Wike 6: Fear grips other security aides FeaturedWritten by Kelechi Esogwa-Amadi
... Gov’s loyalists allege assassination plot
Days after the sacking of the six police officers attached to Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, by the police hierarchy in Abuja, over alleged unprofessional conduct, fear has gripped other security personnel attached to the governor. They are said to be uncertain over their fate.
The Neighbourhood gathered that the six police officers - former Inspector Eyong Victor and ex-sergeants Peter Ekpo, Oguni Goodluck, Orji Nwoke, Okpe Ezekiel and Tanko Akor – were punished over alleged insubordination to higher police authority as well as misuse of firearms during the last December 10 rerun legislative election in Rivers State.
According to The Neighbourhood investigations, the dismissed six police officers had, close to the end of the rerun election on December 10, 2016, stormed the Port Harcourt City Council Secretariat and forcefully stopped the movement of election results of Emohua to the appropriate collation centre designated by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
According to sources, every effort by the senior police officers present to discourage the six officers from committing the illegal act proved abortive as the errant officers openly disobeyed their senior colleagues by insisting on the results being announced at the polling unit, against the directives of INEC, which is the sole umpire saddled with the responsibility of conducting the rerun legislative election.
The Neighbourhood further gathered that before the rerun election, the Inspector-General of Police had issued a directive that no police officer on election duty should escort any politician to a polling unit throughout the election period, a directive which the six officers ignored and allegedly decided to do the bidding of their principal.
According to investigations, this unprofessional conduct of the six police personnel contradicted the provisions of Force Order 237, the consequence of which was the sanction the officers faced.
But as the dismissal of the six police officers continue to elicit mixed reactions from Rivers people of various political divides, with some reading political meaning into it, certain questions have become pertinent.
For instance, why should a police officer on duty fail to adhere to the instruction of the Inspector-General of Police? Since the instruction was that no police officer should escort a principal to a polling unit during the election period, irrespective of the political party such a principal belongs to, were the six police officers right to have disobeyed the directive, thereby portraying the Nigerian Police Force as an organization that cannot command the respect of its officers?
Although Governor Nyesom Wike is the Chief Security Officer of Rivers State, the fact remains that he is still a key politician, the de facto leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Rivers State and a major interested party in the December 10 legislative rerun election.
Therefore, was the action of the six police officers in escorting a key politician to the polling unit good for the nation’s democracy that has, since its return in 1999, been fraught with challenges of election malpractice and violence, bribery and corruption and display of power-drunkenness by political leaders?
Or could it be that there is a separate, perhaps unknown law that permits a state governor to storm a polling unit with a team of security escorts to intimidate electoral officers and stop the movement of ballot boxes to an INEC-designated collation centre for vote counting in stark violation of INEC rules?
What would have happened at that polling unit at the Port Harcourt City Council Secretariat if all the principals of the other political parties had also stormed the place with their own security personnel to counter Governor Wike’s moves? Would Rivers State have been able to survive the magnitude of violence and bloody clash that would have ensued at that point?
The fact that all police officers are supposed to take instructions from their superiors and federal government-controlled hierarchy, since Nigeria is still running a federal police, makes the six police officers’ behaviour a serious offence and national issue.
Treating such an unprofessional, recalcitrant behaviour with kid gloves will, no doubt, portray the Nigerian police in bad light before the international community some of whose representatives were present during the rerun election as foreign observers and may have witnessed the ugly incident at the Port Harcourt City Council Secretariat.
In an era where the Nigerian government is working round the clock to repair the nation’s battered image before the international community as a result of corruption, militancy, terrorism, electoral malpractice and violence, letting the errant six police officers go scot-free after aiding and abetting illegality will not speak well of a nation that has vowed to sanitise its system. Such a development could further discourage foreign investors from coming into the country.
Moreso, condoning the electoral misconduct of those six police officers will send a wrong signal to upcoming security officers and might encourage insubordination of the highest order in the Force, a development that will be suicidal and tragic in a society where the rich and powerful appear to derive joy in intimidating the poor and less privileged.
As controversy over this unfortunate development continues to rage, it is therefore imperative to look at the rationale behind the action of the police hierarchy while the highest ethos of objectivity, discipline, due process and rule of law should be in view when commenting on it.
