BY JIMITOTA ONOYUME
The inside story of the feud in Rivers State between the governor and the state police commissioner, who is believed in some quarters to be fighting the cause of the authorities in Abuja.
Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Mbu Joseph Mbu, has been having a running battle with the state government since he assumed office.
Many top officials of the state government are of the opinion that the police boss is acting a script of the authorities in Abuja.
They are quick to point at the way he ordered his men to seal Obio Akpor local government secretariat barely a week after the Rivers State House of Assembly suspended the Chairman of the council, his vice and 17 councilors over allegations of abuse of public funds and breach of security.
The action of the police has made it impossible for the seven-man Caretaker Committee that was put in place by the state government to function. The staff of the local government have also not been able to access their offices. This has been the state of things at Obio Akpor local government in the last two months.
The Caretaker Committee, led by Mr Chikordi Dike, got a High Court order asking the police to vacate the secretariat with a caveat that it should provide minimal security while activities resume at the place. Barely three hours after the police moved out of the place, the plant room in the secretariat was set ablaze allegedly by hoodlums.
There were also protests by youths allegedly from Obio Akpor local government who threatened to wreak havoc on the place if the Caretaker Committee was allowed access to the secretariat.
The two developments forced the police to move in again to seal the place.
The police, the Caretaker Committee and the suspended elected officials of the council, at press time, were in court on issues surrounding the secretariat. There are those who think the action of the police is laced with bias while some others believe the security agency acted to save lives and guard against chaos in the local government area.
Meantime, the Speaker of Rivers State House of Assembly, Hon Otelemaba Amachree, was the first to accuse the police commissioner of partiality in the political crisis rocking the state. Reports quoted Amachree as calling for immediate redeployment of the commissioner on account of his alleged interest in the state political crisis. Some local government Chairmen in the state also levelled same accusation against Mbu.
But to the Felix Obuah-led Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the state and loyalists of the Minister of State for Education in Obio Akpor and other parts of the state, the police commissioner deserved to be commended for his actions on the political crisis in Obio Akpor local government council.
Obuah, the factional Chairman of the Rivers PDP, in a press statement, lauded Mbu, saying he had not acted outside his lines of duty.
The face-off between the state government and the police commissioner took a dramatic twist recently when the latter labelled Governor Chibuike Amaechi a tyrant and dictator. According to Mbu, his problem with those in government was because of his alleged refusal to act at the whims and caprices of the governor.
“Our governor is very tyrannical, he is a dictator. He wants everybody to say ‘yes sir’ to him and I said I will not say so. I am a professional”, the police boss said. He further said he was in the state purely on police duty, pleading that Amaechi should not drag his name into the murky waters of politics. He further reiterated his ban on protest without police permission in the state.
The dust generated by his comment on the governor had hardly settled when Amaechi fired his own shot daring Mbu to shoot him over public protest. The governor said he had concluded plans to storm the street of Port Harcourt with hundreds of Rivers people to march against the ban against public protests by the police commissioner. He said the police boss should be ready to open fire on him and hundreds of protesters.
Amaechi boasted that there was no way several Mbus would be able to stop the protest march which he would lead. The governor said while he would be at the head of the protesters, the Secretary to Rivers State Government, SSG, would be on ground to receive a formal letter from him and the protesters, stressing that he would soon pick a date for the exercise.
The governor also alleged that the state police commissioner recently ordered his men to stop people of Orashi who were coming to pay him a solidarity visit. Chairmen of the four local governments in the area corroborated Amaechi’s statement.
According to the foursome, Chairman of Ahoada East, Mr Cassidy Ikegbedi; Ahoada West, Awori Miller; Abua Odua, Udi Odum; and Ogba Egbema Ndoni, Mr Austin Ahiamadum, they got a call from the police Area Commander in charge of their zone asking them not to embark on the visit. But they insisted on their right. The council chairmen said their people were harassed at Rumuji, Emohua local government area by the police as they were going to Port Harcourt to pay the solidarity visit to the governor.
On Thursday, Mbu explained why his men had to stop those coming for the visit. According to him, the initial information available to the police was that they were coming to Port Harcourt for a public protest.
The police boss said he had to ask his men to allow them into the state capital after the governor called to tell him that they were coming on a solidarity visit.
“We got report by 1 am on Tuesday that some elements were being mobilised to come to Port Harcourt for a public protest. We had to stop them. His Excellency called me to say they were on solidarity visit to Government House. And I called my officers to allow them to come”. Mbu, who described Amaechi as his friend, brother and boss, said there was no problem between them. According to him, whatever problem existed was a media creation.
“His Excellency is the Chief Security Officer (of Rivers State), he is my friend. I am his 2ic.”
When told that the governor had threatened to embark on a street protest with hundreds of Rivers people to challenge the police ban on peaceful protest in the state, the police boss said he was not sure Amaechi would do so. “I know that His Excellency is not thinking in the direction”.
Mbu said the ban on protest without approval from the police was still in force in the state. “We won’t discuss the planned protest by the governor now.”
On his relationship with Amaechi, the police commissioner said the media had been busy creating false impression that they were fighting. “Forget what journalists are busy writing about the governor and myself. He is my friend, brother and boss. Yesterday we spoke for about thirty minutes”.
When asked if he would open fire on the governor if he leads his protesters, the police chief smiled and said,” how can I shoot my governor?”