The newly signed legal document, Order-21 by Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers state, prohibiting the use of public school fields for political rallies without the approval of the state ministry of education and payment of a deposit of N5 million is still attracting condemnations.
National Rescue Movement NRM, in Rivers State describes the order as absurd and a well calculated attempt to frustrate and preclude opposition political parties from carrying out campaigns in the state, ahead of the 2023 general elections.
According to the new order, the governor directed that application for approval of such facility must be submitted at least two weeks before the date of the campaign.
He went further to state that applicants will also deposit the sum of five million Naira caution fees in case participants in a rally destroy facilities in the schools.
The document also stressed that a local council chairman has the right to stop any rally if approval was not sought.
In a statement by its national deputy chairman, South-South, Prof. Lawson Ihuigweh, state chairman, Ibiyekaribo Peters, deputy governorship candidate, Rev Ley Nwikpor Torkia, deputy state chairman, Johnny Zua, state secretary, Blessing Chinda and three other executive members, the NRM said any attempt by Wike to surreptitiously use state powers to intimidate other political parties in the state would be resisted.
The statement reads: “One begins to wonder, what in the world can be destroyed in a school field in cause of carrying out political rallies.
“It is completely unacceptable for Governor Wike to make such pronouncement because Rivers State is owned by all of us and the facilities in question are not part of the personal estate of the governor, but built with the collective resources of citizens and especially that of tax payers in the state.
“Weighing the current actions of the governor, one will begin to doubt the genuineness of the invitation and subsequent meeting of the state Commissioner of Police, AIG Friday Eboka with political parties and candidates a fortnight ago, where the CP requested that outside the INEC guidelines to political parties, political parties in the state must obtain permission or inform the police commissioner two weeks before going to any LGA for campaign to avert clash of two parties.
“Well, suffice to say that the governor’s order 21 and the directive of the state Commissioner of Police, negate the provision of Section 91, (1), and particularly sub (4) of the new Electoral Act 2022, which states that “No registered political party in Nigeria, its aspirants or candidate shall be prevented from holding rallies, processions or meetings at any time for their constitutional political purposes, and the Police shall in a consultative manner, resolve any conflict of time and venue between and amongst parties where such arises”.
“Thus, where such conflicts of laws arise, the electoral act which is in line with the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, takes precedence.
“Secondly, how can governor Wike who is a beneficiary of these facilities during his election in 2015, who had unhindered access to various school fields while campaigning, enact such a draconian order on citizens of the state, to the extent of ordering council chairmen to disrupt political campaigns on failure of parties to comply with such law?
“This is also to confirm the alarm we raised earlier this year that the state government in a secret meeting directed LGA Chairmen to use hoodlums and security agents within their command to disrupt our activities in their respective Local Government Areas.
“It goes to show that this height of desperation exhibited by the governor proves that the PDP in Rivers State has lost its bearing and lacks what it takes to match up with other political parties in a free and fair contest at the polls.
“Little wonder they have also stopped at nothing to use the judiciary to do all they can to edge out other political parties in the race before the actual elections set in.
“I therefore, on behalf of the National Rescue Movement NRM, call on members of the Interparty Advisory Council – IPAC, civil society groups and all well-meaning citizens and stakeholders in Rivers State to rise up and resist this impunity and intimidation, as this wicked move has no place in a true democracy that we claim to practice.
“We also call on President Muhammadu Buhari led Federal Government of Nigeria not to allow Governor Wike to use federal instruments like the Nigeria Police Force, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps and other law enforcement agencies to intimidate or harass citizens of the country.
“We appeal to the Inspector General of Police, Director of the Department of Security and State Services, Director of Civil Defence and other Security agencies not to allow the governor deploy their officers to arrest, intimidate or do his bidding in this regard.
“We also extend this call to the international community including the International Foundation for Electoral Systems and other groups, to draw their attention to this dictatorship and brut force currently unleashed against the citizens of Rivers State.”