*He was shot twice in the chest — Aide
*We only used tear gas, minimum force — Police
BY JIMITOTA ONOYUME & Egufe YAFUGBORHI
PORT-HARCOURT — THE steaming political crisis in Rivers State took a turn for the worse, yesterday, when Senator Magnus Abe was allegedly shot in the chest twice with a rubber bullet at a rally of the Save Rivers Movement, a pro Governor Chibuike Amaechi group at Obio/Akpor Local Council of the state.
There were conflicting accounts, claims and counter-claims over who shot the serving senator, who has been flown to London for better medication after first aid treatment in two hospitals in Nigeria. While Governor Amaechi’s aides accused the police of shooting Abe, the police distanced themselves from the act, saying that they do not use rubber bullets and did not fire any shot at the event.
Also, there was an allegation that the Minister of State for Education, Mr. Nyesom Wike, directed the police to disrupt the rally, which the minister denied.
The Chief of Staff, Government House, Port Harcourt, Mr Tony Okocha, who claimed that he was with the Senator when the Police shot him at very close range, said they also fired teargas at them, adding that one of the canisters of the teargas hit him (Chief of Staff) on his leg.
Okocha said he had to escape into somebody’s house in the neighbourhood to save his life, adding that the Police kept on firing the teargas to disperse those that were there for the rally.
How we were attacked — Okocha
His words: “This morning was a huge surprise to me. It’s the turn of Obio/Akpor Local Government to host the Save Rivers Movement; we had gone to Eleme and also to Asari-Toru. Today (yesterday) is the turn of Obio/Akpor and as law-abiding citizens of Nigeria we wrote to the police, informing them of our programme and there was no negative response. We chose College of Arts and Sciences because it’s more expansive, it could accommodate at least 10,000 persons that will come out of Obio/Akpor Local Government Area today (yesterday).
“At about few minutes past 12, I received a call from somebody; highly placed, informing me that the Commissioner of Police had been reached by the Supervising Minister for Education to dislodge our people today and I couldn’t place it. About 4:30am, our men on ground, who were left there to secure the gadgets and facilities, called me to say that the police had taken over the place. For God’s sake, we are defenceless free citizens of Nigeria, we don’t carry arms. Save Rivers Movement is an organisation that insists that Rivers State must be saved, out to salvage the state from political buccaneers who want to put Rivers State into their pockets. We are in the business of sensitising our people from LGA to LGA. You are aware of a group called GDI, they go through all the LGAs with convoys of police, giving them all kinds of protection, including the commissioner of police, he’s always in their convoys, providing security for them and ensuring that what they do in the LGAs are trouble-free.
“When they called me I couldn’t place it immediately so I had to go there myself to see things. I was smoked as if I was a rabbit. I ran into someone’s house and unfortunately the man has children, they were all suffocating, they were all dying. So we had to improvise, they said we should use coke, some said kerosene would work. We had to use all of that to ensure that the man’s children live. That was what I saw; I was quarantined in somebody’s house.
“I was wondering whether it is the CP that is the chief security officer of Rivers State or the governor. They said the CP ordered that we should not gather and I said our rights to gather and associate is inalienable, you can’t take that away from us.
“As I talk to you, a Senator of the Federal Republic (Senator Abe) is lying critically ill in the hospital. I learnt arrangements are being made to fly him out of the country. We were together, he was even trying to make contacts with the IG when they shot him point blank. Senator Magnus Abe was shot in the chest with this their rubber bullet thing. My own was teargas shells. If they were doing the right thing they wouldn’t be shooting teargas and be picking the shells, so they knew they were doing the wrong thing. They brought in seven Armoured Personnel Carriers inside the College of Arts and Sciences. To kill common criminals? Are we criminals? These are defenceless citizens of Rivers state and Nigeria. We have our rights and we are not aware of any court order that has taken these rights away or restricted us from gathering.”
Continuing, Okocha said: “I heard that a young boy in the company of his mother, coming to church, suffocated and died instantly. I also heard that one house at Number 1 Elegbam Road was burnt because of the canister of teargas shot into it. They said it almost burnt down but people came to help put the fire out. A lot of people have been injured, there are people with varying degrees of injuries. Look at Magnus Abe, a senator of the republic, both of us were talking to the police, we were trying to explain to them and somebody was bold enough to shoot him point blank. Of course, they are working on the orders of the commissioner of police.”
Hospitalised Abe can’t talk — Aide
Meantime, Media aide to Senator Abe, Mr Honour Sirawoo, told Vanguard that Senator Abe who represents Rivers South East Senatorial district, was first admitted at a hospital in D line area of Port Harcourt but was later transferred to another hospital with better equipment to handle his situation after series of tests.
