By Jimitota Onoyume
PORT HARCOURTâ€” SCORES of youths resident in Bundu-Ama, a waterfront area of Port Harcourt were yesterday arrested by security operatives on charges yet to be ascertained.
The state Police Public Relations Officer, Mrs. Rita Inoma Abbey who confirmed the development to the Vanguard on phone could not give the number of those arrested.
At press time, there was heavy security presence in the area and pedestrians were seen raising their two hands up as sign of total surrender before passing check points mounted by the security operatives.
An armored personnel career belonging to the army was stationed at a junction on Harbor road leading to the waterfront and about five security patrol vehicles were seen patrolling the area.
Also the police had its armored personnel careerÂ (APC) on the same Harbor road. The APCs were mounted by fierce looking operatives.
It was gathered that trouble started in the area when security operatives reportedly swooped on youths and women of the area that came out that morning to protest attempt by the Rivers state government to commence enumeration of houses in the waterfront ahead of its planned demolition.
According to some residents who spoke to the Vanguard, they said the enumerators were in the area last week but could not carry out the enumeration exercise because leaders of Bundu-Ama community pleaded with them to wait for the court to rule on the demolition.
The residents said they later heard that the government had concluded plans to invade the area with security operatives that yesterday.
To forestall the plan, they said the leadership of the community quickly raised a â€˜save our soulâ€™ letter to the governor urging him to prevail on his Special Assistant on Waterfront Development, Mr. Theodore George not to make real the threat.
A copy of the letter dated October 11 and signed by nine persons was made available to the Vanguard. Meanwhile, according to them, they had to mobilize for a peaceful rally against the planned demolition yesterday morning. While, they were on it security operatives reportedly swoop on the area, shooting sporadically.
Continuing, the residents expressed fears that some persons might have died from the shooting. They said those that sustained injuries were rushed to a trauma clinic in Port Harcourt. Vanguard was not allowed into the clinic to confirm the situation.
But when contacted, the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Bala Hassan said nobody died.
â€œIf anybody died I canâ€™t be in my office. I understand one was injuredâ€. He said his men were very careful to avert any casualty. According to him, youths from the area smashed one his patrol vehicles in the area. He said his men were there on routine patrol.
â€œWe normally dominate waterfronts as part of our patrol policy in the state. Our presence there had nothing to do with enumeration exercise,â€ he said.
Public relations Officer of the Port Harcourt army barracks, Major Aminu Iliyasu who also spoke to the Vanguard said no life was lost.
â€œImmediately this thing happened, the Commander rushed to the scene. There was nothing like what you are saying. I am not aware anybody died. As an officer I canâ€™t tell you what did not happen or deny what happened,â€ he said.
At the time of filing this report, the head of the Bundu-Ama community, Prince Ada Williams and some members of his executive were in the custody of the police. They were arrested on Sunday. The state Police PRO, Mrs. Abbey confirmed this to the Vanguard.
There were clear signs that the state government still went ahead with the enumeration that yesterday because some of the houses had fresh graffiti.
It would be recalled that Okrika community had dragged the state government to court over its planned demolition of some of the waterfronts in the Port Harcourt metropolis. The case comes up today at the federal High court.
The government in its reaction to the shooting yesterday morning blamed it on miscreants who wanted to disrupt the enumeration exercise.
Governor Chubuike Amaechi who spoke through his Acting Chief Press secretary, Blessing Wikina said the alleged miscreants wanted to disrupt the exercise because they were not property owners. He urged residents of the state to remain calm.
â€œGovernment is enumerating the structures at Bundu waterfront, identifying their genuine owners, and that is why those who are in no way affected by the exercise prefer causing panicâ€.
â€œAs a government, we are committed to guaranteeing the right of every Rivers State person to a decent habitable condition,â€ he said.