The police in Rivers State on Saturday disrupted a peaceful rally organized by the Save Rivers Movement, a non-governmental organization which supports the main opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state.
Our correspondent reports that a large contingent of policemen and their vans took over the area and blocked entrance to the College of Arts and Science, Rumuola, Port Harcourt venue of the rally.
In the confusion that followed, the police shot teargas canisters at the supporters of the group including Senator Magnus Abe, representing Rivers South-East in the National Assembly. Abe was severely affected by the police teargas and was rushed to a nearby hospital.
In an interview with journalists, the Medical Doctor attending to Senator Abe, Dr Mekei Anyanwu said Senator Abe was in shock when he was brought to the hospital and said his condition was critical but stable.
“He came in a state of shock; he is not stable now because there is an issue of a blood impact on the left chest wall, an inhalation of fumes possibly from canisters. There is a blood trauma to the chest”, he said.
The doctor said there was an obvious swelling on Abe’s chest, saying that medical personnel would also carry out a scan on him to identify the areas of the chest affected by the police teargas. He further said Senator Abe would also undergo monitoring for some days,.
“This is a very critical case, critical but stable. All the same, he is going to be here (for some days) with constant monitoring, and we are giving him 48 hours pending the other investigations we are carrying out”.
The state Commissioner for information and Communications, Ibim Semenitari, said the unprovoked shooting of Senator Magnus Ngei Abe, is a cause for worry and an indication of the length that the Peoples Democratic Party is willing to go to silence opposing views.
“Rivers State Government therefore reiterates its call for the re-deployment of CP Mbu from Rivers State before he turns the state into a graveyard because of his intolerance and unprofessional behaviour,’’ she said.
However, the state Police Command denied the allegations that its personnel shot and wounded Senator Magnus Abe.
Its spokesman, Ahmad Muhammad, a Deputy Superintendent of Police, (DSP), told reporters in Port Harcourt that the police did not release any bullet while dispersing a rally by Save Rivers Movement on Sunday.
He said the group was at the state College of Arts and Science for the rally when they were dispersed because they did not obtain a police permit.
“I can confirm to you that Sen. Magnus Abe was not shot. The police did not expend any single bullet while dispersing the crowd.
“It is not true. The police did not shoot the senator, we only used minimum force to disperse the crowd at the venue of the rally,’’ he said.
Reacting, the State Coordinator of Save Rivers Movement, Hon. Igo Aguma, a former member of the House of Representatives, disputed the police claim that there was no authorization for the Sunday rally.
“We have always sought police protection for all the rallies we have held so far. Virtually every Local Government Area has gone ahead and done their ward by ward inauguration and in all of them, they sought police protection and police granted.
“We held our first Local Government Area inauguration at Eleme. We wrote to police, informing them that we were going to be at Eleme and that we would be requiring police protection. The letter was acknowledged and they sent police protection to Eleme”.
He said the NGO had written to the police about the Sunday rally in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area and got an acknowledgement from them.
“Well, we were expecting as usual for police to come and give us protection. You can see the protection that police has given to us today. Police came to try to kill our spirit, to try to kill us as a human being. Is it because it is Nyesom Wike’s LGA? Nyesom Wike is a political beginner, he is a neophyte, he knows it. He cannot match me not to talk of the governor.
“We have our political antecedent way back to 1998. He knows it properly. Why is he afraid for the whole world to see that he is not on ground in his local government area?We have got there. Save Rivers Movement is an NGO in support of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
“Today, we have come to Obio/Akpor to show the whole world that the Minister of State for Education, Nyesom Wike is not on ground. Is it police that will vote? It is human beings that will vote, not police. He doesn’t have it. Is he going to disenfranchise us on election day?
“We seek no police, what we seek is the mandate of the people. He doesn’t have it, he is a mere Minister of State appointed by the President at his whims and caprice, a position I will not accept”.
Aguma said the All Progressives Congress (APC) is politically stable in the state, stressing that the police would fail in its bid to frustrate the Save Rivers Movement.
“We will save Rivers people by the grace of God from police impunity. We will save Rivers people by the grace of God from the madness of the Police Commissioner Mbu Joseph Mbu”, he said.