils. Sounds of gunshots filled the air.
The Chief of Staff, Government House, Port Harcourt, Chief Tony Okocha, was injured. Abe was rushed to Krisany Medical Services, a private hospital in Port Harcourt, where he was stabilized before being flown to Britain for treatment.
Okocha said the police were informed of the rally in an official letter.
Abe, who is also the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Petroleum (Downstream); Okocha; former Caretaker Chairman of Obio/Akpor Local Government Council, Chikordi Dike and some Amaechi associates were tear gassed.
The policemen were deployed as early as 4:30 am at the venue. It was to be the inauguration of the Obio/Akpor council chapter of the SRM. The launch was fixed for 1 pm. Amaechi was to attend.
The policemen fired teargas canisters to disperse people arranging the venue and turned the canopies, plastic chairs and stage upside down.
The rally was relocated to the Civic Centre at Rumuigbo on Ikwerre Road. Policemen stormed the new venue, scattering the white plastic chairs and forcing passersby to raise their hands.
To show their displeasure over the action of the policemen, youths in Rumuigbo made bonfires on Ikwerre Road. Obi Wali Road Junction was littered with broken bottles, stones and other missiles.
The Supervising Minister of Education, Chief Nyesom Wike, an indigene of Rumueprikom in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area, was accused by the chief of staff of being behind the police’s “show of shame”.
But, the minister, who spoke through one of his allies, Emeka Woke, on the telephone, denied it all.
Woke, the Director-General of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state and a two-term Chairman of Emohua council, described the accusation as baseless, frivolous and senseless.
Woke said: “I would have been surprised if they did not accuse Mr. Nyesom Wike. The accusation is baseless, frivolous and senseless.
“We are witnessing a collapse of governance and Amaechi’s display of impunity in Rivers State. The governor is no longer respecting law and order. The police action is in order, to prevent the breakdown of law and order, since police did not give permit for the rally.”
The state government, through the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, declared that Amaechi, not Abe, was Mbu’s target.
To the All Progressives Congress (APC), the shooting of Abe and the disruption of SRM’s inauguration were a declaration of war.
The Rivers Coordinator of SRM, Igo Aguma, who is a former member of the House of Representatives, insisted that the group would save Rivers people from impunity.
The group of medical personnel at the Krisany Medical Services, headed by Dr. Mackay Anyanwu, who attended to Abe, noted that the senator suffered from severe blood shock and haemorrhage.
Anyanwu said: “The patient (Abe) was brought in a state of shock, as evidenced by low blood pressure. He was restless and he could not communicate or reason coherently.
“As a first aid, we treated him for traumatic shock, because the implication of his state was that there was severe blood trauma and the amount of layers affected could not be detected immediately. This can only be done through the haemorrhoid tests.
“We have administered oxygen treatment on him for resuscitation and primary medication, but we also detected severe internal bleeding and high level haemorrhaging in him. Another bad news is that we also detected that the affected side is showing severe swelling, which led me to the conclusion that he must have been hit by a high calibre weapon and my fears were confirmed, when I was told that he was shot with a rubber bullet.”
Rivers state police commissioner Mbu insisted that no live bullet was used.
“If we used live bullets, you know the implication.
“If a live bullet hits your hand, it will shatter the hand and if it hits the neck, the person is gone.”
In an interview aired on Channel Television last night, he said anybody that wants to organise a rally must obtain permission.
“It is not time for political rallies. If groups are going to meet for empowerment, we approve and provide security,” he said.
He said yesterday’s rally was not authorised by him and so it had to be disrupted. “I asked policemen to subdue and take over the place. We took over the place,” Mbu said.
In the past, they applied and got permission for rallies, he said, adding that the rally attended by APC leaders where Governor Amaechi declared was not authorised but the police just decided not to disrupt it.
Police spokesman Ahmad Muhammad claimed that no ammunition was expended by the policemen, whom he said used “minimum” force. He said the policemen did not use rubber bullets and that the SRM’s leaders did not obtain police permit. The gathering was illegal, he said.
Muhammad, at 5:06 pm yesterday through the telephone, while still at Rivers State College of Arts and Science, Port Harcourt, said: “We (policemen) only use rubber bullets during training. No single ammunition was expended at the Rivers State College of Arts and Science, Port Harcourt and at the Civic Centre, Rumuigbo.
“We used minimum force. We did not use rubber bullets. The leaders of SRM never wrote to the Rivers State Police Command for permit to hold the rallies and they did not obtain permit from the Rivers State Commissioner of Police for the rallies, which are illegal gatherings.”
The spokesman claimed that there was a ban on rallies in Rivers State, insisting that police permit must be obtained before protest, demonstration, gathering or rally could be held.
When our reporter got to the College of Arts and Science at 12:55 pm yesterday, for the 1 pm inauguration of SRM, the dualised road from Rumuola Bus Stop, off Aba Road, to Rumuokwuta Roundabout on Ikwerre Road, was barricaded by the police. Pedestrians were forced to trek about five kilometres while motorists were also groaning.
At 1:02 pm, five police patrol vans were used in barricading the Rumuola Road in front of St. Luke’s Anglican Church, Rumuadaolu, Port Harcourt, while seven police patrol vans were stationed at the main gate of the college. One patrol van and an Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) were positioned inside the institution.
Six police patrol vans were positioned at the Rumuigbo Junction on Rumuola Road. They are backed by two APCs, marked: NPF 4075 A and NPF 1028 B, with armed policemen flooding the area, thereby causing panic.
Some passersby were overheard saying: “Will you support this Jonathan’s bad government that is blocking the roads?”, “They want to turn Port Harcourt into a battleground”; and “This is war.”
The minister later stated that persons dragging his name to the police’s action should be ignored and that the SRM’s rallies were not enough proof of Amaechi’s popularity.
