Rivers state Senator and chieftain of the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, Magnus Abe, has written to his colleagues in the Senate, recounting how the police shot him and wounded several others at the venue of a botched January 12 rally in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.
In the letter, Mr. Abe pointedly accused unnamed officials of the Nigerian federal government of plotting to kill him. He accused the government officials of having instructed the Rivers State Police Command to eliminate him.
Mr. Abe, who represents Rivers East Senatorial District, gave a blow-by-blow account of the ill-fated rally in the January 17 letter he wrote from a London hospital.
The senator also said he had already petitioned the Metropolitan Police and human rights organisations in London on the circumstances of his presence in that country and what happened back home in Nigeria.
Mr. Abe was shot at a rally planned by the Save Rivers Movement, SRM, on January 12.
He was treated briefly in a Port Harcourt Hospital before being flown to London where he is currently recuperating.
But in a seven-page letter to the Senate President, David Mark, which he requested should be read to all senators; Mr. Abe insisted that the police abused its powers.
As at January 11, when he got the reminder for the rally which was billed for the next day at the College of Arts and Science, CAS, Port Harcourt, he said the organisers had fully notified the police.
However, he said members of the rival Grassroots Democratic Initiative, GDI, were openly boasting that the rally would not hold in CAS which is located close to the home of its grand patron.
“It was clear to me that using the police to stop a gathering that had been extensively advertised and was to be aired on live television would be an unfair blow to Rivers people and a clear abuse of police power,” Mr. Abe said.
“I decided to reach out to the State commissioner of Police, Mr. Mbu and share my concerns with him. The CP refused to pick my calls. I also tried to call the Inspector General of Police to bring the facts to his attention.”
The senator explained that when he could not reach the IG, he called the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, to help him reach him (IGP) and Mr. Ekweremadu in turn asked him (Abe) to try and reach Mr. Mark.
After several unsuccessful attempts to reach the Senate President,Mr. Abe said he called the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Police Affairs, Paulinus Igwe, and briefed him on the situation.
Continuing, he wrote, “Senator Paulinus Igwe promised to reach the IGP and get back to me. I also spoke with my Chairman, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Security and National Intelligence, Senator Mohammed Magoro and briefed him.
“My Chairman called back to say that he could not reach the IG but that I should call the Director General of the Department of the State Security service (DGSS). The DGSS is one security official in Nigeria who maintains open lines of communication with all Nigerians irrespective of their political lineage.
“I spoke with the DGSS who promised to call the state command to verify the situation. All this occurred on Saturday, the day before the fateful event.”
Mr. Abe said at about 9.30 a.m on the day of the event, he got a report that the police had invaded and destroyed everything at the rally venue and were firing teargas indiscriminately.
He said he was also informed that men, women and children were running out of churches because the entire area was saturated with teargas.
The lawmaker said he called the Chief of Staff to the Governor, Tony Okocha, and he corroborated the report, noting that Mr. Okocha was holed-up in one Chidi Wihoka’s house within the CAS premises with children, who could barely breathe.
The letter continued, “At this stage I felt it was necessary to go over to CAS to appeal to the police, and try to establish what was going on, and why such extreme force was needed even before the planned time of the event.
“When I arrived at the gate of CAS, I saw the Nigerian Police in full battle formation with armoured personnel carriers and scores of mobile policemen armed to the teeth.”
He listed some of the police officers he met at the venue of the rally to include Mike Uche Chukwuma, one Marcus, ASP Pere, Supol Sani and DPO Esther Effiong, among others.
Mr. Abe noted that he reminded the officers of the contributions of the Rivers State Government to the police and also told them that whatever the situation, it was wrong to fire teargas near churches on Sunday.
“The officers informed me that they were acting on ‘orders from above’ and that I should call the Commissioner of Police or the Inspector General of Police. I was busy trying to call the CP and the IG, when one of the policemen walked close to me and whispered, ‘Oga, leave now, leave now, they said we should take you down.’”
“At this stage, I became apprehensive and reminded the officers that I am a serving senator in Nigeria. In fact, I went close to the senior officer and said, ‘I am following you and if anything happens to me, it will be in your presence and before God.’”
“It was when I was standing with him that the attack began and a teargas canister was shot directly at my feet. He quickly moved away while more teargas canisters were fired directly at me in quick succession. It was at this stage that I was hit by something in my chest. I screamed, ‘I have been shot’ Friends and staff who were with me, realizing what had occurred, rushed me to my vehicle.”
Noticing that he had difficulty breathing as a result of the teargas he inhaled, Mr. Abe said his rescuers stopped at the Living Faith Church (Winners Chapel) on Eligbam road.
Inside the church, Mr. Abe noted that some members of the congregation offered him handkerchiefs soaked in kerosene to clean his face to reduce the effect of teargas.
“However the left side of my chest where I was hit was very painful and inflamed. My staff decided that we should rush to the nearest doctor. We were able to reach my doctor, Dr. Mackay Anyanwu, who stabilised me at his clinic and transferred me to the Kesley Harrison Hospital, from where a decision was taken that I proceed to London immediately for further cardiology evaluation.”
Mr. Abe explained that on arrival in London, he was taken to Princess Grace Hospital, where tests were carried out on his heart.
According to him, “My heart repeatedly fluctuated so much so that it triggered the alarms in the hospital and they decided that I should be moved to the Cardiology Unit at the London Bridge Hospital.
“The consultant cardiologist at the London Bridge Hospital determined that the site of impact on the left side of my chest was directly in line of my heart and there was a risk related to the distribution of kinetic energy from the high velocity impact to my chest.”
Mr. Abe appealed to Nigerians to reject the propaganda of the Federal Government’s spin-doctors, who he said were rationalising the attempt on his life as being part of the drama of the All Progressives Congress, APC.
“It is the Federal Government that deployed the Police and gave them orders that I should be taken down. I have heard that the Rivers State CP has alleged that the police were chasing criminals on that day and that I was running from the scene and that I ran into the church to evade arrest,” the lawmaker said.
He insisted that it was only in Nigeria that a serving senator who had not been declared wanted on allegation of any crime could be said to run from the police.
Mr. Abe said he considered Mr. Mbu’s statement that he (Abe) was running away from the police as an insult not only on him but also on the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
He wrote, “I have also heard that Mr. Mbu said they have no rubber bullets in the state command. It is clear that Mr. Mbu is talking with the confidence of a Governor General; who knows that nothing will happen, and nothing would have happened even if I were killed.
He referred to pictures of spent cartridges at the scene of the crisis which were captured by Channels Television crew and wondered who shot them since the police claimed they did not use bullets.
“The decision to take my life comes from the highest levels of the Federal Government and nobody will be questioned or punished even if I am killed because I am one of those that have stated and I want to repeat here, that I will cross over to APC on the floor of the Senate,” Mr. Abe said.
He pleaded with the Senate to defend the country’s democracy and protect the lives of Nigerians against gross impunity of the Federal Government.
“It is Senator Abe today. It may be Senator Mark tomorrow,” he wrote.