The resolve of the Rivers State governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, to effect a change of governance at the third tier of government met a stiff resistance as officers and men of the state police command barricaded entrances into most of the local government secretariats, on Friday.
The movement restriction order from the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr Solomon Arase, was said to have been given to protect lives and property on the heels of the ruling of a Port Harcourt Federal High Court which nullified the council poll conducted on May 23, 2015, six days before the end of Rotimi Amaechi’s administration.
The order to prevent workers and members of the public from gaining entry into the secretariats of the 22 out of the 23 councils in the state was said to have been sent from the office of the Inspector General at about 11.30 p.m. on Thursday.
As early as 9:00 a.m. on Friday, 10 police operational vehicles with armed policemen were positioned around the Port Harcourt Local Government Headquarters, along Moscow Road, preventing human movement into the secretariat.
No one was seen inside the secretariat whose gates were locked, even as armed policemen simply said they were on official duty and were not expected to disclose their mission to anyone not directly connected to offering security services to Nigerians.
When contacted for comments on the presence of armed policemen at the entrance of the local council secretariat, the Rivers police spokesman, DSP Ahmad Mohammad, in a short text message, simply said, “It is for protection of life and property.”
Governor Wike alerted of the police invasion while swearing in members of the newly-constituted Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission (RISIEC) and the state Judiciary Service Commission (RSJSC).
Raising the alarm, he said, “We were informed this morning that armed policemen have taken over the local government councils. Yesterday (Thursday), we swore-in 22 caretaker committee chairmen after the Federal High Court nullified the so-called May 23 local government election.
“We did not dissolve the local government councils as being speculated, but we followed due process. We refused all pressures to dissolve the councils as some states had done.”
Earlier in the day, supporters of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) clashed at the front of Emohua Local Government Area secretariat.
The APC supporters were said to have had insisted that they would not vacate the premises of the council for the newly sworn-in PDP caretaker committee chairmen.
Their action may not be unconnected with directive allegedly issued by the APC publicity secretary in the state, Mr Chris Fynebone, that the local government chairmen elected on the party’s platform should resist any attempt by the caretaker chairmen to gain entry into the secretariats.
Meanwhile, Rivers PDP chairman, Mr Felix Obuah, has called for the immediate arrest and prosecution of Fynebone over his alleged comments calling on his party supporters not to respect the court judgment.
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