Rivers State: Mixed reactions over police ban on rallies

RIVERS COMMISSIONER OF POLICE MBU JOSEPH MBU (1)

Mbu Joseph Mbu

Okafor Ofiebor/Port Harcourt

The blanket ban on political rallies announced Monday by the Rivers State Police Command, has elicited mixed reactions.

Golden Chioma, a Lawyer, and member of the state House of Assembly, representing Etche Constituency said the Police cannot ban Public activities in the state because it has no powers to do so.

He said the section of the Police Order Act from where the Command is drawing its powers has been set aside by a competent court of Jurisdiction.

He further said that if there must be any ban due to anticipated breakdown of law and order it is the Governor of the state who is the Chief Security Officer of the state that would direct the police to place such ban.

However, the Rivers state Government said it welcomes the ban on political rallies in so far as the enforcement will be across board and not selective.

Mrs Ibim Semenetari, the Commissioner for Information and Communications said that there is the need for the Police to clarify between Political rallies and meetings of associations or persons.

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On his part, Samuel Nwanosike, the Secretary General of GDI said the banning of all political rallies at this point in time is for the safety of all Rivers people.

The GDI scribe said the group will however consult its legal team on its next line of action on the ban.

Speaking in the same vein, Ken Atsuete, a Port Harcourt based human rights lawyer said that the Police have no powers under the law to ban all public rallies because freedom of association is guaranteed under the constitution and Political rallies are part of the democratic process.

On Monday, the Rivers State Police Command under the leadership of Mbu Joseph Mbu,the Commissioner, announced a blanket ban on all political activities in Rivers State citing increasing political tension in the state.

A Press Statement endorsed by the Ahmad K. Muhammad,DSP, the Command’s Public Relations Officer said: “The Rivers State Police Command wishes to inform members of the Public that as a result of increasing political tension in the state, the Commissioner of Police, Rivers State Police Command, has banned all rallies in the state under whatever coloration or name.

The statement further said that: “ All public activities involving rallies of Grassroot Development Initiative, GDI, Save Rivers Movement (SRM), Rivers Leadership Advancement Foundation (RIVLEAF) and whatever names, are here banned”.

The Police Command warned that: “The Rivers state Police Command will not, I repeat, will not provide security for any group in whatever guise. Party membership drive is allowed strictly as stipulated in the Electoral Act 2010 as amended and INEC regulations, please.”