IPAD Goes Underground As Police, Army Take Over Owerri
By Austin Echefu
The planned peaceful rally by a coalition of civil society groups did not hold on Monday, 18th December, as planned by the Imo People Action for Democracy (IPAD). This was as battle ready security officials comprising the Police, Army, Civil Defence, Immigration and Road Safety took over the state capital.
When 247ureports correspondent moved round Owerri on Monday morning, he saw five trucks of armed security men at the popular Government House Roundabout, where the protesters said they would occupy in their Occupy Imo protest.
Though the security men did not disrupt the movement of the people at the Government House Roundabout, but the team at the Emmanuel College at the popular Wetheral Junction, where the protesters said they would assemble, released tear-gas on the public, creating fear and panic in the people.
However, another team paraded the streets of Owerri without disrupting the movement of the people, moving from Douglas Road to Mabise Road; from there headed to Okigwe Road, and continued.
But IPAD had earlier in a press release raised the alarm that the state government was using the police to truncate their planned peaceful protest.
The group had pledged to occupy the Imo State Government House for seven days, beginning from Monday, 18th to Sunday, 24th December 2017.
They had listed their grounds for the protest, among which were the issue of accountability with the Rochas Okorocha government and the nonpayment of pensions and salaries in the state.
Decrying what it called the bias of the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Chris Ezike, they called on the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, to call him to order.
Though the group insisted that they must hold their peaceful rally on Monday, 18, as scheduled, because they have been guaranteed the right to free expression and peaceful assembly by the 1999 constitution as amended, they were no where to be found as security officials took over the state capital.
The IPAD Coordinator had also expressed shock that the Commissioner of Police asked them to jettison their peaceful rally while he allowed and protected a sponsored pro state government rally of Rochas Mandate on Friday the 15 of December.
He added that the letter they sent to the police never sought for their permission as the Supreme Court has severally ruled that police permission is not needed for people to peacefully protest.
He noted that democracy in Nigeria has grown to compete with western democracies where freedom of expression is the driver and therefore could not be pushed back to the military days when people were clamped down upon by expressing opposing views.
IPAD had also warned the Imo State Commissioner of Police to thread with caution, saying that there is a widely held view by Imo people that he is now a tool of oppression of the citizens in the hands of the sate Governor.
It could be recalled that a group known as the Rochas Mandate Movement held a solidarity rally for the Governor on Friday in Owerri and were received by the Governor without hitches.
The Rochas Mandate Movement which is led by the Governor’s sister and the new Commissioner for Happiness and Purpose Fulfilment agreed with the Governor to produce his successor, saying that they would not want to be told stories about the Governor’s Free Education policy, amongst others.