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Explosions, gun attack at rally: APC points fingers at group in PDP

APC kicks as INEC lists PDP chiefs’ hotels in Rivers as collation centres

The All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State has pointedly accused a group in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of masterminding the suspected bombing and shooting at its rally in Port Harcourt on Thursday, January 19, 2023, where over five persons were injured.

Addressing the press Friday, January 20, 2023, at its state office, the main opposition party in the state lambasted the not-too-new commissioner of police in the state of being in a haste to deny any bomb attack, only to commission an investigation after pronouncing result.

Sogbeye C. Eli, spokesman, Rivers APC 2023 Campaign Council, flanked by the state chairman, Emeka Beke, and other party leaders, said the attack was led by a faction of the PDP loyal to the state governor.

The APC regretted that their party seemed to be subjected to the 2015 experience laced with violence, killings, and disruption of rallies; something he said the party would not allow to happen again.

Giving details of the attack, Eli said it took place at the campaign train which berthed in Port Harcourt City Local Government Area.

He called the attackers thugs working for the faction of the PDP.

Read also: Irate youths disrupt APC rally in Funtua

He said the attack was unprovoked laced with shots of Improvised Explosive Device (IED) by armed thugs, adding that it took place at the commencement of the rally at the traditional grounds of Rumuwoji Town in Mile 1, Port Harcourt City Local Government Area.

The APC chieftain made it clear that Gov Nyesom Wike’s Order 22 did not prohibit use of traditional grounds where the APC held the rally. Observers in the state said the Order had since shot out public centres and even private residences.

To be specific, he went on, the hoodlums who sought to invade the rally met resistance from the youths.

The party pointedly said the attackers were led by the Mayor of Port Harcourt City Local Government Council Area, Allwell Ihunda, and a former Mayor of that Council, Victor Ihunwo. “Their intention was to disrupt the rally. They came to maim, kill and destroy. Their intimidating terror tactics is to strike fear into the hearts of our members and thereby deter us from executing further campaigns in the State but they were overpowered by the resistance of our courageous party men and women.”

The PDP denied that the two men mentioned were anywhere near the venue of the rally.

To those claiming there was no explosion, however, the campaign council spokesman said the incident left five party faithful with various degrees of severe injuries from the detonation of the IED, known in local parlance as dynamite.

“It also recorded also a barrage of gunfire calculated at enforcement of the threats by PDP thugs to lock out the APC Rally from the traditional grounds.

“The victims of the attack who received treatment yesterday and are continuing with same include Hope Isaac (F) of Ward 20, Paul Oghonemu (M) of Ward 20, Felicia Gogo (F) of Ward 6, Lizzy Frank (F) of Ward 6 and Gift-Koko Angela (F) of Ward 20.

“We have no knowledge of arrest of any suspect even though a formal report has been lodged with the Police authorities at the Mile 1 Police Station.”

Curiously, Eli went on, while the PDP Government and leaders across the State were violating the rights of opposition parties by attacking campaigns in the 23 LGAs, the factional PDP itself had always allegedly acted in gross violation of the Electoral Act.”

He went on to say that in clear contravention of Section 92 of the Electoral Act 2022 providing for the “Prohibition of Certain Conduct at Political Campaigns”, the PDP conducted her campaigns in Ikwerre Local Government Area in the vicinity of a religious centre (St. Martin’s Anglican Church in Omagwa) only on Tuesday this week.

“Without a shred of doubt, the source and principal stimulus of these streaks of savage attacks and political banditry on the APC and other opposition parties in Rivers State is the governor himself.”

He said Gov Nyesom Wike set the tone for the ongoing political violence in the state with the enactment of Executive Orders 21 and 22 which he said obstruct and constitute infringements on the rights of other political parties and candidates to campaign for votes as allowed by law in Rivers State.

Gov Wike has pointedly denied this, saying the APC was not ready to do campaigns.

Eli however insisted, saying; “Unfortunately, these high crimes of attempted murders are happening against the promises of Okon Effiong Okon at his assumption of duty late in October 2022. The CP has not walked his talk.

“The PDP hoodlums are emboldened by the fact that contrary to the assurances of the Commissioner of Police, Okon Effiong Okon, who has watched rights of opposition parties trampled with unprecedented impunity since his arrival in Rivers State. We are shocked that the CP who assured Rivers people that under his watch the rights of persons would be respected and had vowed to ensure violent free campaigns in the build-up to the 2023 general elections is not only unable to effect a single arrest and prosecution from all the reported incidents of attacks on political opponents. He has rather turned round to deny a costly bomb attack on innocent and unarmed citizens of Rivers State.”

In the light of the foregoing, he went on, the APC called on all security agencies domiciled in the State, particularly the Director of Department of State Security Services, to redouble their efforts and rein in the Governor, Local Government Council Chairmen and other PDP officials who he said have nothing but violence as tool to perpetuate themselves in power.

“This call is even more imperative given the shocking report in the news last night quoting the CP as categorically denying the attack with IEDs. Video evidence during recognitions as the rally commenced however puts the issue beyond doubt of the IED explosion accompanied by gunfire from assault rifles which resulted in the injuries to our members.

“The brazen denial of the use of IEDs in the attack by the CP notwithstanding, a follow-up attack on the family house in the Diobu area of one Lucky Ottos, one of our dynamic party youths, was recorded yesterday night at past 20:00 Hrs.

“The hoodlums who came ostensibly to harm Lucky, if they had met him, stabbed and left his relatives: Miss Veronica Wariboko (F) and

Mrs Silver Patrick Noah (F) critically injured. They also broke the window to his room and made away with two phones. This matter has also been reported at the Mile 1 Divisional Headquarters of the Nigeria Police.”

On the reported denial that an explosive device was used to bomb the Port Harcourt, Eli said it is clear from the swift reaction of the Police Commissioner that he has more information on this dastardly attack.

“The least expected of an officer of his calibre is absolute neutrality and not draw hasty conclusions on issues that bother on direct threat to human lives, peace and security of the State.

“We hereby place the Commissioner of Police on notice to make full disclosure of what transpired before, during and after yesterday’s bombing and shooting incident by providing evidence from the speed of light investigation of the incident. We further put him on notice that the Rivers APC shall not condone any attempt by anyone, no matter how highly positioned, to undermine the security of the lives and properties of our members throughout this campaigns and elections season. We will not tolerate any repetition of the carnage we suffered in the hands of thugs actively deployed by PDP in connivance with then Commissioner of Police, Mbu Joseph Mbu, ahead of and during the 2015 general elections to rig our party out of power in Rivers State.”

The State leadership of the party and Campaign Council saluted the courage of their party faithful and supporters who he said withstood the attack by men of the underworld while sympathizing with the unfortunate victims of the monstrous attack. “The party and Campaign Council share in your pains and would stand with you until you recover fully from the injuries sustained in defence of democracy and your fundamental rights as free citizens of Rivers State.

“The state’s police command has given further explanation saying only shooting took place by a faction of the community youth body demanding for payment for the space.

The police said the situation was brought under control and that the APC rally continued.”

…Court frees Tonye Cole to contest

Meanwhile, a big breakthrough seems to happen to the embattled APC in the state as the Court of Appeal sitting in Port Harcourt on Friday struck out suit by PDP against the APC candidate, Tonye Cole, for lack of locus standi.

The court also fined the PDP N10m cost in favour of Cole and the APC.

The court of appeal delivered against the judgment of Justice Obile of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt over the alleged dual citizenship of Rivers APC gubernatorial candidate, Tonye Cole.