Meanwhile, information reaching The Neighbourhood reveals that palpable fear has now gripped the other security aides working with Governor Nyesom Wike following the recent dismissal of the six errant police officers that escorted him during the last rerun legislative election on December 10, 2016.
A source in government house, Port Harcourt, hinted that news of the dismissal of the six officers so much shook other security aides of the governor that most of them are now readjusting and being more careful with the way and manner they carry out their duties.
The source further hinted that the government house security aides’ fear is heightened by reports that more officers working with Governor Wike have been invited by the police hierarchy in Abuja for interrogation over their roles in the last rerun election and their general conduct in the course of carrying out their professional assignment in Rivers State.
“Their major worry is that if the governor could not save those six police officers from their current predicament by using his perceived influence and wide connections to stop their dismissal, then it means there may not be much hope for them should they also have a similar problem. So, they are now being very careful with the way they conduct themselves. Besides, rumours that more of their colleagues have been summoned to Abuja for interrogation is also putting them on edge even though we don’t know those involved for now,” the source said.
Although The Neighbourhood is yet to confirm the report that more officers have been summoned by the Force Headquarters in Abuja for questioning, the law maker representing Omuma State Constituency in the Rivers State House of Assembly, Kelechi Nwogu, while condemning the dismissal of the officers at the weekend, claimed that more officers have been invited for interrogation.
Expressing worry over what he described as a plot to assassinate Governor Wike, the Omuma lawmaker called on the police authorities to leave the Rivers governor alone, wondering if he is the only governor in Nigeria.
But while the Rivers State Chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has disclosed, through its publicity secretary, Samuel Nwanosike, that the six officers would challenge their dismissal in court, Governor Wike has pledged to support the officers and their families, adding that he does not abandon those who work for him.
The Rivers governor’s statement, made at Ahaoda East during the official reception of the former chairman of the LGA, Cassidy Ikegbidi, to the PDP, has left many wondering if he was indirectly throwing a veiled ‘open’ challenge to the federal authorities over the dismissal of the six officers rather than seek other diplomatic ways to handle the matter without compounding the officers’ woes.
Worried by the Rivers governor’s statement, one analyst, Iru Peters, observed: “The governor, by his open pledge of support to the dismissed officers and their families, could end up creating more problems for them. He should not forget that these officers belong to an institution that has its own code of conduct which they know very well and which they pledged to abide by during their recruitment. They also know the consequences of breaching that code of conduct.
“So if their institution is disciplining them for breaching a rule they swore to uphold, it will be wrong for any individual, irrespective of how highly placed, to come out and declare open support or solidarity for them. The authorities will see that person as aiding and abetting crime. What I think the governor should have done in this matter is to maintain what they call dignified silence and secretly press his buttons to see how they can be pardoned. And if he has any financial help to render to them and their families, he could also do that secretly instead of coming in the open to announce it. What if the federal government decides to freeze the bank accounts of those officers and also monitor the governor’s financial transactions to deny him the pleasure of rendering such boastful assistance?”
Many PDP chieftains had, while variously reacting to the dismissal of the six police officers, wondered why a team of officers working with the Special Anti-Robbery (SARS) department of the police in Rivers State alleged to have disrupted the rerun election in Etche, led by one Akin Fakorede, has not been summoned and punished by the police hierarchy in Abuja, a development they believe suggests that the police is biased.
The Etche CTC chairman, Gift Anyalebechi, while recently reacting to the dismissal of the six police officers, also re-echoed the same sentiment by recalling the alleged SARS incident.
However, while the SARS incident may remain a subject of argument for now, what The Neighbourhood had yet to establish as at the time of filing this report, was whether the incident was officially reported to the appropriate authorities for proper action after thorough investigation.
But while the dismissal of the six officers continue to generate ripples, the Force Public Relations Officer, Donald Awunah, has restated that the officers fell short of professional conduct in violation of the Force Order 237 and had to be disciplined in accordance with the law.
He said that the operatives, after conclusion of investigation, were subjected to internal disciplinary measures, found guilty and consequently dismissed from the Force.
Awunah added: “They will be prosecuted under the Electoral Act to serve as a deterrent to others. Their actions are capable of bringing the entire Nigeria Police Force to disrepute and portray the Force in a very bad light as a lawless organization not guided by the rule of law.”