BY JIMITOTA ONOYUME, EGUFE YAFUGBORHI & BARTHOLOMEW MADUKWE

PORT HARCOURT—Embattled Majority Leader of Rivers State House of Assembly, Chidi Lloyd is to be formally arraigned before a Rivers State High Court sitting in Port Harcourt on charges of conspiracy and attempted murder, today.  This is because of the failure of the police to produce him (Lloyd) in court, yesterday.

Meanwhile, trial judge in the matter, Justice L.  Nyordee, who was just assigned the matter, has been accused of bias, even before trial commenced.

The secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, faction loyal to Minister of State for Education, Chief Ezenwo Wike, in a petition, accused the judge of bias.

Also, the much publicised Democracy Day rally billed  for Liberation Stadium, Port Harcourt, was, yesterday, aborted as the venue was taken over by  scores of heavily armed Policemen, as early as 7am.

No fewer than eight patrol vehicles were lined up on one side of the busy Stadium Road, while the Police also intensified patrol of major streets, yesterday.  It was not clear if the surveillance helicopter that was hovering in the sky early in the day had anything  to do with the presence of the Chief of Army staff, Lieutenant General Azubuike Ihejirika in Port Harcourt or the planned democracy rally. The helicopter hovered for several hours.

Meanwhile , in Lagos, civil society groups under the aegis of Coalition of Civil Society, CCS, yesterday stormed the office of Lagos State governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, SAN, to register their displeasure over the political crisis in Rivers State.

They also warned political jobbers in the country against truncating the country’s democracy.

Speaking during the protest, the Coordinator of Coalition of Civil Societies, Mr. Raji Rasheed, said that the protest was about democracy and Nigeria, adding  “we are not happy with the show of shame in Rivers State. In 1966, people said such issue was a party one and at the end of the day, military took over. So, we do not want such thing to repeat itself. All of us must come together and call them to order. We cannot just fold our hands and look.”

Also, Coordinator of Concerned Human Rights Nigeria, Declan Ihekaire, said the protest was against anti-democratic elements in the country and the need to protect the nation’s democracy.

He said the crisis in Rivers State was capable of crippling the country’s democracy, adding that most of the actors in the Rivers crisis never fought for democracy.

On the allegation of bias against the judge handling Lloyd’s matter, lead counsel to the embattled House Leader, Mr. Beluolise Nwofor, who drew the attention of the judge, to the petition, wherein he was accused of bias, said: “The content of the document filed in the court is an affidavit evidencing bias and undue influence of the court against the judge. It was authored by one Benjamin  Eke, who you know as the State PDP Secretary.

“The charge against Lloyd has been assigned to a judge and there is now an accusation of bias against the judge, a judge that is yet to hear the charge.”

The court, will today,  commence, hearing in the matter, with the formal arraignment of  Lloyd, which could not take place, yesterday, due to the failure of the Police to produce him in court.

Yesterday, the trial judge waited till 4pm for the Police to produce the accused, following which he adjourned till today. On the application for bail for Lloyd, the judge said he needed to give the prosecution  benefit of the doubt by adjourning till today in view of  shortness of the time, the hearing notice was served on them.

Meanwhile, on the planned rally in Port Harcourt,  members of the Niger Delta Civil Society Coalition, organisers of the rally were later allowed to converge in a hall on Stadium Road amid tight security to address the media.

Chairman of the body, Mr. Anyakwe Nsirimovu,   said it was sad that they were not allowed to hold their planned rally at the Liberation Stadium. Lamenting the action of the Police, he said it was a sad day for democracy in the country.

“This is a sad day for democracy in the country, a day when freedom of association was jettisoned. Democracy is not without participation or assembly. We had slated the Liberation Stadium to be the meeting venue. On getting there, the Nigerian Police force had taken over the stadium.”

He called on those behind the  acts of impunity in the state to stop such acts and allow the rule of law to reign, adding they had not come out to take side with any faction in the political crisis rocking the state but to drum up support for the rule of law.

Debo Adeniran, who also spoke, said as civil society members, they had come out to support the course of true democracy, adding that a situation where the minority forced their tyranny on the majority would no longer be tolerated. Emma Ezeazu also spoke along the same line, stressing that they had come to condemn acts of impunity in the state.

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