Soldiers deployed in Rivers Assemby

TROOPS from the Joint Task Force  were deployed  in   Rivers State House of Assembly on Wednesday to prevent a bloody clash between supporters of Governor  Rotimi Amaechi and those of the Minister of State for Education, Mr. Nyesom Wike,  in Port Harcourt.Both groups, comprising mainly youths and those believed to be ex-militants, had gathered at the  Assembly at about 7.30am to witness the sitting of the lawmakers and to know  who would be recognised as the Speaker.

Policemen on the ground at Assembly  watched as the youthS argued on the disagreement between the governor and Wike, but a team of JTF operatives, who came in four Hilux vehicles, dispersed them within 10 minutes.

The soldiers fired    tear-gas  canisters,  forcing some  of the protesting youths  to  relocate to the front of the Government House.

An ex-militant, who was among the youths  was arrested by the  riot policemen and taken to the Swift Operation Squad, ostensibly for interrogation. An identification card with an  inscription ‘Amnesty’ was found in his pocket.

One of the pro-Wike youths, Kennedy Mbiere, who spoke with The  PUNCH, said they were not happy with the way the state government  disrupted the process of  inuagurating  Mr. Evans Bipi as the new  speaker of the Assembly on Tuesday.

Mbiere  said they were at the Assembly complex  to show solidarity with  Bipi,  arguing   that the governor should not have been there (Assembly)   on Tuesday to prevent an elected Bipi from being  inaugurated.

Also, a pro-Amaechi supporter, who identified himself as Tonye, lamented the interference of Abuja politicians in the affairs of the state.

  “In a democracy, is it possible for five members to impeach the Speaker  of a state House of Assembly  with  32 members? We will not allow that. We are prepared to die than allow that to happen in Rivers State, ” Tonye  said.

  Police fire tear-gas canisters

Some of the  youths numbering over 1, 000   had moved to the Government House from the   Assembly at about 12.30pm to show solidarity with  Amaechi but they were teargassed by policemen.

Some  scampered for safety at nearby kiosks and houses while others   ran into the Government House where they were later addressed by  Deputy Governor, Mr. Tele Ikuru.

The State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, accused the police of  firing teargas canisters  into the Government House, describing the action  as unfortunate.

Semenitari expressed surprise that teargas canisters  could be fired into a Government House in a democracy, thereby disrupting  business  even in the Executive chambers.
 
Protest ban still in Place-CP

Earlier, the  Commissioner of Police, Mr.  Joseph Mbu, warned that the ban on any form of protests and processions was still in place.

Mbu, who spoke through the   Police Public relations Officer of the State Police Command, Mrs. Angela Agabe, restated that the police  would not tolerate a situation whereby any person would embark on a protest without seeking approval.

Meanwhile, the  Assembly has described as false,  the allegation that  Mr. Otelemaba Amachree  had been impeached as its  Speaker.

A statement  by 26 out of the 32 members of the Assembly on Wednesday read, “We state for the benefit of the public that no such situation existed on the floor of the Assembly on  July 9 , 2013. These are mere machinations of the five members desperate to do their masters bidding.

 “The purported claim by a member of the Assembly,    Bipi, to be the new speaker of the state Assembly is false and a hallucinations of the most debased form. We urge members of the public and the press to disregard such claims.”

-Punch

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