THERE was panic in Port Harcourt on Thursday as the operatives of the Rivers State Police Command dispersed the protesting members of the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party.
It was gathered that members of the APC were on a protest march to the premises of the Rivers State House of Assembly to register their concern over the delay in swearing in the party’s female lawmaker, Mrs. Victoria Nyeche, and Mr. Andrew Miller.
The march, which was led by the secretary of the party in the state, Mr. Emeka Bekee, had no fewer than 300 protesters carrying placards with various inscriptions such as, ‘Rivers State House of Assembly stop being appendage of Executive Arm,’ ‘Rivers Assembly swear in our candidate,’ and ‘APC candidates must be sworn into the Assembly’.
But the march to the assembly premises was aborted by the police, which dispersed the protesters.
Speaking to newsmen, Bekee, said the protest was necessary for the world to know the level of intimidation against the party members, who won state assembly positions in their different constituencies.
In a protest letter addressed to the Speaker of the state Assembly, Dima Dabotoru, Bekee expressed displeasure over the delay by the PDP-led government to swear in the APC candidates, who emerged victorious during the general and rerun elections in the state.
In another development, a procession to the state assembly by the supporters of the PDP, led by its Publicity Secretary, Mr. Samuel Nwanosike, to express support for the lawmakers was also halted by the police.
The police said the procession was terminated to prevent a likely breakdown of law and order in the state.
Nwanosike denied that the PDP action was meant to confront the APC, saying, “What happened can never be a coincidence, every human being has his programme and policies. How would we have known that the APC has a protest today?
“The People’s Democratic Party members wrote to the party chairman, informing him that we wanted to pay a courtesy visit to the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly and we approached our various local government chairmen who agreed that they would accompany us. The President-General of GDI also told us that he was going to accompany us.
“But on our way to the Rivers State House of Assembly, we saw fierce-looking police officers, who attacked us with life ammunition and teargas. You can see injuries as I am talking to you now. Some of us are lying at various hospitals in the state.
“We want to say that Mr. President who is the father of all should call for an investigation immediately. In a democratic setting, we are supposed to be given a right to speak, associate and a right for assembly but we were being intimidated for no just cause.”
He also dismissed the claim that the PDP had intended to attack the APC protesters, saying, “There was no APC crowd 500 or 100 metres close to us when we were walking to the Rivers State House of Assembly.
“It is not true, there was no confrontation, there was no quarrel; nobody knew the police were coming to attack us. They walk straight from their office and opened fire on us.”
Reacting, the Speaker of the state assembly, Dabotoru, thanked the supporters of the PDP for the solidarity visit.
Dabotoru said, “I thank you that despite the provocation, you did not take laws into your hands. The CP should take the message to those that sent them that we did not get provoked. We have all it takes to face them and match them power for power, hand for hand.
“Anybody who thinks he can come to Rivers State to take laws into his hand, the law must take its course. The primary responsibility of the government is to provide security for lives and property.”
When contacted, the Public Relations Officer of the Rivers State Police Command, Mr. Nnamdi Omoni, said he would react to the allegations against the command after getting a report from the officer that led the operation.