Urgent appeal to police to vacate Rivers State local government buildings: Obey the courts, not the ‘Oga at the top’ – The verdict is in! Enough is enough! -By John Egbeazien Oshodi

Urgent appeal to police to vacate Rivers State local government buildings: Obey the courts, not the ‘Oga at the top’ – The verdict is in! Enough is enough! -By John Egbeazien Oshodi

Inspector General of Police Kayode Egbetokun and State Commissioner of Police Olatunji Disu: The Court of Appeal has spoken. Are you going to allow local government workers and chairmen to use their buildings? Are you going to obey the law or bow to federal power? You cannot be there for a minute longer, regardless of external influence! Stop strangling Fubara and the people of Rivers State!

Speaking to the media, the state Commissioner for Police, Olatunji Disu, said around mid-June, when tensions escalated, the local government council headquarters would remain closed due to ongoing clashes between the warring parties. The decision came after a violent confrontation that reportedly resulted in the death of a police officer and another individual.

Disu stated: “It is because two groups are fighting over something. Two groups are fighting over something. The other group is waiting to tackle them. We must prevent them from clashing and killing each other like they did yesterday and killed a police officer and another person.” While this highlights the need for intervention, it falls short of addressing the root causes of the conflict and the need for conflict resolution strategies. Modern policing emphasises proactive community engagement to resolve disputes before they escalate into violence.

Disu further explained the need for police intervention, stressing the priority of maintaining public safety and preventing further violence. “We have to prevent them from going in. We have locked up the local government secretaries. If we let them (acting chairmen) go in, other people will come out and clash with each other. Then people will wonder what we are doing as police officers?” This reasoning shows a reactive approach rather than a strategic one. Modern policing requires detailed plans for crowd management and de-escalation tactics that address the causes of unrest rather than simply containing it.

Disu also stated: “We are here to prevent a breach of law and to protect lives and property. So we know for sure that if there is a clash, anything can happen. So we do our job to protect lives and property.” While protecting lives and property is fundamental, this statement reflects a defensive attitude. Modern policing should focus on building trust within the community and take preventive measures such as mediation and dialogue to prevent clashes before they happen.

Furthermore, Disu justified the complete closure of local government offices, barring all government employees from entering, due to the possibility of clashes between the two political factions. “For now, no one is allowed to enter. If we let local government employees in, others will sneak in. So it’s still the same thing. How can we sit there and let those who are not employees sneak in?” This blanket restriction highlights a lack of nuanced strategy. Modern policing would benefit from controlled access measures and targeted security protocols that allow essential government functions to continue while ensuring safety. Blanket bans can be seen as heavy-handed and could further undermine public confidence in law enforcement.

When asked why local government employees were not allowed to enter their offices, Disu replied: “For now, no one is allowed to enter. If we let local government employees in, others will sneak in. So it’s still the same thing. How can we sit there and let those who are not employees sneak in?” This response reflects a lack of confidence in the ability to effectively control access. Modern security measures, such as ID verification and controlled access points, can ensure that only authorized personnel enter, thus maintaining order without completely shutting down government functions.

Disu concluded: “So it’s better to seal the place off and make sure there’s peace. And that’s exactly what we’re doing.” While this approach may provide a short-term solution, it ignores the need for a long-term strategy to address the underlying tensions. Effective policing involves not only maintaining peace through violence, but also engaging the community to build trust and find sustainable solutions to conflict.

Speaking on the specific context of the crisis, Disu said: “We are aware of the crisis that has to do with the tenure of the local government chairmen. We have had one court order or the other. The Court of Appeal has ordered everyone to exercise restraint until the 20th of this month, just three days. So we expect everyone to respect this and not take the laws into their own hands and let peace continue as it is.” This emphasises the importance of respecting court decisions and emphasises the role of law enforcement in ensuring compliance with court orders to maintain public order.

