The new Rivers State Police Commissioner, Mr. Tunde Ogunsakin, has reaffirmed the ban on political rallies in the state.
His predecessor, Mr. Joseph Mbu, had banned political rallies in the twilight of his tenure, stating that they were heightening tension in the state.
The action drew condemnations from politicians and civil organisations who said the police commissioner had no such powers.
But at his maiden press briefing yesterday in Port Harcourt, Ogunsakin said the ban on political rallies in the state would remain in force.
Ogunsakin, who also paid a courtesy call on the state Governor, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi, to formally notify him that he had assumed duties, was told to ensure the restoration of adequate policing in the state.
The charge by the governor to Ogunsakin came just as the state House of Assembly approved a request by Amaechi to withdraw N30 billion from the stateâ€™s reserve funds to finance projects.
The police commissioner at the news conference defended the ban on political rallies, saying contrary to the positions of critics, the police was legally empowered to restrict public gathering.
The police commissioner also said since Nigeria practises a multi-party democracy, people have the right to belong to any political party of their choice.
He, however, cautioned that political activities should be carried out within the ambits of the law and in a way that it would not threaten the security of the state.
Ogunsakin added that he had paid a courtesy visit to Amaechi, whom he described as the chief security officer (CSO) of the state.
â€œThe reception was warm and it gives hope of a cordial working relationship as far as the security of the state is concerned,â€ the commissioner said.
â€œAs the commissioner of police, Rivers State, I am on a national assignment to enforce and maintain law and order in the state.
â€œI want to assure you that I shall discharge my duties professionally to the satisfaction of the government and people of Rivers State and Nigeria at large,â€ he said.
Earlier, while receiving Ogunsakin at the Government House, Amaechi urged him to work towards restoring effective policing in the state.
He also said his administration was willing to co-operate with the state police command to restore law and order as long as they were ready to be neutral.
According to him, â€œWe are willing to co-operate with the police to restore law and order. The only thing we need is for the police to have the courage to restore law and order. The police must do whatever it takes to restore law and order. The Rivers State Government will assist the Nigerian Police in any form that they require.
â€œDonâ€™t support PDP (Peoples Democratic Party) and donâ€™t also support APC (All Progressives Congress). Just, support Rivers people. Any order that is illegal from the Rivers State Government, please, donâ€™t obey…What we want is a neutral police commissioner that is firm and understands that the state needs to accommodate everybody, and not one that loves to be in any of the political parties. I must congratulate you, the plans you have are also well thought out, and needs the support of the Rivers State Government.â€
In his speech, Ogunsakin said it was proper and necessary that the governor of a state and the commissioner of police should synergise to pursue and enhance the security of lives and property in the state. â€œThis is the crux of my visit to your office today,â€ he added.
Meanwhile, the state assembly has approved a request by Amaechi to withdraw N30 billion from the stateâ€™s reserve funds to finance projects.
The approval followed the passage of the Rivers State Reserve Funds Law (Amendment) Bill 2014 by the assembly at its resumed sitting yesterday.
The assembly, which sat at the Old Executive Chambers, Government House, Port Harcourt, considered the report of the ad hoc committee on the Rivers State Reserve Fund Law (Amendment) Bill, 2014 submitted by the committee chairman, Chidi Lloyd.
Lloyd, in presenting the report, said the state reserve fund, comprising the N1 billion monthly savings of the state, had grown to about N53 billion.
He said the bill was to remove encumbrances to enable the government access the money considering the paucity of funds available to the state to finance ongoing projects.
After the debate, the 18 members present unanimously passed the bill after its third reading.
But the state chapter of PDP has criticised the approval, saying that the governor is bent mortgaging the future of the people he swore to protect.
A statement by the media aide to the state chairman of the party, Mr. Jerry Needam, yesterday said the action of the assembly was an admission and confirmation of its earlier position that the state was broke.