The Bayelsa state Governor Seriake Dickson and the All Progressive Congress (APC) in the state on Wednesday engaged in exchange of words over the alleged police killing during the unrest that rocked the state owned university town of Amassoma in Southern Ijaw local government area of the state.
While the state chapter of the APC through its publicity secretary, Doifie Ola, condemned Tuesday’s killing of residents of Amassoma by the police and alleging that over five newly elected APC ward members were shot dead in the unrest.
The Bayelsa governor, Seriake Dickson, through his special adviser on media, Dan Alabra, stated that the reaction of the Bayelsa state chapter of APC to the NDU crisis is a vindication of Governor Dickson’s position that the APC in Bayelsa is allegedly a party of criminals.
Alabrah stated in a press release on Wednesday that the security personnel deployed in Amassoma were on duty to ensure protection of lives and property, including the NDU, which is a state government investment.
Alabrah called on leaders of the community to collaborate with security operatives to ensure residents are protected and to go about their businesses without any hindrance.
He stressed that intelligence reports indicate that those involved in the Amassoma incident on Tuesday were cultists and hoodlums, who hijacked complaints from the ongoing implementation of the public sector reforms in the state to perpetrate acts of violence in the community.
Alabrah stated further that the hoodlums attacked and vandalised the police division, part of the university and attempted to disarm security personnel who were deployed to keep the peace.
He also said these elements were not staff of the NDU and are not affected by the reforms. “Government calls on natives and residents of Amassoma to go about their normal activities without fear of intimidation and molestation from cultists and hoodlums that wreaked violence on the community on Tuesday.
“The deployment of security operatives in Amassoma after about three weeks of the standoff is to protect law-abiding citizens of the community, their property and the NDU. The security people are on ground to protect them.
“Government implores the community leaders to work with the security operatives to maintain peace and public order. It should be noted that these cultists are not employees of the NDU and could not have been affected by the implementation of the reforms in the institution.
“Government’s position is that the NDU, like all other institutions, is a property of the state government. And government expects the leaders of the host communities to give support to the university rather than dabbling into employment matter within the university,” Alabrah was quoted to have said.
The Bayelsa APC, in a statement released on Wednesday in Yenagoa signed by APC’s state publicity secretary-elect, Mr. Doifie Buokoribo, the party described the killings as an unwarranted display of raw power against defenceless natives.
The APC blamed Governor Dickson for failing to exercise mature leadership through sincere dialogue with the protesting residents, but choosing, instead, to invite the police and army to visit death and destruction on the people.
APC lamented what it called “pointless cruelty” by Governor Dickson against the community of former governor of the state and Governor-General of the Ijaw nation, late Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, saying it is a re-enactment of a previous inhuman behaviour meted out to Alamieyeseigha by Dickson.
APC called for the immediate withdrawal of the soldiers from Amassoma to allow the people return to the deserted community, and an independent inquiry into the killings. It appealed to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to send relief materials to the community to reduce their suffering.
The party said, however, that Tuesday’s onslaught on Amassoma, on the orders of Dickson, “shouldn’t really surprise anyone because it was the same Dickson who, along with other protesters, buried an empty Alamieyeseigha coffin in Yenagoa years ago, in his most trying time. Dickson has, apparently, decided to kill Alamieyeseigha a second time.”
According to APC statement: “The APC in Bayelsa state is greatly shocked and saddened by the incidents of Tuesday in Amassoma, which resulted in the death of community members. Residents of the university town were engaged in a peaceful protest march against the forceful reopening of the Niger Delta University, when armed policemen moved in with tear gas and life bullets to try to disperse the protesters, causing the deaths and several injuries.
“Reports from a plurality of sources say the demonstrators – mainly women and the youth – were protesting what they believed to be an arbitrary dismissal of their kinsmen from the school. The protesters had a few days before welded the metal gate of the university, which had been shut since March, to try to force the state government to address their grievances before reopening the institution.
“But the state government chose to deploy force to reopen the university, instigating the melee, and spilling blood. Our hearts go out to the families of the slain and injured Amassoma community members.
“Some of those killed include: Jacob Eyigha; Paul Orus; Godnolie Gagede; Joseph Kpoun, and Douglas Moses, all APC members. Eyigha was assistant legislative officer in ward 9, Orus was Ex-officio member of the party’s executive committee in ward 2, Gagede was financial secretary in ward 2, Kpoun was Ex-officio member in ward 2, and Moses was APC chairman in ward 2.