The Court of Appeal did not deliver its ruling until the first week of July, and when it did, it focused on the faction of the Rivers State House of Assembly that was loyal to former Governor Nyesom Wike. The members of the assembly had legally lost their seats when they left the PDP for the APC. However, the Court of Appeal did not go into substantive issues such as leave of absence; instead, it ruled that the Supreme Court had no jurisdiction to hear the case. This ruling was in favor of the pro-Wike lawmakers. Furthermore, the Court of Appeal did not go into the illegal extension of the tenure of local chairmen by pro-Wike lawmakers whose terms had expired. When the Court of Appeal delivered its ruling last Thursday, the pro-Wike lawmakers saw this as a signal to return.

On the tenure of local government chairmen, the Court of Appeal few hours ago declared that there was no legal basis for extending their tenure. Despite this, the police have continued to barricade local government secretaries in Rivers State to prevent breakdown of law and order. Even when Governor Fubara swore in the Caretaker Committees in the 23 Local Government Areas, the police still did not allow them to use their offices and staff were not allowed to enter.

Governor Fubara knew the games the police, the federal power and Wike were playing and advised the local government workers and the new chairmen of the interim committee to work virtually or online. He told them not to protest because the police and the federal power would blame them and use that tactic to take over the state, which is what Wike and his allies want.

Rivers State Governor Siminalayi Fubara has also expressed surprise at the silence of the Nigerian Police over the recent attempted detonation of an explosive device in Port Harcourt, the state capital. The incident occurred during a protest by supporters demanding extension of the tenure of former chairmen of local government councils. Fubara wondered why the police have not issued any statement or taken action after many weeks. The governor maintained that if the act had been committed by supporters linked to him, they would have been charged with terrorism.

This closure underscores the serious political instability in Rivers State as the conflict between the pro-Wike and pro-Fubara factions escalates. The situation is disrupting local governance and posing a significant threat to public safety. While the police intervention is necessary to prevent further bloodshed, it underscores the urgent need for a resolution to the political crisis. The police must adopt a more nuanced and strategic approach, using modern security practices and psychological insights to effectively manage the conflict and restore public confidence.

The governor is supposed to be the head of state security, but through compromise and politics – especially the ongoing power struggle between Fubara and his predecessor Wike, who uses federal power to challenge Fubara – the influence of the federal authorities is clearly visible in the actions of the police. The commissioner does not seem to take orders from Fubara but from Abuja, undermining the authority of the governor and exacerbating political instability. That is why we need the state police and let us reduce the NPF to guarding federal personnel, buildings and properties. Imagine them doing nothing all day except standing guard at post offices and federal buildings – it is almost comical.

Governor Fubara has taken significant steps to maintain peace by ensuring that protests do not break out knowing that his side would be blamed for any unrest. His strategic approach has proven effective in maintaining relative calm. Now that the Court of Appeal has ruled against the extension of the tenure of the council’s leadership, the police have no excuse to stay. They must vacate the premises and allow the people of Rivers State to resume their work and governance to continue uninterrupted. Abuja’s power games must be confined to Abuja and not at the expense of the stability of Rivers State.

Even if we acknowledge the complexity of the judiciary, once issued, judgments must be respected and enforced by everyone, including the police and the president. In a country where court orders are not obeyed, the rule of law is fundamentally compromised. That is why I say: the police have no more excuses. Get out of those buildings now.

It is reported that the Abuja police and others within the state continue this so-called surveillance of the premises, which is a blatant abuse of resources and authority. The appellate courts have ruled against the extension of the tenure of the leadership of the council, so the police must immediately withdraw, as the police commissioner and the IGP claimed that they were awaiting this decision. This scenario underscores the serious political instability in Rivers State, with increasing tensions between the pro-Wike and pro-Fubara factions. The continued disruption of local governance and the significant threat to public safety require immediate, strategic action by the police. Their intervention is crucial to prevent further bloodshed, but it also highlights the urgent need for a comprehensive solution to the political crisis. The police must adopt a more sophisticated approach, integrating modern security practices and psychological insights to effectively manage the conflict and restore public confidence.


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