Doctors were battled all through yesterday to save Senator Magnus Ngei Abe, who was shot at a rally in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital but had to be ultimately flown to London, United Kingdom late last night after 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 College of Arts and Science, Rumuola, in Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) and vans and turned the venue 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, 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, 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.
“I would have been surprised if they did not accuse 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, 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.
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.