By Jimitota Onoyume
It is a challenging time for the government and residents of Rivers State because of the impact of political developments on the economy of the state.
Last Sunday, a rally by the Save Rivers Movement, SRM, a pro-Governor Chibuike Amaechi body, was aborted in Bori, headquarters of Khana local government area, by hoodlums.
They started shooting as early as 2am that day to create an atmosphere of fear and tension in the community. Despite the shooting, which reportedly lasted till about 5am, some top government functionaries still dared to go to the All Saints Cathedral Church, Diocese of the Anglican Communion, venue of the rally, to see the extent of preparations.
They were there when the hoodlums stormed the venue and continued their shooting. The Chief of Staff, Government House, Port Harcourt, Mr Tony Okocha; Secretary to the State Government, Mr George Feyii; and the Deputy Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Hon Leyii Kwanee, were among those who fled for their lives.
The shooting caused those at the market on Monsi Road to scamper for safety. They abandoned their wares as ran for dear lives. Worshipers in churches that morning were also in tense mood. Some state government vehicles at the venue of the rally were riddled with bullets. The OBS van of Channels Television was vandalised.
Peace only returned to the area after police men moved in, took over Hospital Road in the town. The road leads to the venue of the rally. The police also sealed the venue. Nobody was allowed into the place.
Some traders, who spoke to Sunday Vanguard in the Bori community, said the ugly incident caused them huge economic losses as they misplaced money while running. Many others said they were in the middle of a transaction when they started hearing gun shots and fled. “I cannot recall who I sold some things to. I was at the verge of collecting money when we heard gun shots and everybody ran. Now I can’t find the person.”
Some said they later ran back to hurriedly lock up their stores because they were not sure of what would happen next.
Leader of Ogoni Environmental Protection Agency (OGEPA), Mr John Lawisa; Movement for the Survival of Ogoni, MOSOP, and other groups have, meantime, enjoined warring politicians in the state not turn Ogoni into a theatre of war. They also appealed to Amaechi and the Supervising Minister of Education, Mr. Nyesom Wike, not to bring their programmes to the area for now.
They condemned the shooting in Bori, an Ogoni community. “I hereby humbly advise our governor, as well as Mr. Wike and their supporters to PLEASE launch their Movements elsewhere for the now, in the name of peace and humanity. As none of you are a friend of Ogoni and will not be. I and my colleagues believe that this battle is for the soul of Rivers State (and Ogoni); it is for your individual and selfish gains, and not for the interest of all, as you would like us to believe, hence you have continued to use human lives to further this cause.
For Ogoni people, it will be a mistake of a lifetime to be deceived or coerced into bearing arms for any of these
fellows, in the name of politics and/or whatever. OGEPA as a body, is concerned about the lives the environment our people inhabit and is appalled with the degenerating standard of our
body”, Lawisa said.
Lawyers and staff of Rivers State Road Traffic Management Agency, TIMARIV, in a related development, protested, on Thursday, in Port Harcourt. While staff of TIMARIV protested non-payment of their four months salaries, the lawyers protested non-appointment of a Chief Judge for the state, a situation they said was affecting smooth operations of the judicial arm.
The lawyers marched on the pedestrian lane of the Azikiwe Road to the Federal High Court.
Some of the placards they carried read, “Worgu Boms (Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice), resign or follow the law“, Even in military there was Chief Judge”, “NBA suffering and smiling”, “Attorney General stop misleading.”
The lawyers carried out their action under the aegis of Forum of Concerned Lawyers of the Nigeria Bar Association, Port Harcourt branch. They urged the National Judicial Council, NJC, to collaborate with judges of the Rivers state High court to act in line with the doctrine of necessity to appoint the most senior judge as Chief Judge of the state.
“ Having regard to the doctrine of necessity, the independence and functions of the judiciary as an arm of government, we hereby use this media to urge the National Judicial Council, NJC in collaboration with our respective judges of the Rivers State High Court, to urgently facilitate the appointment and swearing into office of whosoever is the most senior judge in the state in order to assume functions and responsibilities of the Chief Judge of Rivers State”, the group said.
When contacted for comments on call for his removal or resignation, the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Worgu Boms, in a text message said the lawyers had the constitutional rights to express themselves.
A blind lawyer in the state, Gordon Bryson Pepple, said he was going to court to compel the governor to appoint a CJ. “I will file a writ of mandamus compelling the governor to appoint a CJ”, he said.
A faction of the Peoples Democratic Party in the state, led by Godspower Ake, said the protest was sponsored by the Grassroots Democratic Initiative, GDI, a pro-Nyesom Wike group.
Publicity secretary of the group, Mr George Nwogba, described the state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice as a gift to the state’s judiciary
“Wogu Boms is a gift to the Rivers State judiciary whose actions and advice to the Rivers State Government in respect to the matter of the appointment of state Chief Judge has been purely professional and apolitical. What the protesting lawyers only achieved was denigrating the wig and gown by joining street urchins and often rented miscreants to march on the streets for peanuts. We had assumed that lawyers were learned enough to know civility and decorum,” he said
On Tuesday some youths from Ikwerre also blocked a portion of Aba Road protesting against the governor. The protesters said they would not hesitate to shut down Port Harcourt International Airport and oil operations in their various local government if the state Police Commissioner, Mr. Joseph Mbu, was transferred on account of the call by Amaechi and his aides.