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Panel interrogates Amaechi on Rivers crisis

By The Citizen
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The investigation panel headed by Deputy Inspector-General of Police in-charge of Operations, Philemon Leha, has questioned Governor Rotimi Amaechi on the festering political crisis in Rivers State.

The panel was said to have visited the governor last week during which he gave his own account of the impasse in the state.

A top police source told our correspondent on Thursday that Amaechi spoke in camera to the panel members and answered some questions put to him by on the crisis.

'The panel has interrogated a whole lot of people in Port Harcourt and even Amaechi has had an audience with the panel.

'The panel visited Amaechi and he spoke to them. They did that as part of their own investigation; he was asked some questions and he answered them, he met them in camera when the DIG (Leha) was in Port Harcourt,' the source stated.

Investigations revealed that the panel decided to visit the governor in his office to 'interview' him on the crisis because Amaechi has constitutional immunity as an incumbent governor and the panel could not summon him like any citizen.

It was gathered that the investigating team was able get useful information during its interaction with the governor, who was said to have been very frank with the panel members.

The number of those that had appeared before the panel was not clear at the time this report was compiled, but it was learnt that the panel planned to quiz all the pro and anti-Amaechi lawmakers in order to have a credible report on the crisis.

Already, the Force Headquarters had summoned the leader of the Rivers State House of Assembly, Chidi Lloyd; the Aide-De-Camp to the Rivers State Governor, Debeware-Semeikumo, an assistant superintendent of police, and the Chief Security Officer to the Governor, Tony Iwelu for interrogation.

They were to report to the Force Criminal Investigation Department, Force Headquarters, Abuja for an interview in respect of their roles in the fracas inside the state House of Assembly as seen in the video clips in circulation.

A statement by the Deputy Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, said that the men were invited to obtain further details that would facilitate a proper investigation into the matter.

It could not be ascertained whether Lloyd and the security personnel had honoured the invitation, but findings indicated that other security details and every individual that was remotely involved in the violence inside the chambers of the Rivers State House of Assembly would be interrogated and summoned to the Force Headquarters as part of the ongoing investigation by the high-powered panel.

Following the refusal of Lloyd to honour its invitation, the Rivers State Police Command had declared him wanted on Wednesday.

The police explained that Lloyd was being investigated for allegedly beating a fellow lawmaker, Michael Chinda with the 'imported' mace used in the attempt to remove the speaker last week.

'The Rivers State Police Command has declared wanted one Hon. Chidi Lloyd, a native of Emohua in Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers State, about 37 years of age.

'He is the majority leader of Rivers State House of Assembly. He was involved in a case of conspiracy, attempted murder, wounding and wilful damage on July 9, 2013,' the statement said.

But the embattled lawmaker refuted the claim, saying the police were not being fair to him, as he had informed them of his health conditions, which made it impossible for him to honour the invitation.

Lloyd, through his counsel, Emenike Ebete, said he would challenge the notice on him in court, noting that the police's action was unfair and would not hold.

He expressed disappointment at the action of the police, which he said made it look as if he was running from the law.

He explained that although he was aware of the police invitation to him, he could not honour it because of his health condition as he was still recuperating in a hospital following injuries he sustained in the fracas.

Commenting on Lloyd's excuse for not honouring the police invitation, the police spokesman, Mba explained that the house leader would not have been declared wanted if he had reported to the police as expected of him.

'I think it is a very simple thing. Whoever he spoke to should have asked him, 'why have you not reported to the police?' Whether it's a summon or invitation or whether he is declared wanted by the police, it's more of semantics, the issue is that his attention is requested by the police and since he knows his presence is requested by the police, what stopped him from discharging his responsibility by visiting the police? I just want him to tell Nigerians why he has not made himself available to the police,' he said.

Mba said it was on record that an invitation letter was taken to Lloyd's house, but he was 'curiously not at home; his cook signed for the letter, acknowledged receipt of the letter and ever since then, we have not heard from him.'

Asked whether the anti-Amaechi lawmakers would also be invited by the panel, Mba stated that the investigation would be thorough and exhaustive, adding that police investigations were not riotous exercises where all things take place at the same time.

'Investigations are designed to achieve empirically verifiable results; the fact, that a set of people were invited today does not preclude the invitation of another set of people tomorrow. It is not possible for any serious-minded investigative team or panel to embark on a riotous journey,' he stated.

On whether there was pressure on the police authorities to remove Mbu, the police image-maker said the Force was not under any pressure, noting that the people have freedom under democracy to criticise and express their views.

'Just as people are calling for Mbu's removal, there are many others describing the CP as the best thing to have happened to Rivers and the best police officer they have ever met,' he said.

Mba, who said he was not competent to comment on the removal or transfer of the CP, noted that the posting and redeployment of CPs were the responsibility of a competent authority, who takes such decisions considering national interest.

On when the panel would submit its report, the DFPRO said the investigation did not have a deadline, insisting that police investigation was not a football match with a fixed duration.

Reacting to the questioning of Amaechi, his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. David Iyofor, said DIG Philemon Leha, who led the police panel that came to the state, met with Amaechi.

Iyofor, however, explained that he could not ascertain the outcome of the meeting since he (Iyofor) was not part of the discussion between his boss and the leader of the panel.

'I am aware that the DIG (Leha) met with the governor, but I was not there with them and was not privileged to know what they discussed,' Iyofor said. Punch