US, British Envoys in Rivers, Call for Peaceful Polls

John Bray

*Wike, PDP condemn arrests of members by security agencies

By Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt

The United States Consul-General to Nigeria, John Bray, and the Political Officer of the British High Commission in Nigeria, Louis Edwards Friday visited Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike; Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi; and other stakeholders, canvassing for peaceful polls.

The team visited Wike at Government House while they met with Amaechi at his private residence in Port Harcourt.

The joint meeting with Wike, which lasted about one hour, had the PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus; Deputy Governor, Ipalibo Harry Banigo; Rivers State PDP Chairman, Bro Felix Obuah; and Senator Lee Maeba in attendance.

Wike tabled the concerns of the government and people of Rivers State before the Diplomats, adding that the people were concerned by the mass arrests of PDP leaders by security agencies. He said the State Government and the PDP had issued several statements alerting the world on the illegal activities of security agencies ahead of the elections.

At the resident of Amaechi, the head of the delegation and member of the British High Commission to Nigeria, Louis Edwards, said, they were in Port Harcourt to support free, fair and credible elections.

She said they had already engaged stakeholders, politicians, security chiefs and INEC officials on the need for a peaceful exercise.

“We are here to support free, fair and peaceful election. We have engaged major stakeholders such as politicians, security chiefs and INEC personnel on the need to have a peaceful election”, she said.

Amaechi told the envoys that he wondered why Wike and the PDP would be worried about the security deployments in the state instead of joining forces to encourage them to beef up security apparatus in the State.

He stated that the elections of 2015 could not in any way be compared to the 2019 general elections in terms of security situation in the State.

“Would Governor Wike and his PDP party prefer the election of 2015 where thugs overwhelmed the State and unleashed terror on innocent Rivers people that resulted in the loss of so many lives on the streets of Port Harcourt? Even my cousin was also killed in front of Wike father’s house,” he said.

Amaechi affirmed that with the presence of the Military in the State for the Saturday’s elections, everybody including the APC and PDP members are protected.

Meanwhile, Wike and the state chapter of the PDP have condemned the arrest and intimidation of members of the party by security operatives.

Wike urged security agencies to be professional and unbiased in the discharge of their duties for the peaceful conduct of credible polls in the state.

In a state broadcast ahead of the Governorship and State Assembly elections in Rivers State, Wike said: “We condemn the stage-managed, unjustified and continuing arrests and unlawful detention of leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) across the State by security operatives since yesterday.

“We want to warn that such biased, politically-induced arrests and malicious jailing of PDP leaders only serve to heat up the already volatile political atmosphere with heightened tensions and dissensions, which could cause serious problems to the peaceful conduct of the Governorship and House of Assembly elections in the State.

“This is more so when the State security agencies are seen to be protecting and supporting leaders of the rival APC who have not relented to undermine public peace, safety security with their criminally pernicious, incendiary and inciting utterances.”

He added: “This being so, all that we require and demand from the security operatives is to create the enabling peaceful electoral environment for our electorates to come out and orderly cast and have their votes counted in the Governorship and State House of Assembly elections.

“Accordingly, we once again request the security agencies to be responsive and responsible in the performance of their legal duties and ensure that no person, political party or thug is allowed to undermine the order, peace and tranquility of the State in their desperation to foist their will on the State during the Governorship and House of Assembly election”.

The governor advised Rivers people to note that eternal vigilance is the price for freedom and that tyranny triumphs when the people allow fear to overwhelm them.

The state chapter of PDP also raised alarm, alleging a reign of terror on residents of the State, especially members of the party by officers and men of the Nigerian Army.

In a statement signed by the media aide to the chairman, Jerry Needam, the PDP said members of the party across the State were living in torment as soldiers were invading homes, raiding vehicles and molesting them.

“PDP members are being hunted and hounded by soldiers. This is happening simultaneously in all the major roads in the State. In all the roads leading to Ogoni, Andoni and Opobo, Ikwerre, Kalabari, Ahoada and Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni, passengers are being searched and any person spotted to belong to PDP is brought down, beaten and tortured,” he said.

The party added that vehicles conveying sensitive electoral materials were being hijacked by soldiers along the aforementioned roads, accusing the faction APC loyal to Amaechi of masterminding the atrocities to make real its threat to truncate the Governorship and State Assembly elections.

“This unwholesome military/APC conspiracy goes to vindicate our position that the APC-led federal government are not ready for the elections”, the PDP declared, adding that the party had also repeatedly demanded that the military should be kept out of elections in Rivers State,” he said.