The Governor of Ebonyi State, David Umahi, through his Special Assistant on Media and Strategy, Chooks Okoh, said he was not aware of the disruption of the march by the supporters of the Labour Party presidential candidate, Peter Obi, in the state on Saturday.
He, however, added that the organisers did not pay the required fees to stage the march.
The governor’s aide said, “The attention of the Executive Governor of Ebonyi State has been drawn to some online publications and rumours making the rounds that he ordered the disruption of a gathering in support of one of the presidential candidates in the 2023 elections. This is not true.
“The Executive Governor of Ebonyi state is certainly not aware of any disruption of any gathering as he didn’t order any. He is a democrat who believes firmly in the rule of law. He wishes every contending politician the very best and will insist on a level playing ground for all. If it is true that the police dispersed people, the answer will surely rest with the police.
“For record purposes, the relevant government agencies had approved the use of Abakaliki Township Stadium for a rally by the Labour Party subject to the payment of some specified fees. Rather than pay the fees, it was gathered, the organisers chose to empty into the streets causing some untold hardships on the hapless citizens going about their daily pursuits.
“The police, we are told, had to step in to restore law and order. The Governor appeals to all citizens to always abide by the dictates of the law and decent living so that law and order will always reign supreme. He wishes all political parties and their candidates well and enjoins all to play the game by the rules.”
Also, Ebonyi Police Command, on Saturday, said it acted base on the Rules of Engagement, reiterating that organisers of the rally did not pay the specific fees, as directed by the State Government.
The Police Public Relations Officer(PPRO) in the state, Chris Anyanwu(SP), stated this in a statement made available to journalists.
The statement read, “Several unfounded allegations of Police high-handedness have been renting the air with regards to the One-Million-Man-Rally organised by the Labour Party and other loyalists of the Peter Obi Presidential Campaign in Ebonyi State.
“It is pertinent to put the records straight in spite of all false allegations and the Press release from the State Government. Granted that the organisers of the rally had a brief meeting with the Police Command authority represented by the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of Operations, it was expected that the group should abide by the outcome of the meeting and the requisite conditions given by the State Government which includes payment of a certain amount of money for the use of the Stadium as a take-off point as well as another refundable sum of money as a collateral in case of any damage to Government property/infrastructures.
“It was, therefore, unfortunate when the Command got wind of the fact that the organisers of the rally failed to meet up with the obligations and threatened to go ahead and conduct the rally threatening that nobody, not even the State Government would stop them from going on, against the decision of the State’s Gubernatorial candidate for Labor Party, Dr Edward Nnwegu’s decision to stop the rally in order to avoid the looming catastrophe.
“Armed with credible intelligence, the State Police Command sensing that if not checked, the rally will become turbulent and create a state of insecurity in the State, decided to nip it at the bud.
“So in a bid to proactively curb the impending turbulence, police men were despatched to the newly proposed take-off venue, Pastorial Center for the purpose of maintaining law and order.
“Unfortunately, while the Police men were properly deployed to ensure that there was no breakdown of the law, the radicals and mischief-makers among the rallyists became violent and started hauling missiles on the police operatives, uttering all manners of imprintable statements on the Police and the Government. Many of them even went physical to assault and attack the police men.
“So in response, and guided by the Presidential pronouncements/order at the era of the unpopular END-SARS protests, the police personnel on duty rose to the occasion to dislodge the violent and criminally oriented attackers. After taking control of the situation, the rally continued and ended up peacefully. This is even depicted in the video clips captured during the peaceful rally.
“I, therefore, on behalf of CP Aliyu Garba psc(+), the Commissioner of Police, Ebonyi State, state that the Police in Ebonyi State acted professionally and within the rules of engagement in order to ensure that peace and order prevails in Ebonyi State.”