Police in Rivers on Wednesday denied claims that they deliberately attacked the state’s Gov. Siminalayi Fubara during his visit to the House of Assembly complex in Port Harcourt on Monday.
Fubara had alleged that some policemen shot teargas and used water cannons on him and his aides while on his way to assess the arson at the state’s parliament building.
A trending video on the social media confirmed the governor’s claims and drew wide condemnation from Nigerians.
Spokesperson of the police in Rivers, SP Grace Iringe-Koko, however, denied a deliberate attack on governor Fubara in a statement she issued in Port Harcourt.
She stated that anti-protest policemen deployed to secure the House of Assembly complex from further attacks were unaware that the governor was among the crowd approaching the facility.
“Following the receipt of credible intelligence reports on the intention of some armed group of persons to cause mayhem, particularly at the House of Assembly complex, armed police operatives were deployed.
“The Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of Operations (DC Ops) deployed the operatives going by the previous case of arson on the assembly building.
“The DC Ops personally supervised (the police operatives) to intercept the `hoodlums’ and to ensure the protection of lives and property within the assembly facility and its environs,’’ Iringe-Koko stated.
She added that during the operation, protesting youths numbering more than 100 were at the entrance of the assembly complex, and conducted themselves in a manner likely to cause a breach of the peace.
“This led the police to deploy non-lethal crowd control equipment including teargas and water cannon to disperse the riotous and uncontrollable protesters.
“Some minutes later, another aggressive group of people approached the entrance of the complex and advanced toward the premises.
“The police, therefore, engaged them in a like manner but observed that Gov. Siminalayi of Rivers State, was in their midst,’’ she stated.
The police spokesperson added that upon realising the governor was among the crowd of persons approaching the assembly building, the DC Ops immediately ordered his men to stand down and give the governor access.
“To this end, the governor and his entourage went inside the assembly complex to assess the level of damage caused by an earlier fire incident.
“It is pertinent to state that the police did not deliberately attack the governor, or even attempt to hurt anyone, let alone the Chief Executive and Chief Security Officer of the state.
“It is our most essential role to protect the governor, and as such, the news being peddled in some sections of the media is a misrepresentation.
“The presence of the governor at the scene was of great surprise and shock as there was no prior communication to the police about his visit to the scene,” Iringe-Koko stressed.
She explained that the usual protocol for any governor visiting a crisis area was to inform the police ahead to enable the latter to accompany and provide the needed security.
In another development, Iringe-Koko confirmed the arrest of 122 suspects over alleged invasion of the official residence of the former Speaker of the House of Assembly, Hon. Martins Amaewhule.
The police spokesperson alleged that the protesters led by one Chijioke Ihunwo forcefully gained entrance into the former speaker’s residence in Port Harcourt on Wednesday.
“The youths damaged the gate of the house and while they were carrying out their nefarious activities, a distress call was put across to the police.
“Thereafter, our tactical team was deployed to the scene where 122 suspects, including Ihunwo were arrested and taken to the State Criminal Investigation Department.
“Consequently, we have placed adequate security at the State of Assembly complex; the Speaker’s residence and other strategic locations and infrastructure to forestall any ugly incident,” Iringe-Koko stated.
BRANDPOWER reports that Amaewhule was impeached as speaker on Monday by 26 lawmakers and replaced by Hon. Ehie Edison (PDP-Ahoada East II constituency).
Iringe-Koko stated also that the Commissioner of Police in Rivers, Mr Nwony Emeka, urged residents to go about their lawful duties.
He assured that security measures had been put in place to de-escalate the situation and to restore normalcy.