Rivers: Residents laud police for neutrality as IGP deploys IRT

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As the political crisis in Rivers State worsens, residents have commended the Police Command for exhibiting professionalism, neutrality and proactiveness.
The commendations followed the police takeover of the 23 Local Council Secretariat on Tuesday night to prevent breakdown of law and order after the power tussle between incumbent Governor, Siminalayi Fubara and loyalists to his predecessor, Nyesom Wike, assumed dangerous dimensions.
Two people- Police Inspector David Mgbada, and a vigilante member, Samuel Nwigwe-were confirmed dead at Eberi-Omuma in Omuma LGA, which followed the face-off between warring political groups over the tenure of the elected officials of the 23 local governments.
There was palpable tension in the state on Tuesday after the governor announced the termination of the tenure of the 23 council chairmen and ordered that Administrative Heads should take over pending the conduct of an election.
The governor’s pronouncement which saw youths trooped to the streets to enforce the order, contradicted the law passed by the Martins Amawule-led state House of Assembly that elongated the tenures of the council chairmen by six months.
The issue was further complicated by a Court of Appeal order that status quo be maintained until the hearing of suits on the matter as the council chairmen and executives vowed to stay on for another six months in line with the tenure elongation law.
Prempting a state of anarchy in the state with resultant loss of lives and property as witnessed in the past, the Commissioner of Police (CP) Olatunji Disu, ordered reinforced security and deployed security operatives in all the 23 LGAs for the maintenance of law and order.
But the police’ proactive steps did not go well with some section of the Nigerian public, who have accused the police command of meddling in politics.
However, concerned Rivers people and residents believe that the police acted in good time and prevented a situation that would have made the state tumultuous.
Referencing the 2013 Rotimi Amaechi versus Nyesom Wike crisis in Rivers State and how the police were needlessly dragged into political waters, the concerned residents appealed to the warring factions to resolve their differences and leave security operatives out of it.
“We are not going to be quiet and watch an ugly history repeat itself. We have gone through this route in 2013 and we saw how badly it affected the state. Politicians should learn to resolve their issues without recourse to violence. They cannot continue to arm thugs and cultists to threaten the peace in the state and then turn around to blame the police for doing their job,” said an Ogoni community leader, Saviour Nebari.
Commenting on the development, the National Coordinator, Centre for Basic Rights Protection and Accountability Campaign, Prince Wiro Junior, told The Nation he was very proud of the performance of police led by CP Disu, adding that they have remained professional since the beginning of the crisis.
“I must commend the police under CP Olatunji Disu for being very professional in handling the crisis in Rivers State.
“I am from Emehua Local Government and resident in Rivers State. Do not forget that the primary responsibility of the police is to protect life and protect. They also have a duty to detect crime before it happens.
“If not for the proactiveness of the CP, there would have been so much bloodshed in Rivers State yesterday. We also understand that some of the political gladiators have recruited cultists and all sorts of violent elements to unleash mayhem on their rivals but the CP and his men were able to rise to the occasion to prevent breakdown of law and order.
“The police have been very apolitical and neutral in this issue. There is calm across Rivers State today because the police took over the 23 LGAs to ensure peace and stability.
“Some people are asking why the police would take over the LGAs but I support them because if they were not proactive and violence broke out with deaths recorded in high numbers, people would still condemn the police for not acting. So, I commend them. They have done very well and I urge them to keep doing so.
“I want to use this opportunity to plead with the political gladiators to conduct their activities within the confines of the law. They should stop recruiting cultists and violent elements to disrupt the peace and stability of the state.
“If you are in Rivers State between Tuesday and Wednesday, you don’t need anyone to tell you all manner of characters that have come out from various nooks and crannies who are being sponsored by the politicians. The politicians should allow peace to reign in the state for the good of all.”
Another resident, Prince Udemkwe, said the fact that the warring factions were accusing the police of taking sides was a pointer that the service had stayed neutral and refused to do their bidding.
“It is very clear that each side wants the police to support them but they are not having their way. That is why both sides have been accusing the police of taking sides. For us, the ordinary residents in Rivers State, we are glad that the police have stayed proactive.
“If the police were not proactive in preventing some of the actions of these politicians, I won’t be able to go about my legitimate business and that will further make life difficult in this already hard economy.
“So, I am begging the police to continue to be neutral and not to allow any of the sides to influence them. If they succeed in having their way, violence will erupt in this state and it will affect those of us who make daily income,” he said.
Contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Grace Iringe-Koko, dismissed allegations of bias against the police.
She insisted that the police acted in public interest and in good faith, noting that it was the duty of the command to prempt and prevent any act of violence.
Iringe-Koko said the Commissioner of Police had continually sounded warning to all operatives of the command to be neutral and apolitical, adding that all the police had done since the crisis begun was stay on the sides of the law.
“We are only doing our job as we are supposed to. We have a no-nonsense CP who has a track record of being professional. As I speak with you, the CP is on patrol himself. He is monitoring situations across the state and he keeps reminding all of us that we are police operatives, not politicians.
“I think it is rather unfair on us that some people are accusing us of taking sides. If we do nothing and their is violence, we will be accused of not doing our job. Now, we are taking steps to prevent bloodbath and some peoole are still accusing us of takinf sides. We will not be discouraged.
“I want to appeal to the politicians to keep the police out of their issue. The police are out to ensure the safety and security of all residents of the state and their property. We will not take it lightly with anyone for meeting trouble in the state and will ensure the full weight of the law is deployed on them,” she warned.
Condemning Tuesday’s violence in the strongest terms, the Inspector General of Police (IG) Kayode Adeolu Egbetokun, directed the Commissioner of Police to heighten security measures across the state and institute thorough investigations into the killing of the police officer and the vigilante operative.
A statement yesterday by Force Public Relations Officer (FPRO), ACP Olumuyiwa Adejobi, said the IG directed investigation into the general violence which erupted in the state.
“The IGP has specifically deployed operatives of the Force Intelligence Response Team (IRT) to assist the Rivers State Command in apprehending the killers of the police officer and the vigilante member.
“The IGP seriously warns individuals and groups of people who have a penchant for senseless attacks and mindless killings of police officers and other security operatives across the country to desist forthwith as the fullest force of the law will be meted on them.
“The CP has also been directed to focus on increased patrols, strategic deployment of officers, and enhanced intelligence operations to prevent further violence and ensure the safety of all residents.
“The IGP extends heartfelt condolences to the families, friends, and colleagues of the deceased police officer and the vigilante member noting that their dedication and sacrifice in the line of duty will not be taken for granted.
“The Inspector General of Police calls on all residents and political stakeholders in the State to exercise restraint and seek peaceful means of resolving differences,” he said.

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