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Fresh Shootings Erupt In Port Harcourt

Akanimo Sampson,
Port Harcourt

Fresh Shootings Erupt In Port Harcourt

* Police Say No Cause For Alarm

THE relative peace in Port Harcourt, the capital city of one of Nigeria's oil-producing states, Rivers State , was shattered on Thursday night ahead the state's Arts and Cultural Festival which took off on Friday, thus throwing the unsuspecting residents into a state of confusion.

Following the security cordon, motorists and commuters went through hell as the major Port Harcourt-Aba Expressway was blocked to traffic.

Eye-witnesses however, say it was a corktail of heavy shooting by unidentified armed youths weilding submagine guns and AK 47 rifles at the Borokiri and Aggrey Road areas of the Old Port Harcourt Township.

The Police in the state said the aim of the attackers was to disrupt the festival which government wanted to use as a clear indication that peace has return to the state.

Spokesperson for the police, Mrs. Rita Inoma-Abbey, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), told our correspondent on telephone yesterday that the command through their intelligence unit got wind of the planned attack and took ''appropriate security measures''.

According to the police, ''we successfully repelled them. As i speak with you (at 12.54p.m), no arerest has been made. The most important thing is that the festival is going on''.

Before now, the state government has been accusing the opposition of sponsoring unnamed armed youths to unleash renewed cycle of terror in the state.

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On Thursday, Leader of the Niger Delta Patriotic Force (NDPF), and the Niger Delta Vigillante (NDV), Ateke Tom, had in an on-line statement threatened that they will disrupt the festival because the state Governor Chibuike Amaechi, according to him, wants to use it to deceive the public.

Ateke said they wanted to disrupt the event in order to make the world know that ''there is no peace in Rivers state''. Former Transport Minister, Dr. Abiye Sekibo, had similarly claimed that the state was not yet save.

Information Commissioner, Ogbonna Nwuke, fired back at Sekibo, saying the state of insecurity in the state is a figment of his imagination, adding that the former minister was battling for relevance in both the state and Abuja.

Spokesman for the Ateke groups, Tamunokuro Ebitari, has denied their involvement in the shooting that ruptured the calm of the state capital. According to him, we stayed action following appeal from some well-meaning citizens of the state to our leader to allow the carnival to go on. Frankly speaking, we know nothing about the shooting''.

In the mean time, Ateke says he has some bones to pick with Governor Amaechi, who denied ever having any political dealings with the militant chief. The governor has also said that he does not know Ateke in person.

But in his reaction to our correspondent Ateke said: ''Amaechi invited me to Government House and gave me N50 million himself after he had won the party primary before he was changed with Celestine Omehia. This was in 2007. Infact, if Rivers people would remember, then, my presence in Port Harcourt was seen by some and the rumour was all over. This was when i actually went to pick the money from Amaechi.

''When he was eventually changed, he asked me to do a lot of things, which includes, to disrupt the Celestine Omehia campaign and the general elections. Then, i told him, i was no longer interested in politics and that i want to face the Niger Delta struggle. The next call i had from Amaechi was a threat, that i am an ingrate and that he will deal with me. This was the point we fell apart.

''While i demanded that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission come to my camp and get this information directly from me as they responded to Odili and others who wanted their testimonies to be taken outside Port Harcourt for security reasons, Amaechi stopped the commission from comming just as he discouraged the Senate President from visiting the creeks early this year.

''The world should know that, i'm not the only militant leader in Rivers state but Amaechi is out to kill me because i refused to carry out his intructions to disrupt the campaigns and the general elections. Secondly, he feels i will use the arms he bought for me against him. That is why when he came into office, his first job was to mobilize the JTF to loot and attarck me. I want to say that if the Federal Government does not prevail on Amaechi to stop using its forces to wage his personal war with me, the desired peace will elude the region as i will not fold my hands and watch his efforts to kill me thrive''.


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