Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
The internal crisis rocking the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State saturday became worse as hoodlums suspected to be political thugs vandalised a factional state secretariat of the party in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.
The secretariat, located in the Waterlines axis of Aba Road, Port Harcourt, was set up by aggrieved members of the APC loyal to the senator representing Rivers South-East district in the National Assembly, Sen. Magnus Ngei Abe.
Although party flags had been hoisted in front of the building, work was still on-going at the site in preparation for take-off.
An eyewitness of the attack told journalists that the hoodlums attacked the secretariat at about 9:00 a.m. in no fewer than five commercial buses
The eyewitness, who identified him as Ikechukwu Stephen, said the thugs were accompanied by armed men, who wore black and rode on a Toyota Hilux.
He said: “I was working, that is painting the building, when I saw five buses parked in front of here and boys came out and rushed into this place. The first rushed me and threw away the paints. They entered inside building and started destroying things.
“There was a white Hilux following them at the back. After they finished their action, somebody from the white Hilux started shooting gun; I don’t know whether they are policemen or not. They scattered everywhere, the glasses, the doors, the windows and so many things.”
Addressing journalists after inspecting the level of destruction on the building, the member representing Ikwerre/Emohua Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives and Chieftain of the Abe faction, Hon. Chidi Wihioka, accused the Chairman of APC in the state, Hon. Ojukaye Flag-Amachree of involvement in the attack on the factional secretariat.
He alleged that men of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) provided cover for the hoodlums that destroyed the factional party secretariat.
Wihioka expressed regret that the state Commissioner of police did not take any action even after they had reported to him the threat of Ojukaye Flag-Amachree to destroy the building.
The lawmaker said: “Before this morning, two days ago, there was a threat by Ojukaye Flag-Amachree, telling the whole people that he is going to destroy this place; that he is going to make sure he brings down this place.
“As a law abiding citizen and member of the Federal House, I called the attention of the Commissioner of Police, Rivers State. I reported the matter and requested from him to position a team of police around here to be guiding this place.
“By Thursday night, we did not see anything. On Friday, which was yesterday, we met with him again and Distinguished Senator Magnus Abe spoke with him on phone about this threat. He said he has heard and he was going to handle it.
“There were some people that were working here at night and some people that were guarding here and around 7:00 this morning, they left. Around 8:00am or thereabout, some hoodlums came. The surprising thing was that there was a backup from SARS, giving them covering fire and they came and destroyed everything about our party secretariat.
“The same Ojukaye Flag-Amachree that threatened, the same Ojukaye Flag-Amachree that has made it happen. What we are saying is this, he did this thing to State High Court complex and the Police have not taken any action against him.”
He noted that poles flying the party flags, buckets of paints, portraits of President Muhammadu Buhari and other valuable items were vandalised.
The Federal lawmaker stressed that those working on the building were also attacked as well as equipment used on the building destroyed by the hoodlums.
He said that some personal belongings including handsets belonging to the workers and machines were stolen by the hoodlums.
Wihioka called on the Rivers State Commissioner for Police and the Inspector-General of Police to arrest Flagg-Amachree to produce those he had sent to carry out the operation as well as ensure proper investigation into the matter.
The federal lawmaker called on Flagg-Amachree and his cohorts to approach the court and seek redress if they felt aggrieved instead of resorting to violence.
But reacting to the accusations, the State Publicity Secretary of the APC, Chris Finebone, denied the involvement of the Chibuike Amaechi faction in the destruction of the factional secretariat even if the Chairman, Flag-Amachree had earlier warned that any factional secretariat would be brought down.
In a brief statement issued yesterday, Finebone said, “Firstly, the Rivers State Chapter of All Progressives Congress, APC, heard about the incident like any other on social media this afternoon. We are clueless about what anyone is saying is responsible for what happened.
“Secondly, when the media disclosed to us that there was a rumour about a group of persons that was on the verge of setting up a parallel state secretariat of our party, we couldn’t understand why and where such was coming from.
“However, following persistent pressure from the media, the State Chairman, Hon. Ojukaye Fkag-Amachree responded that should the rumour become reality, then the party will explore all lawful means to get law enforcement agencies to seal such a parallel office. He recalled that APC did not have parallel congresses in Rivers State and there was no basis for such a situation to arise. That is all we know about the matter in question.
“We call on security agencies to thoroughly investigate the false accusation being peddled around including what we are hearing that what happened was an unfolding internal war amongst the Abe group over sharing of proceeds from NDDC contracts between their campaign Director General and a chieftain of their group.”