Sirawoo told Vanguard that he was not with the Senator when he was shot but that he rushed to the hospital to see the Senator who was on drip and could not talk.
Senator treated for traumatic shock – Doctor
Dr Mackay Anyanwu who administered first aide to Senator Abe at Krisany Medical services, in D line where he was first rushed to, told newsmen that the Senator was treated for traumatic shock.
He said: “The patient was brought in a state of shock, as evidenced by low blood pressure. He was restless and he couldn’t communicate or reason coherently. As a first aid, we treated him for traumatic shock because the implication of his state was that there was severe blood trauma and the amount of layers affected could not be detected immediately. This can only be done through haemorrhoid tests”.
….Abe hit by high calibre weapon
“We have administered oxygen treatment on him for resuscitation and primary medication, but we also detected severe internal bleeding and high level haemorrhaging in him. Another bad news is that we also detected that the affected side is showing severe swelling, which led me to the conclusion that he must have been hit by a high calibre weapon and my fears were confirmed when I was told that he was shot with a rubber bullet”, he said.
Effort by the Save Rivers Movement to regroup at Rumuigbo Civic Centre for the rally was again aborted by the Police as Policemen came and fired teargas to disperse the gathering. The Police later blocked the civic centre part of the ever busy Ikwerre Road to traffic, a situation that caused gridlock on the other sections of the road and the adjourning part of East West Road.
Senator Abe was not shot —Police
However, the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, DSP Ahmad Muhammad, said it was not true that the Police shot at Senator Abe with rubber bullets. According to him, Senator Abe and the Chief of Staff, Mr Okocha “walked peacefully” out of the venue of the proposed rally. While urging the press to give the Police fair hearing on the issue, he challenged media men to try to access Senator Abe to confirm if he was shot.
The Police spokesman confirmed that the Police used teargas to disperse youths who were there, stressing that no bullet was expended during the exercise. He also said the Police had to disperse the gathering because the organisers did not apply for police approval for the event.
“I want to state categorically that the Police did not fire any shot, no single ammunition was used. We don’t shoot rubber bullets. We used minimum force to disperse the gathering at College of Arts and Science, Rumuola. When I say minimum force I mean smoke, teargas.
“Senator Abe along with the Chief of Staff walked peacefully out of that place. I wonder why people now say that he was shot at. I challenge you Journalists, you have a social responsibility to go and see Senator Abe if they will allow you to see him. You know they are very good in telling lies against the Police. I want to remind you that this gathering they planned to do today (yesterday), there was no application for permit to the Police neither was there approval. Based on this reason we had to disperse them. You will recall that we even provided security for them in Eleme because they applied. When they gathered at the stadium we provided security for them because they applied and the Commissioner of Police granted approval. You remember Chief Bisi Akande, General Buhari, the governor, etc, all of them were at the programme at the stadium. Because they did not apply for approval for this programme that was why we dispersed the gathering,” he said.
Vanguard gathered that the Police moved into the Arts and Science venue of the rally on Rumoula Road as early as 6am to start dismantling canopies that had been mounted for the event. When they allegedly retreated, the youths came back again to erect the canopies. Eye witnesses told Vanguard that the Police later mobilised to the venue this time heavily armed. They allegedly fired teargas and rubber bullets to disperse the gathering.
Some members of the group who spoke to Vanguard under condition of anonymity said they had wanted to shift the rally which was originally fixed for 12 noon to about 9am, yesterday, before the Police aborted the exercise.
Chairman of the Save Rivers Movement, Aholu Okechukwu said the Police lied when it said the group did not apply for permit for the rally. According to him, they wrote to the Police on January 7 over the rally.
Wike’s convoy diverted
Meanwhile, at about 10.20 am, the Police mounted barricades on the two portions of the ever-busy Rumoula Road, diverting traffic heading to the two ends of the road to adjourning streets. At about 10.28 am, the Supervising Minister of Education, Mr Nyesom Wike drove from Aba Road into Rumuola Road in a convoy which included some security vehicles. He did not alight from the unmarked jeep conveying him. When his convoy got to the Police blockade on the Oroazi end of the Rumoula Road, it made a U-turn back to Aba Road.
I didn’t disrupt rally —Wike
Denying allegations that he asked the Police to disrupt the rally, Wike in a telephone chat with Vanguard said it had become the tradition in the state for his opponent to link him with any action of the Police. “So I was the one who told Police to allow them to hold their rally at the stadium. I was also the one who asked the Police to allow them to hold their rally at Eleme. Sometimes you people should not be asking some questions”.
Reminded that his convoy was on Rumuola Road at about 10. 28 am yesterday, he said: “’ Yes. I was on my way to
Ahoada. I got to the road but the Police blocked it. I had to turn back. Did you see me come down from my vehicle? You must have seen that I did not come down from the vehicle.”