Thousands of protesting members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State, Thursday shut down Port Harcourt, kicking against the indiscriminate killing, arrest and detention of members of the ruling party in the state.
The protesters, armed with placards bearing various inscriptions and chanting anti-Federal Government songs, occupied the Rivers police headquarters on Moscow Road for some hours, vowing to continue doing so daily, until the police stopped the indiscriminate arrest of APC members in the state.
The leaders of the protesters were later received by the Rivers Commissioner of Police, Dan Bature, and they subsequently proceeded to the state’s headquarters of the Department of State Security (DSS), both in Port Harcourt.
The aggrieved APC members were led by the Rivers Commissioner for Agriculture, Emma Chindah, and the Chairman of Asari-Toru Local Government Council of the state, Ojukaye Flag-Amachree.
As early as 6 a.m., the protesters had taken over the major roads and streets in Port Harcourt, leading to huge traffic, with the Rivers police command deploying many Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) and Toyota Hilux patrol van, having many battle-ready officers and men, but nobody was harassed for the over five hours that the peaceful protest lasted.
Some of the placards read: “Another Mbu is here”, “Stop politically-motivated arrest of APC members”, “CP Bature, be neutral”, “Nigeria police or PDP police”, “CP Bature, be professional”, “Use police against criminals, not against citizens”, “Leave Rivers APC members alone, Nigeria police”, “Is Nigeria Police Force an arm of PDP in Rivers State?”, “Don’t make Rivers a police state”, “Have police stopped being our friends? CP Bature, please answer us now” and “We say no to indiscriminate arrest of APC members.”
Others included: “Mbu and Bature, any difference?”, “Stop harassing and arresting APC members in Rivers State, Nigeria Police”, Nigeria Police Force, agent of PDP”, “Release our brothers now”, “Police in Rivers State acting as security of PDP”, “Democracy is threatened by police in Rivers State”, “Release our husbands now” and “We say no to violent elections, unjust arrests in Rivers State.”
The Rivers agric commissioner said: “What we want Nigerians to know is that before the whole world, at an APC rally on February 17 in Okrika, PDP’s armed thugs came to the place (playground of National School, venue of the campaign of Dr. Dakuku Adol Peterside), in a programme transmitted live on national television stations and started shooting indiscriminately. A policeman was killed and over 50 persons were injured. Imagine killing a policeman in uniform and keeping his family members in the situation they have kept them. Till today, we do not know those who have been arrested by the police.
“Every now and then, APC members are arrested in Rivers State. Have police become an arm of the PDP? Is indiscriminate arrest part of their tactics for the elections? The people of Rivers State have come here to say in unequivocal terms that it will not work.
“If we check and there is no change, we are going to occupy permanently, the Rivers State Police Headquarters, in a lawful manner, until they give us justice. We have come here to look for freedom. The freedom we are looking for is from the Nigeria Police Force. The policemen in Rivers State have turned themselves into the arm of the PDP. Rivers State needs freedom. Rivers State cannot be turned to a police state. We have elections in nine days. Virtually everybody who is here has been marked for arrest, including myself, probably after making this speech. We have to look for our freedom. Freedom we must get.”
The chairman of Asari-Toru LG council, in his remarks, declared that the members of the APC in Rivers had lost confidence in the police in the state.
Flag-Amachree said: “The Chairman of Etche LGA (Charles Anyanwu, of the APC) is already in detention. We are not comfortable with the way the police are harassing and arresting APC members in Rivers State. CP Bature has assured us that the police will make sure that everybody in Rivers State will be protected. We want free, fair and credible elections in Rivers State.
“CP Bature told us that the matter of the arrested APC chieftain is in court and that we should go to court. The truth is that we do not have confidence in the police. That is why we are here (Police Headquarters in Port Harcourt). We have registered our complaint. We are going to be watching them as the days go by. Police are now an arm of the PDP.”
While also speaking, one of the protesters, Victor Chioma, who is from Obio/Akpor LGA of Rivers state, where the governorship candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Nyesom Wike, hails from, expressed displeasure that President Goodluck Jonathan and his wife, Dame Patience, are both ruling and mismanaging Nigeria, in spite of the fact that Nigeria’s constitution did not provide any role for First Lady.
Chioma also stated that the upland/riverine dichotomy in Rivers state must be upheld, while condemning Wike’s scheming to succeed Governor Rotimi Amaechi, who are both Ikwerre from the same Rivers East Senatorial District.
Another protester, Peter Ibianga, noted that policemen were arresting and detaining APC members in Rivers state, in order to prevent them from being around during the March 28 and April 11 elections.