There is tension in Rivers state as the two major political parties, the All Progressive Congress, APC and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP continue to claim brutal murder of their members by the other.
While governor Chibuike Amaechi alleged recently that over thirty members of his APC have been gunned down in Rivers state in political related circumstances the PDP governorship candidate, Barr Nyesom Wike on his part said over 45 PDP members have also been killed on account of their political affiliation. He said this when he addressed a team from the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC led by the Chairman, Prof Chidi Odinakalu in Port Harcourt.
The two parties have continued to evidence some of their claims with names of alleged members killed. Governor Amaechi at a press briefing in Government House, Port Harcourt, reeled out about eight names of members of his party he said were killed at different locations in the state recently, adding that about thirty members of his party had been arrested by the Police on what he termed frivolous reasons.
The APC and the PDP have also lashed at the police for allegedly being biased. The PDP governorship candidate, Barr Wike alleged that the governor and his APC maintain a killer squad in the police , code named C4I and urged the Inspector General of Police to immediately disband the body
“We call on Inspector General of Police to, as a matter of urgency, disband Amaechi’s hit squad called C4I used to kill our members before the general elections. We will, otherwise, be compelled to defend ourselves against the killings”, he said.“Amaechi and APC brewed the crisis in Rivers State through their illegal actions and acts of violence against the PDP. Since this year, we have lost over 40 PDP members murdered by armed agents of the APC and members of the See for Eye, C4I, Police team directly answerable to Governor Amaechi.
The APC on its part accused the Police of conspiring with the PDP to harass, intimidate and arrest its members, saying the move were part of plots to rig the elections for the PDP.
“Unfortunately the Nigeria Police force in Rivers state has led to a great escalation of these acts of killings, unlawful arrests and detention on frivolous and unsubstantiated reasons as well as constant and un-abating harassment using the very same police meant to protect all sides.
“The most ridiculous is that the Police whom we are supposed to run to for protection have commenced the withdrawal of Police security for top APC members including that of gubernatorial candidate, Dr Dakuku Peterside”, Amaechi said.
Amaechi further said the reported withdrawal of Policemen from his party’s governorship candidate was a likely step towards executing an alleged scheme to assassinate Peterside.
Assistant Inspector General of Police, AIG zone 6, Mr Tunde Ogunsakin who responded to the allegations by the various parties on the Police said they were not true.
According to him, the Police would continue to discharge their responsibility professionally in all states under his zone. To reassure the political parties of the neutrality of the police he said he had to order that men of the C4I should no longer be deplored to protect politicians, adding that they should also not be posted to campaign rallies of any of the political parties any longer.
“ The C4I unit should henceforth stop featuring in political campaigns. The C4I Unit of the Department of Operations should on no account post their officers to any political appointee or VIP;”, he said.
Also the state Police Public relations officer, DSP Ahmad Muhammad who declined comment on the allegation of arrest of APC members indiscriminately by the Police said most of them were being tried at a federal High court in Port Harcourt for criminal offences. “The matter is in court so I will not want to comment on an issue before the court”, he told the Vanguard.
Residents of the state have also expressed worries over political and cult related killings in the state.
According to Sopriye David it had been difficult to draw a line between cult and political killings in the state because of the elections around the corner.
According to him, most of the cult groups have been recruited by the political class to prosecute their interest in the coming elections. “So the killings you see are both political and cult- related.
Vanguard gathered that in Omoku, Degema, Port Harcourt and Abonnema there had been rivalry among various cult groups recruited by the political class.
Last Saturday two persons were shot dead in Abonnema, a development the Police said was cult related. Similar killings have been recorded in Omoku area of the state where over thirty persons have been killed at separate times
In Port Harcourt, about nine persons were shot dead pen ultimate Saturday at different locations.
The state Commissioner of Health, Dr Sampson Parker told newsmen in Port Harcourt that the incidents had become very disturbing.
He said between January this year to March the state owned Braithwaite Memorial Hospital, BMH and the Kesley Harisson hospital have admitted 41 patients for gunshot injuries and 26 for assault which included machete cuts, adding that they were all traced to political violence.
The Commissioner, Dr Parker who described the situation as an epidemic of political violence said his statistics did not include those that died.
He said doctors and other health workers were toiling to meet health demands of the patients.
“We toil daily to ensure that we provide services, given available resources in health care delivery in the state because of an increase in the number of victims of politically motivated violence.
We have built some of the best health centres, hospitals and other medical institutions. However, daily, our people are confronted with danger as they go about their normal and lawful businesses”.
Fellow citizens, an orgy of political violence have been unleashed on the people of Rivers State and we are seeing an abnormal increase in deaths and injuries as elections approach.
Be mindful of the fact that we have not stated figures for deaths arising from this new epidemic. The reason is that the dead were not brought to the hospitals. However, as reported in the news recently, there have been killings at Oroworukwo, Okrika, Omoku and other areas in the state.
There is no doubt in my mind that there are cases which were neither reported to the police nor to government health facilities. Therefore, the figures given to you here do not reflect the true index of political violence in our state. Indeed, they may just be the tip of the iceberg”, he said.
“Let us note here that the Ebola scourge for which the country and our state rose up as one to combat only accounted for 10 deaths in Nigeria, out of which two were in Rivers State. Today, we go about our lives as if we have accepted this ominous situation.
“We are also using this opportunity to warn our people and make them aware of the danger to our way of life.
“Election period should be a time for debates, exchange of ideas, mobilisation of the people, exhibition of ambitions and greater gainful activities for our teeming youths. There is no great future for our country when the generation after us are led by people with blood on their hands who, instead of dialogue, resort to violence.
“The youths are supposed to be leaders of tomorrow. It is for their tomorrow that we toil today. Sadly, there is neither tomorrow nor leadership for the youth buried today. There is neither tomorrow nor leadership for that youth who becomes completely dependent on others even for basic needs, because of injuries”, he added.
He further advised against the senseless killings
“Why are we being killed and maimed? Why are our hard- earned properties being destroyed? Why are our youths being trained and turned into murderers? Who, truly benefits from the destruction of lives and properties?”
“Know who your child or ward is associating with. Do not encourage them to collect money or work for people who want to use them to perpetrate violence on others. These men and women do not mean well for your children. They have hidden their own children in safe places in Nigeria and foreign lands. Why should your child be sacrificed for their political ambitions?”