By EGUFE YAFUGBORHI
PORT HARCOURT — A gathering of 13,000 newly recruited teachers, convened by their employer, the Rivers State Government, for collection of letters of posting was, yesterday, dispersed by the Police in the state alleging that it was yet another sponsored move to stage a protest against President Goodluck Jonathan in the state.
The teachers, who were streaming into the Liberation Stadium at Elekahia, in Port Harcourt, as early as 7.30am, yesterday, on the orders of the state Education Ministry, were reportedly dispersed with tear-gas canisters thrown by the policemen, who rushed in and ordered them to leave immediately.
One of the teachers said: “Some of us got here very early, hoping to finally collect our appointment letters and close what has been a tedious and suspense filled recruitment exercise. But the police came and ordered us to leave immediately, saying that our gathering had political undertone.”
The armed policemen who arrived in 11 patrol vans and two other vehicles, took over the area, threatening to deal ruthlessly with anyone, among the teachers who was defiant of the evacuation order after allegedly dispersing the crowd with tear-gas canisters.
In a statement, the Felix Obuah-led Peoples Democratic Party in Rivers State also claimed that “Wednesday’s gathering of the 13,000 teachers at the stadium was a ploy by Governor Rotimi Amaechi’s administration to use frustrated youths as protesters on the streets of Port Harcourt against President Jonathan.”
Reacting to the development, Richard Ofuru, Permanent Secretary of the state Ministry of Education, which summoned the teachers, said: “It was simply an administrative matter. We didn’t think it was necessary to inform the police.
“Remember, during the interview session in the recruitment process, this stadium was also used because of the number of applicants involved. We did not inform the police then and we did not have any problem.”
In his reaction, Chief of Staff to the Rivers State Government, Mr. Tony Okocha, said: “It is crass display of naked power. The government and people of Rivers State now live under the siege of the police force. You are aware Rivers State recently engaged 13,000 teachers for its primary and secondary schools and they were invited to collect their posting letters today at the stadium and Mbu Joseph deployed his men to despise them on suspicion that they were to demonstrate against the President.”
Efforts to get the newly appointed Rivers Police Public Relations Officer, Ahmed Muhammad, to comment on the situation were fruitless as he did not respond to repeated phone calls.