Wike said: “I influenced the police? Were they there when I influenced the police to disrupt their rally? Have they not done their rally before at the Stadium (Liberation Stadium, Elekahia, Port Harcourt)? I did not use the police. Did they not hold their rally at Eleme council? I did not use the police. What is my business with them? What kind of talk is that?”
Okocha said: “This morning was a huge surprise to me. It was the turn of Obio/Akpor Local Government to host the SRM. We had gone to Eleme and Asari-Toru LGAs. Today (yesterday) was the turn of Obio/Akpor council and as law abiding citizens of Nigeria, we wrote to the police, informing them of our programme, and there was no negative response.
“We chose the Rivers State College of Arts and Science, Rumuola, Port Harcourt because it is more expansive. It can accommodate about 10,000 persons who will come out of Obio/Akpor LGA today for the SRM’s inauguration.
“About 4:30 am, our men on ground at the Rivers State College of Arts and Science, who were left there to secure the gadgets and facilities to be used, called me to say that the police had taken over the place. For God’s sake, we are defenceless, free citizens of Nigeria. We do not carry arms.
“Save Rivers Movement is an organisation that insists that Rivers State must be saved from political buccaneers, who want to put Rivers State into their pockets. That is what we are doing. We are in the business of sensitising our people from local government to local government.
“You are aware of a group called the GDI (which has Wike as the grand patron). The members go through all the local government areas with convoys of police, giving them all kinds of protection, including the Commissioner of Police (Mbu). He (CP) is always in the convoys, providing security for them and ensuring that all the things they do are trouble-free.”
Despite of receiving the call from one of his associates in the early hours of the day, Okocha said he decided to move to the Rivers College of Arts and Science, to assess the situation.
The chief of staff said: “When they called me. So, I had to go there by myself to see things. I was smoked as if I was a rabbit. I ran into someone’s house and, unfortunately, the man has children. They were all suffocating. They were all dying. So, we had to improvise. They said we should use coke; some said kerosene would work. We had to use all of that to ensure that the man’s children live. That was what I saw. I was quarantined in somebody’s house.
“I was wondering whether it is the Commissioner of Police (Mbu) that is the Chief Security Officer of Rivers State or the Governor. I mean by law. They said the CP ordered that we should not gather and I said our rights to gather and associate are inalienable. You cannot take them away from us.
“As I talk to you, a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is lying critically ill in the hospital. I learnt arrangements are being made to fly him out of the country. We were together. He was even trying to make contacts with the Inspector-General of Police (IGP, Muhammed Abubakar), when they (policemen) shot him point blank.
“Senator Magnus Abe was shot in the chest, with their (policemen’s) rubber bullet. My own was teargas shells. If they were doing the right thing, they would not be shooting teargas and be picking the shells. So, they knew they were doing the wrong thing.
“They brought in seven Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) inside the Rivers State College of Arts and Science to kill common criminals? Are we criminals? These are defenceless citizens of Rivers State and Nigeria. We have our rights and we are not aware of any court order that has taken these rights away or restricted us from gathering.
“This is not the end of it. We are out to prove to the world that the people of Obio/Akpor LGA are with Governor Rotimi Amaechi and that we will continue to support him.
“I heard that a young boy in the company of his mother, coming to church, suffocated and died instantly. I also heard that one house at No. 1, Elegbam Road, Port Harcourt was burnt, because of the canister of teargas shot on its roof. They said it almost burnt down, but people came to help put it out. A lot of people have been injured, people with all degrees of injuries.”
Okocha said he and Abe were trying to speak with the policemen when the shooting began.
The Rivers Information Commissioner said: “Today’s (yesterday’s) attack on the members of the SRM, a Non-Governmental Organisation, at the Rivers State College of Arts and Science, Rumuola, Port Harcourt and especially the unprovoked shooting of Senator Magnus Ngei Abe, the senator representing Rivers South-East Senatorial District, is cause for worry and an indication of the length that the PDP is willing to go to silence opposing views.
“The Rivers State government has it on good authority that Senator Abe took the bullet originally meant for Governor Chibuike Amaechi, who was billed to be present at the event. This is disconcerting, especially in the light of recent revelations that the Presidency may be training snipers ahead of the 2015 elections and that Governor Amaechi is top on the list of those to be eliminated.
“The Rivers State government wishes to request the Federal Government and its agencies to respect the rules of democratic engagement in their misguided fight against the people of Rivers State and especially save our nation from the unnecessary chaos, into which federal agents such as Mbu want to plunge it, ahead of the 2015 elections.”
The Rivers government called for Mbu’s redeployment to stop him from turning the state into a graveyard, in view of his intolerance and unprofessional behaviour.
Semenitari noted that Mbu would prefer to be a “policetician” rather than a responsible police officer, but requested that he should attempt to at least protect the lives and property of the poor Rivers taxpayers, who had been paying his salaries.
The Chairman of the SRM, Aholu Okechukwu, made available a copy of the application for permit to hold the rally, written to the police command on January 7.
The SRM’s application letter was received by a police officer, on behalf of the Rivers police command on the same day and signed by Charles Aholu.
The Supreme Council of Ogoni Traditional Rulers, through its Chairman, HRH Mene Swanu Baridan condemned the police attack on one of its illustrious sons(Abe) and warned the leadership of the country on the life and safety of the senator.
The royal father said: “We condemn in its entirety, the attack on Senator Magnus Abe. It is unnecessary and uncalled for. We hereby warn the President (Goodluck Jonathan) over the safety of our son (Abe, from Gokana LGA, Ogoniland), the Senator.”
Baridan also admonished Ogoni and other Rivers people to remain calm in the face of provocation and continue to be law abiding.