ARMED policemen Friday sealed off the Obio-Akpor Council of Rivers State thus complicating the already tangled politics in the state.
Rivers State House of Assembly had last week suspended the chairman of Obio/Akpor, Mr. Timothy Paul Nsirim, his vice and 17 councilors following allegation of financial impropriety levelled against them by some persons who petitioned the state legislature.
The Obio-Akpor Council caretaker committee chairman, Dike David Chikordi, told The Guardian that at about 2pm Friday, armed policemen led by the Rumuodumaya Divisional Police Officer (DPO), stormed his office saying he had instruction from the Rivers State Commissioner to seal off the council and that the chairman and other members of his executive should vacate their offices.
Chikordi said he demanded from the DPO any legal document backing the action but none was presented. Consequently, the chairman said, he directed all members of his executive to remain in their offices.
“At about 2pm, the DPO from Rumuodumaya tried to order me and my members out of the council claiming he had order from the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Mbu Joseph Mbu. Then I asked him where is the court order that mandates him to … but he could not present any. Based on this, I told him that I and my members were not going out of the council,” he said.
Chikordi, who decried the Police action and as a coup d’état, said it was surprising that the Police could be used to perpetrate unconstitutional act in a democratic dispensation. According to him, he refused to yield to the antics of the Police because he was legitimately brought to office by the House of Assembly and sworn into office by the Rivers State government.
When The Guardian visited the council, scores of armed policemen had used their vans to block the main gate to the council. The Policemen who declined to comment on why they had invaded the premises of the council however did not prevent workers from leaving their offices.
When contacted, the Rivers State Police command spokesperson, Ben Ugwuegbulam, told The Guardian that the Police had received security report that the council secretariat was about to be attacked and to avert this, policemen were immediately deployed to secure life and property.
He denied that the Police received directives from the Presidency to seal off the council. Asked when the Police would leave the premises, he declined a response.
A source however told The Guardian that the plot to forcefully remove Chikordi-led Obio-Akpor council caretaker committee might not be unconnected to a brief interaction with the wife of the President, Mrs. Patience Jonathan, at the Port Harcourt Airport on Thursday evening.
It was gathered that Chikordi and some top Rivers State Government functionaries had gone to the Port Harcourt Airport to welcome Mrs. Jonathan. And in the process of introducing dignitaries from the state, Chikordi presented himself as the Obio-Akpor chairman.
The source said the first lady asked him if he was the suspended or the new chairman, and he affirmed that he was the new chairman. The source said the First Lady became incensed and told him that he was an illegal chairman.
However, when contacted, Chikordi confirmed the interaction but denied being referred to as an illegal chairman by the wife of the president.
“We were at the airport to welcome the wife of the president and I introduced myself as the Obio-Akpor chairman. She asked me “are you the suspended or the new chairman?” and I said I am the new chairman. That was the only interaction,” said Chikordi.