Court Remands Atiku Support Organisation Members in Rivers

Blessing Ibunge in Port Harcourt

A Chief Magistrate court in Port Harcourt, Rivers state capital has remanded 21 supporters of the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Alhaji Atiku Abubakar in the Nigeria Correctional facility in the state.

They were arrested in connection to a meeting organised by suspected members of Atiku Support Organisation in Rivers State. The suspects including those who claimed to have been arrested along the street of the venue of the Atiku Support Organisation meeting in Port Harcourt, were arraigned on counts bothering on alleged  conspiracy, cultism, and unlawful gathering.

When the matter was mentioned in court, the suspects did not take plea, but the presiding Chief Magistrate, Collins Ali directed that the case file be transmitted to the office of Director of Public Prosecution for advice and information.

The magistrate’s decision followed the fact that the charge was said to be moved on exparte application. He thereafter directed that the suspects be remanded in Nigeria Correctional facility and adjourned till March 22, 2023 for bail consideration.

Speaking to journalists after the court proceedings, a Port Harcourt based legal practitioner, Victor Orokor, who was present at the court condemned  the police for the charges against the defendants, stressing that people should be given liberty to vote the candidate of their choice.

Orokor said :”On the part of the government not judiciary because a magistrate will always look at what is before him and act in accordance with the law.” 

“But on the area of the prosecution, the police, precisely, the Commissioner of Police who is now obviously an ally of the governor, I think the proceedings, the whole thing is malicious.

“Is  it targeted at the political envoy of Atiku. Because these men were not arrested with  anything. There was no destruction of any property. There was nothing incriminating in their possession, no broken bottles, no vehicle was damaged, absolutely nothing. These are responsible citizens.

“It is unfortunate that people cannot support the candidate of their choice. The governor needs to have to a rethink of the whole thing, we need a free Rivers state where we vote candidate, support candidate of our choice. Whoever emerges as the winner we give the person our full support, at that point it becomes one Rivers state.”

Reacting to the arrest of the suspects, the state Police Public Relations Officer, Grace Iringe-Koko said: “The Rivers State Police Command on February 5, 2023 at about 1.30 pm arrested 32 persons from two hideouts in connection with suspected cult-related activities. The arrest is not related to any political meeting. Those arrested are presently being profiled and 12 of them have already been released. All others found to be clean will be released soonest while those found guilty to be charged in court”.

Meanwhile, Governor Nyesom Wike has directed the security agencies to raid any suspected area or premises and clamp down on cultists, militant support groups and other miscreants being used by politicians to disturb the peace, safety and security of the State.

The Rivers state governor gave the directive for the clampdown of cult groups, militants and political thugs hideouts in a state broadcast in Port Harcourt yesterday following the alleged rising cultism and related activities across Rivers State.

“We also denounce the rising cases of cultism in the State during this electioneering period, which are sponsored by politicians to settle political scores.

“Apart from committing heinous crimes, cultists masking as party support groups and thugs are used by rival party leaders to assault opponents and disrupt party meetings, especially in those political parties with protracted internal crises arising from their flawed primaries,” he said.

He further added: “We are also aware that desperate politicians are recruiting and arming cultists and other miscreants to be used to attack and intimidate voters during the polls.

“I wish to warn that no responsible government will close its eyes to the threat posed by these cultists, fanatical party support groups, and their sponsors to free and fair elections in the State.

“Consequently, I have directed the security agencies to raid any suspected area or premises and clamp down on cultists, militant support groups and other miscreants being used by politicians to disturb the peace, safety and security of the State.”

The governor reiterated that no amount of syndicated misinformation, campaigns of calumny, and diatribes by a section of the media and the political elites will deter the State Government from enforcing the laws of the State against those who vainly claim to be above them.

The governor called on leaders of political parties to obey the laws regulating election campaigns in the State, which are made to instil sanity and safeguard the public interest.

Wike said the State has had generally peaceful campaigns except for the few isolated reported incidents of violence by sponsored rival cults, gangs and support groups in one or two political rallies.

 Wike assured the people  that  state government will continue to support the security agencies to sustain the prevailing atmosphere of peace and security for voters to exercise their voting rights without fear or intimidation before, during and after the elections.

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