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Rivers crisis: Protesters stone four governors at P/Harcourt Airport

By The Citizen
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Four Northern states governors on a solidarity visit to their Rivers counterpart, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, were embarrassed as their convoy was pelted with stones by protesters as they left for Government House from the Port Harcourt International Airport.

The four governors - Mu'azu Babangida Aliyu (Niger), Sule Lamido (Jigawa), Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso (Kano), and Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), who condemned the fracas in the Rivers State House of Assembly, also called for the transfer of the state Commissioner of Police, Mr Mbu Joseph Mbu.

In a statement issued at Government House, Port Harcourt, yesterday, the quartet said they came to the conclusion on the State Police Commissioner after interacting with Governor Amaechi and other persons, adding that the way the Police were being allegedly used and abused could force state governments to reconsider their efforts towards funding the Nigeria Police.

The statement issued by the four governors read in part: 'Having interacted with our colleague and other persons, we are shocked at the role of the Police in Rivers State and condemn its clear partisanship in the show of shame that took place at the Rivers State House of Assembly. As chief executives of our states, who have sworn to protect lives and properties in our various states, we are particularly troubled by the development in Rivers State.

'With the way the Police is being used and abused and with officers like Mbu in the force, we do not see the need for state governments to fund an antagonistic Police and may be forced to reconsider our position on the financial contribution of the states towards the funding of the Nigeria Police.

'We wish to call on the Inspector General of Police to hearken to the voice of reason and immediately redeploy and discipline Commissioner Mbu. His actions smirk of unprofessionalism and political partisanship which is unbecoming of his office. Arising from the actions of the Police and Mr Joseph Mbu in Rivers State, the call for state police as a constitutional provision has become a necessity.

Many passengers at the airport said they were terrified by the action of the protesters.

Governor Amaechi who reportedly flew in from Abuja yesterday morning at about 10a.m. went straight to the VIP lounge to wait for the other governors. The Adamawa State Governor was the first to arrive; he was followed by the Jigawa governor. The governor of Kano State came in later while the governor of Niger State came in about one hour later.

It took the combined efforts of security men attached to Governor Amaechi and those at the airport to push the protesters back for the governors to exit the VIP lounge. An armoured personnel carrier was driven by security men into the crowd at the gate before it gave way for the convoy. Security men also fired several warning shots into the air. In the meantime as the convoy was driving out, some protesters started hurling stones and other objects at the vehicles.

Rivers state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mrs Ibim Semenitari condemned the actions of the protesters at the airport, saying it was worrisome.

The commissioner who spoke after the governors had left said some of the cars in the convoy of the governors were pelted with stones by the protesters. She said it was not true that the governors were held hostage by the protesters, adding that Governor Amaechi got to the airport and had to wait for his colleagues

'What happened at the airport was worrisome. Amaechi waited for all his colleagues; they were not held hostage. The bus carrying the commissioners was damaged and some other vehicles were smashed by the protesters', she said.

Meanwhile, PDP National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur sued for peace in the state and distanced leaders of the party from the crisis. He also denied anointing anyone for any post in the party's forthcoming special convention as the member of the Rivers State House of Assembly who was declared speaker by the five anti-Amaechi faction of the House, Hon. Evans Bipi, yesterday declared that he remains authentic speaker of the House since he has not been impeached.

Claiming that he was elected by 23 members and not five as being acclaimed, Bipi said 'the only regrettable thing is the governor coming to the hallowed chamber to supervise the beating of my honourable colleagues.'

Bipi's claim came as the Felix Obuah-led faction of Rivers PDP faulted the setting up of a judicial commission of inquiry by the state government to look into the crisis that rocked the House of Assembly, saying the action was to pre-empt the decision of the Senate Committee which would soon submit its report. Also, both the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, and Northern Elders Forum, NEF, called on President Goodluck Jonathan to order an immediate cessation of hostilities in Rivers State and stop using the Nigeria Police to settle political disputes.

Pleading with warring members of the Rivers State House of Assembly to sheathe their swords and embrace peace in the overall interest of the state, Tukur said the legislators must avoid overheating the polity by their actions as democracy cannot thrive in an atmosphere of violence and anarchy.

According to him, PDP was a united political family under one big umbrella and no true member of this united family will like to pull down the family's political structure and existence.

Exonerating the party leadership from the crises, he said, 'it is the desire of the PDP that peace returns immediately to the Rivers State House of Assembly in particular and the state in general'.