IGP intervenes in Rivers’ COVID-19 wars, orders free passage of essential workers, foods

…Are Wike’s ‘wings’ being clipped?

The recently posted Commissioner of Police in Rivers State, Joseph Mukan, has been directed by his boss, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, to take over the security aspect of the war against the COVID-19 in the oil-rich state. Before now, the governor of the state, Nyesom Wike, had been the chief enforcer of all orders used to prosecute the war against the invisible virus.

The methods and actions applied by Wike seem to have brought the state government in conflict with oil multinationals, helicopter companies, and the federal government (or some of its agencies). Governor Wike has used the police and other security agencies to arrest pilots, air passengers, 22 Mobil oil workers, as well as confiscation of trucks, vehicles and demolition of hotels that may have violated the lockdown order.

The arrest of pilots and later 22 Mobil workers coming in from Eket in Akwa Ibom State may have stirred some pens in high places in Abuja. The signs came when the Minister of State for Aviation, Sirika Hadi, backed Carveton Helicopters, saying they had federal permit to operate the flights. Although Gov Wike later freed both the Carveton detainees and Mobil men, the actions seemed to lay foundations for discord between the state and the FG.

The straw that may have broken the Carmel’s back could be the threat to auction trucks impounded by Rivers State and the demolition of two hotels (Prodest and Emeteteh) in Eleme LGA last Sunday.

Also, a police man attached to one of the many task forces operating in the state had shot a fellow police officer, a female, at Eneka, near Port Harcourt. Several other pockets of violence and conflicts highlighted the enforcement of the orders on COVID-19. Governor Wike is the chairman of the highest task force where heads of security agencies in the state are mere members.

Wike personally stated to newsmen last week that it was the reason why heads of some security agencies in the state were redeployed same week including the particular police commissioner, Kastina State-born Mustapha Dandaura, that seemed to work very closely with him.

Dandaura’s replacement, Plateau State-born Mukan, seems to come with clear directives on many issues especially the prosecution of the war against the virus. This could be because the President was issuing orders which required the various commissioners of police in the states to implement nationwide, whereas Governor Wike was issuing his own orders which also needed the same police command to implement. When there is conflict in these two sets of laws, the commissioner of police would have to decide which to obey.

Now, the IGP seems to clearly direct which orders to obey. In carrying this out, the new CP has charged members of the police enforcing the lockdown to ensure that human right abuses were eliminated. They should also give access to journalists throughout the period of the lock down.

The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Nnamdi Omoni, a DSP, warned officers in Rivers State to ensure that no journalist or doctor was molested or harnessed covering the lock down.

“I just got the signal of those on essential duties and journalists are number one on the list. I think because the police work hand in hand with the media and government, so the commissioner of police, CP Joseph Gobum Mukan, has warned all units, tactical heads, area commanders, divisional police officers, etc to call their men to order. Any policeman who breaches this order and is reported to the command will be dealt with. All journalists must have clear identification (Identity Card) stating so on him or her at all times. If at the point of arrest, you do not have identity card, as journalist or doctor or medical personnel you may need not to blame our officers,” he said.

Nnamdi Omoni also emphasised on the need to respect human rights of every citizens and residents of the state. No policeman should be seen harassing any residents who are not armed, may also warn police men to remember we live in a digital world, videos are so easy to make now, anyone caught in such videos will face disciplinary action from the command. The IGP and the commissioner of police CP joseph Mukan does not play with issues of human rights abuses.

Nnamdi Omoni also hailed the court judgment sentencing a police sergeant, Johnbosco Okoronze, for aiding the escape of Ifeanyi Dike. Okoronze who was found guilty of aiding and assisting the escape of Ifeanyichukwu Maxwell-Dike from police custody was sentenced to one-year imprisonment.

The judge had ruled that he decided to sentence Okoronze to one-year imprisonment because of the fact that he has served two years in prison already and has been dismissed from police force.

He warned officers serving in the command to take their job seriously.

Omoni said police is one organisation that does not shield its own. “If you are found culpable in any crime or criminal matter, we do our investigations and orderly room trial and that is the end for that police officer, just like the case of Johnbosco. Upon interrogation, he was found culpable for aiding and abetting and was summarily dismissed and handed to court to face trials.”

The several orders being issued in Rivers State seemed to have created opportunities for officers to extort members of the public. A petition was written a DPO for illegally detaining a pharmacist and later demanding for N100,000 but allegedly got N20,000 to free the pharmacist-lecturer.

Task forces striped?

Now, talks are rife that the IG has decided to relocate to Port Harcourt to enforce the orders. This could not be confirmed. What seems very true however is the talk that all policemen serving with task forces have been redeployed.

This was said to be no new directive as they were withdrawn after the killing of the police woman by a trigger-happy policeman attached to a task force at Eneka.

A visit to the headquarters would show many of them waiting to be posted. In that case, it was said, the task forces are no longer operating with police attaches. In this regard, any gun found on them would be illegal. It is not clear if that is the reason why the task force men were thoroughly beaten up by the youth leader of Eleme LGA and his team who has been declared wanted.

Many now wonder if this could be the beginning of the clipping of wings of the state governor who has consistently picked fights with the centre.

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