The frosty relationship between the police and the government of Rivers State degenerated yesterday, with some officers blocking a major road that leads to the Government House.
Governor Rotimi Amaechi and a group of former Speakers were returning to the Government House after a tour of projects when they found the road barricaded with police vans.
The policemen claimed to be acting on the instruction of Commissioner of Police Mbu Joseph Mbu, who has been at loggerheads with Amaechi.
The convoy of about seven vehicles, including two buses in which the governor and the former speakers rode, was stuck for close to 25 minutes, The Nation learnt.
Several efforts were made to persuade the police to allow the vehicles pass through. They refused to.
One of the policemen got angry, saying he would not be challenged by civilians, it was learnt.
Three police vans were parked across the road and all residents of the Old GRA street could not drive in or out of the area.
The governor, who was dressed in a white shirt and a pair of white trousers and shoes, walked up to the spot where the three vans were parked across the road. He said: “You can see for yourself that we cannot go to the Government House through this road on the instruction of the President and the Commissioner of Police.”
Eventually, the convoy took another route to get into the Government House.
Earlier yesterday, Amaechi had received President Goodluck Jonathan at the International Airport and planned to meet with him later in the day.
The President was visiting nearby Bayelsa State.
There were 102 former Speakers in the convoy. Among them was former Lagos Speaker Olorunnibe Mamora, who was shocked by the police action.
Mamora said: “It is quite unfortunate; it is an act of impunity and overzealousness on the part of the police.”
The barricaded road leads to Braithwaite Memorial Specialist Hospital, which doubles as the General Hospital.
The police denied blocking the Government House’s entrance.
Spokesperson Angela Agabe, a DSP, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Port Harcourt: “I am aware that the commissioner of police did not give such an order to block the entrance leading to the governor’s residence.
“He did not do it and did not instruct our officers to do such a thing.’’
But, Mrs Ibim Semenitari, the Commissioner for Information and Communication, insisted that Amaechi and no fewer than 70 visitors were denied access to his private residence in the Government House.
“The governor was coming back with his visitors, former speakers of Houses of Assembly; he was blocked on his way into the Government House, leading to his private entrance.
“The police blocked the road, the governor came down and identified himself, but they told him they had orders from the commissioner of police.
“Governor Amaechi, therefore, had to go through a longer route to get to the Government House,’’ Semenitari said.
Semenitari described the action of the police as illegal, unconstitutional, and an insult to the office of the governor.