“They were elected at the recent APC ward congresses in the state. We believe the victims were deliberately targeted in a way that shows a complete lack of emotion. Their blood is on someone’s hands. And their blood would speak some Tuesday, for sure.
“The ugly sequence of events that preceded that black Tuesday in Amassoma tells only a part of the story of the governance deficit in Bayelsa state under Governor Dickson.
From accounts already in the public domain, the former governor of the state, late Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, had acquired large portions of community land in Amassoma for the establishment of the Niger Delta University while he was in office.
“. The acquisition was based on an understanding with the natives, who are mainly crop farmers and fisher folks, that they will be compensated with liberal employment opportunities at Niger Delta University for the loss of their means of livelihood.
“The understanding remained until recently, when about 1, 700 of the locals were sacked in one fell swoop by the unfair, unsympathetic and ungodly administration of Governor Dickson.
“We believe that agreements, such as the one under which the Amassoma people were employed at Niger Delta University, are a common practice all over the world, especially in developing societies. And if there was any need to change or review the process, the government and the people could have come to an understanding about it, rather than the resort to force by the state government.
“Democracy is an unending process of negotiation and dialogue, and under no circumstance should a responsible government have lost hope and faith in discussion and elected draconianism.
“We have just gathered that soldiers have joined the riot police to sack and occupy Amassoma, and the place is currently a ghost community. This is sad and unfair, especially for a community that produced the illustrious Ijaw son and Governor-General of the Ijaw nation, Alamieyeseigha.
“But it shouldn’t really surprise anyone because it was the same Dickson who, along with other protesters, buried an empty Alamieyeseigha coffin in Yenagoa years ago, in his most trying time. Dickson has, apparently, decided to kill Alamieyeseigha a second time.
“To reduce the suffering of the people, APC in Bayelsa state calls on the military authorities to immediately withdraw the soldiers from Amassoma so that the people can return to their homes to begin to pick themselves up after the harrowing experience.”
“APC calls on the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to come to the aid of the traumatised Amassoma community with relief materials and medical supplies.
We call for an independent investigation of the killings in Amassoma to bring the perpetrators to justice.”
“As ever, Dickson has pointed accusing fingers at “opposition political leaders”.
But as the world can see, the whole tragic episode in Amassoma typifies the pointless cruelty, lack of tact, and inordinate display of raw power that is the hallmark of Dickson’s government.”
“APC believes mature leadership is what Bayelsa State requires at this trying moment, not the hackneyed search for those to take the blame for the government’s failure.”
Meanwhile, the authorities of the Bayelsa Police Command has denied being culpable for the killing of five persons in the unrest that rocked the Ammassaoma community.
The Police, in a statement on Tuesday night, described as spurious claims that security operatives shot individuals protesting at the Niger Delta University, Amassoma.
According to the police, the claim is unfounded and it is a misrepresentation of true fact.
According to Police, “Following the ongoing reforms by the Bayelsa State Government, in Ministries, Agencies and Parastatals in the State. Some workers of the Niger Delta University (NDU) Amassoma, protested and shot down the gate of the university for over one month. This fragmented the Staff of the university into pro and anti reforms. Evidently, some non workers of the Niger Delta University had infiltrated the riotous crowd.”
“The vice chancellor of the Niger Delta University and some critical stakeholders reached an agreement to reopen the school. Therefore the school authority informed the Bayelsa State Police Command through a letter, to provide security in the university to prevent hoodlums from stealing the property of the university”.
“Consequently, on 21st May 2018, the command deployed security personnel to the university. On arrival at the gate, the detachment of Policemen met a hostile crowd, who fired shots at them. The Police had to use reasonable force to contain the hostile protesters. In the ensuing melee, two Police Officers were injured, five Police vehicles vandalized and the protesters attacked the Amassoma Police Division.”
“Meanwhile, eighteen (18) suspects have been arrested for riotous behavior, attacked on Police Station and Police Officers. The suspects will soon be charge to court.”
“The Command has also rescued Eighty (80) Youth Corpers who are vulnerable to attack, from Amassoma Community and were handed over to the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Officials in Yenagoa.”
“The command wishes to re-echo an earlier warning concerning unauthorized and unlawful gathering of persons or group of persons, without a duly approved police permit. The command recognizes the constitutional rights of law abiding citizens for procession, picketing or other forms of protest, but these rights must be exercised within the confines of the law.”
“The command will process and provide security cover for any legitimate procession or public protest which is part of democratic policing.The command has deployed additional security personnel to contain the protesters and restore normalcy in Amassoma community.”