Barely 12 hours after suspected thugs attacked the venue of a rally by the All Progressives Congress [APC] in Okrika, Rivers State, heavily armed soldiers have taken over the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium in Port Harcourt.
The state Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, had three days earlier denied the Peoples Democratic Party [PDP] the right to use the facility for President Goodluck Jonathan’s planned presidential campaign rally on Thursday.
Mr. Amaechi is quoted to have said the PDP cannot use the facility because of ongoing construction work.
But the ruling party had threatened to forcefully use the stadium because the Rivers government had used it twice in the past one month.
Some residents of Igwuruta, where the stadium is located, told PREMIUM TIMES that the soldiers stormed the facility and sealed it off before dawn on Saturday.
“We woke up this morning to find that heavily armed soldiers have taken over the new stadium and blocked all the routes to the facility,” a witness said.
When our correspondent visited the stadium, the soldiers were seen blocking the main entrances to the facility with Toyota Hilux vans.
While our reporter was monitoring the situation at the facility, a convoy suspected to belong to one of the governorship candidates in the state arrived and was allowed into the stadium.
Meanwhile, the state Police Command has confirmed the attack on the venue of the APC rally in Okirika.
The state Commissioner of Police, Dan Bature, in a statement made available to journalists, stated that unidentified hoodlums detonated an explosive device suspected to be dynamite at the venue of the Okirika rally.
“The podium and public address system were damaged. There was no loss of life. Area is now under police control while Police Bomb Disposal unit has commenced discreet investigation,” said Mr. Bature.
“The incident has heightened tensions and from our assessment has the capability of degenerating to a situation where the protection of life and property will be threatened. Consequently, the command has advised All Progressives Congress (APC) to reschedule the rally to another date.”
While the command is determined to discharge its constitutional mandate of protection of life and property, he warned political parties to adhere strictly to the code of conduct guiding political activities in the state.
He also advised politicians to respect andlaw and order and eschew violence in all its ramifications before, during and after 2015 general elections.
“The Command also is determined to enforce law and order, provide adequate security for all political parties and ensure that the full wrath of law is visited on any person(s) who dare and wish to test our capability, please,” the commissioner said.