From CHRIS ANUCHA and TONY JOHN, Port Harcourt
The city of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, was metaphorically shut down for several hours, yesterday, when some protesters, under the aegis of Rivers Peoples Assembly (RPA) took over the major streets and highways, chanting anti-Amaechi songs. The protesters, who wore white vests and displayed banners with various inscriptions, were demanding that Governor Chibuike Amaechi should account for the two aircraft he inherited from ex-governor Odili and explain the real owner of the grounded jet.
They also want the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) chairman to tell Rivers people what he did with about N1.6 trillion accruing to the state from the federal allocation. The banner-carrying protesters demanded explanation on N1 billion paid by the state government for construction of one -kilometre road. They threatened to make the state ungovernable if Amaechi failed to resign. The aggrieved youths with scores of elderly women, all wearing white T-shirts, with different inscriptions had called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to probe the governor.
Some of the inscriptions read: “Amaechi, where are the two jets Odili left behind?” “Amaechi, who owns the jet?” “Amaechi must go” “Amaechi, you have failed the Rivers people;” “EFCC probe Amaechi” and “Amaechi constructed 1km of road with N1.5 billion.” Those who took part in the “10,000-man march” were said to have been drawn from all the 23 local government areas of the state. They started gathering at the Isaac Boro Park, Mile One, the take-off point as early as 6.30am. Those who arrived at the Isaac Boro Park earlier waited patiently for others who were coming from as far as Bori, Eleme, Etche, Ahoada East, Ahoada West, among others. From the take-off point, they marched to the Government House gate but were not received by any government official. But security men prevented them from advancing further.
The protesters barricaded the entrance to the Government House, preventing vehicles from going in and out of the Government House. Some of them, who came along with their traditional musical instruments were seen beating their drums and singing derogatory songs composed with Amaechi’s name. Heavy traffic was recorded on Aba, Ikwerre, Agrrey, Slaughter roads, among others, as the protesters obstructed movement of people and vehicles for several hours. Tagged Rivers version of “Arab Spring”, the protesters said they would occupy the Government House until Governor Amaechi quits office. But they could not sustain it as many of them were seen leaving the venue, after about three hours because of exhaustion caused mainly by the hot weather. Daily Sun observed that some of the ex-militants were gradually being dragged into the anti-Amaechi campign.
Some of them even took part in yesterday’s protest. For instance, the reporter sighted “General” Ateke Tom. He arrived Isaac Boro Park at about 10.16am and was shielded by his hefty and stern-looking boys, who never allowed him to alight from his car or make people come closer to him. He was later seen engaging in discussions, consulting on phone with people. He was at the protest venue for more than 45 minutes, before he drove off. Another ex-militant, sighted at the venue of the protest was Solomon Ndigbara, otherwise known as Osama Bin Laden, who later spoke to Daily Sun.
Though adjudged peaceful but a group of thugs later hijacked the protest, molesting and extorting money , phone and other from helpless citizen, The Sun reporter. Speaking to Daily Sun later, Chief Solomon Ndigbara (aka Osama bin Laden of Ogoni) told journalists that they would continue the protest , until the governor resigned from office. He stated that governor Amaechi had insulted Rivers people much, especially, the Ogonis, saying that it must stop. ‘’Osama bin Laden’’, who was the first Rivers ex-militant in the State to surrender weapons to the Federal Government, said for the governor to declare him wanted, he and the youths were also declaring him wanted. “He declared me wanted. So, like now, we the Rivers youths have declared him wanted. So, that is why I have come. As he pursued me, now, Rivers youths have pursued him.”
The former militant leader called on the Federal Government to do intervene before it was late. “And, if they (government)do not remove him, a lot of things will happen. Today, is the first day. Tomorrow (Thursday)will continue until we see the end. “We cannot allow him to stay in office . If the federal government knows what is good, they better send him away.” Some of the protesters that marched from the popular Aggrey Road in the state capital, carried a caricature coffin of the governor. Meanwhile, there was heavy presence of armed personnel, with Armoured Personnel Carrier and police vans, positioned at strategic places. Meanwhile, the State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Mbu Joseph Mbu said yesterday that he had banned all forms the protest in the state.
He stated this yesterday while briefing journalists at the police Headquarters, Moscow Road, Port Harcourt, during the visit of the Assistant Inspector General of Police in-charge of Zone 6, Calabar, Mr. Jonathan Jonathan Johnson in the state. Mbu warned that any group planning to stage a protest should seek approval from the police. “If there will be protest, the people concerned should take permission by writing, or else, if any person or people take law into their hands, they will be arrested and prosecuted. The police will use force to arrest offenders.”