The Chairman of the former Speakers’ Forum and ex-Speaker of the Plateau State House of Assembly, Hon. Simon Lalong has called on the National Assembly to urgently demand for the resignation of the Inspector General of Police (IG), Mohammed Abubakar, over what they described as police impunity in Rivers State.
Rivers State Governor, Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, was returning to Government House, Port Harcourt last Thursday night with the Forum of former Speakers of State Houses of Assembly in Nigeria at about 7.00pm after an inspection of projects executed by the governor when the governor’s convoy was barred from accessing the Forces Avenue approach to Government House by a police roadblock at the Port Harcourt Club junction along Forces Avenue.
Lalong, who spoke when Amaechi received the former speakers at Government House after the incident, said the policemen might have acted on a directive from the State Police Commissioner, Joseph Mbu, who in turn takes his instructions from the Inspector General of Police and called for his (IG’s) resignation.
He said, “I don’t think it is really of police overzealousness but the police are controlled by higher authorities, so if that is what is happening, I think people should collectively call for the resignation of the inspector general of police."
he is the highest-ranking police officer, so we should believe that the Police Commissioner (Joseph Mbu) is taking instruction from the Inspector General of Police.
“For this level of impunity, I think the National Assembly should start calling for the resignation of the Inspector general, not even the commissioner of police.”
He described the police behaviour as the highest level of impunity in the country, stressing that if the police could act so unfairly to a governor, then ordinary Nigerians would not be safe.
Lalong said, “I was only watching these things (happening in Rivers State) on television and reading in the newspapers but I saw what happened this evening as the highest level of impunity in Nigeria for a governor, who has immunity and everything, to be stopped on the way, blocked by policemen. It means that they are in another way trying to remove his immunity unconstitutionally. So, it is really very unfortunate on the side of the police, so we don’t have police protection again.
“I think the international community should begin to look at this situation. It is no longer about the governor…what about the common man, the ordinary person. I think something must be done in respect to the Nigeria Police that we are funding with taxpayers money and I think something needs to be done not only in this state because many of us were afraid when we saw this kind of thing (the roadblock). So if it is happening to the governor who has immunity, what about people who don’t have immunity, so very soon maybe they will start arresting people in their houses. I wonder what is really happening. I think the President must intervene in this issue.”
Also reacting, former Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Senator Olorunimbe Mamora, expressed sadness at the police action, recalling that Amaechi made the detour to get to the Government House with his guests because he was a responsible citizen.
Mamora said, “I think, to say the least, that (roadblock) was quite unfortunate because we were coming from inspection of projects, more than 70 former speakers were in the governor’s (Amaechi) entourage to inspect projects and on our way back to the Government House, we discovered that we just couldn’t pass because the road had been blocked and we were wondering of course what was happening, only to discover that it was a group of policemen who claimed to be acting on the instruction of the commissioner of police here in Rivers State and it was quite unfortunate I would repeat because you would wonder why such a thing would happen.
“Freedom of movement is guaranteed under the constitution and a situation where you are now compelled without any justifiable reason and then you are just not allowed to pass despite all our entreaties, all our appeals made to that effect and we thought that, as responsible citizens of this country, we needed to maintain peace so to that extent, we were forced at the end of the day to do a detour to find some other route to get to the Government House. I was just wondering within me that, you know, how and when we descended so low in this country to the point that we are beginning to witness this kind of thing. It is really sad. I mean I feel so sad about the whole thing and I just hope that those concerned particularly the police high command would really ensure that this kind of thing doesn’t happen again.”
Addressing the former speakers, Amaechi, who is also chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), condemned the action of the police, describing it as the height of lawlessness and impunity.
Amaechi said, “All of you saw how the former Speakers came down from the vehicle to tell them (police) where we were coming from, but the Police resisted. It is for Nigerians to see that we no longer have democracy in this country. We are now in a regime where, the law is no longer supreme. We must rise up against this impunity against our democracy."
The governor also apologised to the former speakers for the embarrassment by the police.
He also said there a need for the National Assembly and the various State Houses of Assembly to fashion out a legislative framework that would address retirement benefits of the ex-lawmakers and their welfare, especially as former elected public officers who represented their people well and served the nation meritoriously.