Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State has stated that the dismissal of six policemen attached to him by the Inspector General of Police is an act of dictatorship.
The police on Friday said the six officers – one inspector and five sergeants – were dismissed from service for firing indiscriminately into the air, and thereby causing panic among the crowd, during the recent re-run election in the state.
The incident, according to the police, took place when the policemen were in Mr. Wike’s convoy.
They were also accused of escorting Mr. Wike to polling units during the elections, in contravention of the directive from the inspector general of police, which had barred policemen from moving around polling units with politicians and political office holders.
The Rivers government, in a statement issued by the Commissioner for Information, Austin Tam-George, condemned the action of the police authorities.
“This is a tragic day for professionalism and the respect for human rights in the Nigeria police force,” Mr. Tam-George said in the statement.
“The dismissed officers committed no crime, other than foil a carefully orchestrated electoral heist by officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), in collusion with the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Nigeria Police force.
The statement said the allegation that the affected policemen misused their firearms while in the convoy of the governor was “a wrong and cruel fabrication”, adding that the governor did not leave his official residence on that day.
“Two days after the elections, on the 12th of December 2016, thousands of Rivers people, led by Governor Wike, resisted an invasion by the police on the premises of the Port Harcourt City Local Government Council, in a brazen attempt to rig the elections in favour of the APC.
“The Port Harcourt City Council was the Election Collation Centre for the Rivers East Senatorial District.
“Throughout the period of the standoff between the invading police officers and the thousands of citizens who resisted them, Governor Wike and the officers around him conducted themselves with utmost restraint.
“The dismissed officers are therefore the latest victims of the medieval dictatorship of the APC government,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, there was pandemonium at Force headquarters on Friday when the six Police officers attached to Wike, who have been dismissed, were paraded before newsmen by the Force Public Relations Officer, DCP Don Awunah, for professional misconduct and flouting of IGP’s directives on elections.
Shortly after the FPRO listed reasons for the dismissal of the six officers namely, ex-Inspector Eyong Victor, ex-Sergeant Peter Ekpo, ex-Sergeant Oguni Goodluck, ex-sergeant Orji Nwoke, ex-Sergeant Okpe Ezekiel and ex-Sergeant Tanko Akor, a shouting match ensured as the officers denied the allegations and demanded to speak to the media and state their own side of the story.
In his briefing, DCP Awunah said, “In the recent parliamentary election in Rivers State, the IGP’s resolve to secure the process, was reciprocated with unethical conduct of some bad eggs within the force.
“In spite of strict warnings and instructions from the IGP that all Police personnel on election duty should be of good conduct and desist from escorting their principals, notably public office holders and politicians to polling units throughout the period of the election, some recalcitrant police personnel were still found blatantly breaching these directives. This is unacceptable by all standards in the force.
The FPRO said “In the course of discreet investigations into the misconduct, the six officers were found to have in total disrespect to orders and directives, compromised, engaged in unprofessional acts and other unbecoming conduct.
He said the Police officers while in the convoy of Governor Nyesom Wike on the date of election, 10th December, 2016 misused the firearms in their possession contrary to the provisions of the Force Order 237.
“The service personnel became overzealous, took laws into their hands and opened fire, causing panic in the crowd. They joined in storming the Port Harcourt City Council secretariat and prevented the movement of election results of Emouha polling unit to the appropriate collation center designated by INEC, in flagrant disregard and disobedience to senior police officers present at the venue.
Continuing Awunah said “The six police officers, after the conclusion of the investigation into this public mischief, were subjected to internal disciplinary measures, found guilty and consequently dismissed from the force. They will be prosecuted under the electoral act to serve as a deterrent to others”.
When journalists asked if there were casualty and if somebody reported any injury during the shooting, the FPRO said “For carrying firearms alone, it is an offense”.
However, after the briefing, the six officers while reacting angrily as they were being led out the conference room, denied the allegation insisting that the gunshots being attributed to the governor’s convoy were actually shot by the Federal Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS) personnel deployed by Force headquarters.
The officers said the Federal SARS personnel opened fire when they saw the governors convoy to scare away people, wondering why it is officers in the governors convoy that are being used as scapegoats.
They shouted, “This is injustice. They are the ones who detailed us to follow the governor. We were just doing our job. It was the Officer Commanding SARS that ordered his men to open fire as the governor was arriving. They know the truth, we did not shoot but they want to sacrifice us”.
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