Why We Dispersed Rally By Peter Obi’s Supporters In Ebonyi – Police
The police in Ebonyi State have justified their decision to disperse hundreds of supporters of Labour Party presidential candidate Peter Obi who gathered for a rally on Saturday.
The police accused the ‘Obidients’ – the nickname of supporters of Mr Obi – of not paying the required fees and attacking police officers.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how the police dispersed the political gathering on Saturday morning, in Abakaliki, the state capital……..Continue Reading
In a statement sent to journalists, the Ebonyi police spokesperson, Chris Anyanwu, said the police acted based “on the rules of engagement.”
Mr Anyanwu also suggested that the police acted based on the request of the Ebonyi government over the non-payment of approved fees.
Mr Anyanwu, a superintendent of police, said the supporters met with police before the rally but failed to make the payment approved by the state government.
The supporters also failed to pay another refundable sum of money as collateral in case of any damage to government property during the rally, he said.
Nigerian law does not require a police permit or payment before peaceful rallies or protests are held. The police only need to be informed so they can provide the necessary security.
However, some state governments have started putting campaign rules in place ahead of the campaigns for the 2023 elections which start later this month. Some of the rules include payment of money.
In his statement, Mr Anyanwu also claimed that the Labour Party (LP) governorship candidate in the state, Edward Nnwegu, pleaded with the supporters to shelve the rally to avoid “the looming catastrophe”, but they insisted, and maintained that nobody would stop them.
The police spokesperson said operatives were deployed to the take-off venue of the rally, Pastoral Center, to maintain peace and order.
He said the decision followed information that the rally could become “turbulent and create a state of insecurity” in the state if left unchecked.
“Unfortunately, while the policemen were properly deployed to ensure that there was no breakdown of the law, the radicals and mischief-makers among the rallyists became violent and started hauling missiles on the police operatives, uttering all manners of unprintable statements on the police and the government. Many of them even went physically to assault and attack the policemen,” he said.
“So, in response, and guided by the presidential pronouncements at the era of the unpopular End-SARS protests, the police personnel on duty rose to the occasion to dislodge the violent and criminally-oriented attackers.
“After taking control of the situation, the rally continued and ended peacefully,” Mr Anyanwu stated.
Earlier, one of the ‘Obidients’ at the rally, Steve Ugama, told PREMIUM TIMES that the police fired tear gas to disperse the ‘peaceful rally’.
He also said four of his colleagues were arrested by the police.
“We have gathered here this morning for our peaceful march. All of a sudden, the police came and started tear-gassing us and arresting our people.
“They said we can’t hold the march because Governor David Umahi asked them to stop us, that we can’t hold it. About four of our colleagues have been arrested. We need help here,” Mr Ugama said minutes after the rally was dispersed.
The rally was later held successfully, despite the actions of the police.
In his reaction, Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State denied that he ordered the dispersal of the rally.
The participants had accused the Ebonyi State Government of being behind the attempt to disrupt the rally.
But Mr Umahi, in a statement by his media aide, Chooks Oko, said he was not aware of the disruption of the rally.
Mr Oko said it was not true that the governor ordered the police to disrupt the rally.
“The Governor of Ebonyi State is certainly not aware of any disruption of any gathering, as he didn’t order any.
“He is a democrat who believes firmly in the rule of law. He wishes every contending politician the very best and will insist on a level playing ground for all. If it is true that the police dispersed people, the answer will surely rest with the police,” he said.
Mr Okoh admitted that the state government asked the organisers of the rally to pay some fees before they would be allowed to use the stadium.
“For record purposes, the relevant government agencies had approved the use of Abakaliki township stadium for a rally by the Labour Party subject to the payment of some specified fees,” he said.
Mr Oko said rather than pay the fees, the organisers chose to hold the rally on the streets, causing hardships for citizens going about their daily pursuits.
“The police, we are told, had to step in to restore law and order. The governor appeals to all citizens to always abide by the dictates of the law and decent living so that law and order will always reign supreme.”
However, Mr Ugama, a supporter of Mr Obi, insisted that Governor Umahi ordered the disruption.
Mr Ugama, a lawyer, claimed that an officer who led the police team said the governor ordered them to stop the rally.
“I had to raise my hands so that the police will know I am not armed. I had a conversation with the leader of the police team on behalf of the group and he expressly told me that the governor asked them to stop the solidarity walk.
“They teargassed us, fired live bullets in the air. But we defiled the odds and marched on.
“Thank you Ebonyi youths. I’m so proud of everyone who turned out for this walk. Nigeria must walk again,” he said.