Soldiers seize Rivers stadium for Jonathan’s rally

• It’s height of impunity, lawlessness, says Amaechi
• PDP gov. candidate inspects facility
• APC office bombed in Patience’s home town
• Don’t dare us, Police warn

The oil city of Port Harcourt is on edge after armed soldiers were yesterday drafted to take over the Rivers State Government-owned Adokiye Amiesimaka Sports Complex in Igwuruta, Port Harcourt in readiness for Wednesday’s rally of President Goodluck Jonathan.

Earlier yesterday, hoodlums lobbed explosives unto the sports field of National School, Okrika in the state, which the All Progressive Congress (APC) governorship candidate,Mr. Dakuku Peterside ,had planned to use later in the day for his campaign.

Okrika is the home town of First Lady Patience Jonathan.

The APC blamed the attack on the PDP.

The soldiers sealed off the two main entrances of the uncompleted stadium near the Port Harcourt International Airport at about 2am yesterday.

They turned back construction workers and other ‘unauthorised people’ who went there at day break.

The Rivers State governorship candidate of the PDP, Nyesom Wike, accompanied by several party leaders, was however let in yesterday to inspect the facility at about 12.55pm.

About 20 soldiers and two Hilux vans were spotted at the complex.

The Rivers State government accused President Jonathan and Wike of engineering the soldiers’ forceful seizure of the stadium and planning to create chaos in the state while the APC called the soldiers action a disgraceful show of force.

Former Petroleum Resources Minister,Professor David Tam-West asked that the soldiers leave  immediately.

Information and Communications Commissioner, Ibim Semenitari, said President Jonathan and Police Inspector General Suleiman Abba should rein in their people.

Giving the state’s side of the story, Semenitari said: “The matter of the Adokiye Amiesimaka Sports Complex is a simple one. The complex is still under construction. As a work site, it is an unsafe environment for use at this time.

“The PDP makes reference to the fact that the APC had held its rally at the same venue. What they failed to mention is that the contractor was moved out of site during the time the APC’s rally held and re-mobilised to site right after that rally.

“With less than five months to the end of its tenure, the Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi’s administration is working on ensuring the completion of all its projects before the handover date of May 29th. With that being the case, the River State Government cannot move its contractors out of site at this time.

“Unlike the PDP that has consistently refused the APC the use of stadia and other facilities in Abuja and other states where it is in control, the Rivers State Government has magnanimously offered the PDP the use of the Liberation Stadium Elekahia, which is also a state facility.”

The Rivers government said that the resolve of the PDP leaders to unlawfully break into the Adokiye Amiesimaka sports complex was to fulfill the threat issued by some members of the party (PDP) that they would burn it down.

The PDP chairman in the State Felix Obuah had earlier said that Governor Amaechi’s refusal to allow the party to use the stadium smacked of impunity.

“We dare him, because it is not his personal property. On January 28, we are going to use that place. We have made official reports to the police, the DSS (Department of State Services) and all the other law-enforcement agencies,” Obuah said.

Also reacting, the APC National Publicity Secretary,Alhaji Lai Mohammed  condemned the stadium seizure and called for an end to impunity.

Former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Prof. Tam David-West, asked President Goodluck Jonathan to withdraw soldiers from the Adokiye Amasieamaka Stadium, immediately.

The former minister described occupation of the stadium as a worrisome and dangerous trend.

He said it is an impunity that can cause a lot of trouble, adding that it is a plot to cause crisis that will justify calls for shift of date for the next month election.

“I strongly advise President Jonathan to withdraw soldiers from the stadium immediately to avoid confrontation and problem. We need peace in Nigeria, not war.

“What PDP is doing is a plot to cause confusion to justify change of date of the election,” David-West said.

Amaechi had on Tuesday asked the PDP to use the state-owned Liberation Stadium if it had no ulterior motive.

The Okrika bombing took place at about 3.45am while contractors were erecting canopies and podium for the now cancelled rally.

Two vehicles including a Toyota Highlander and Nissan Primera, were burnt by the hoodlums while a Ford cooling truck was also vandalised.

APC chairman in Okrika, Christian Asifamaka, said of the attack: “In the wee hours of the morning of Saturday 24, 2015 at about 3:45am some armed youth started shooting at the venue of the APC governorship rally National school field Okrika.

“Those setting up the sound system and the podium were forced to flee for their lives. At about 4am they started shooting explosives into the arena and destroyed the podium, sound equipment and some canopies.

“Okrika is the home of Nigeria’s First Lady Mrs. Patience Jonathan. She was present and held the PDP governorship rally at the same venue on Thursday January 22, 2015.

“The boys came in a white Hiace bus and allegedly came in from Igbiri a community that shares borders with Mrs. Jonathan’s Oba Ama community.”

Peterside’s campaign organisation’s director of communications said: “Dr. Dakuku Adol Peterside, the APC’s governorship candidate, was expected to have unveiled his Roadmap to Prosperity, a revolutionary economic blue-print for the massive development of Rivers State to the Okrika electorate as well as highlight the choice space the area holds in the plan.

“The cancellation was necessitated by the massive Friday overnight and early Saturday gun violence unleashed on members and supporters of APC in Okrika by suspected thugs hired and commissioned by the opposition PDP.  Heavily armed thugs had in the wee hours of the morning of Saturday 24, 2015 at about 3:45am, besieged the National School Field, Okrika, venue of the APC governorship rally and opened fire.

“Workers setting up equipment and canopies were forced to flee, as bullets poured down like rainfall. By divine intervention, nobody died in the attack. The injured were rushed to different hospitals in Port Harcourt.”

Soldiers were later deployed to the scene.

An army officer said: “We are here to ensure that the situation does not escalate. Please, do not take any photograph for security reason.”

The Rivers Police command confirmed the attack but vowed to enforce law and order and provide adequate security for all political parties and their members.

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