THE Rivers State chapter of the Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees, on Monday, backtracked on its plan to hold a mass protest against the police.

The NULGE President in Rivers State, Clifford Paul, had said the union would hold a protest on Monday to challenge the continued barricade of local government secretariats by the police.

NULGE gave the Inspector General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, four days to order his men to vacate the 23 LG councils and allow the caretaker chairmen appointed by Governor Siminalayi Fubara to resume.

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The Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress, which also opposed the barricade, said they would be joining NULGE in the Monday protest.

But the police in a statement on Sunday night warned against the protest, threatening that it would make arrests.

Apparently bowing to pressure, the organised labour announced on Sunday night that the planned protest had been called off.

Speaking to journalists in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State Chairman of the TUC, Ikechukwu Onyefuru, said the protest had been called off.

“We hereby step down all our planned peaceful protests slated for tomorrow, Monday, June 24, 2024.

“It is now clear to us that Rivers State has known enemies. There is no war in Rivers State. The state is enjoying peace.

“As organised labour, we have suspended all our actions. However, we will continue to pursue by legitimate means a process to get our workers back to work.”

Meanwhile, the immediate-past chairmen from 21 of the 23 local government areas of Rivers State, on Monday, protested in their councils, insisting that they would remain in office.

The former council bosses, who were elected when Nyesom Wike held away as governor, cited the Local Government Amendment and Administrative Law No. 2 of 2024 enacted by the Martin Amawhule-led House of Assembly, which extended their tenure for six months, following the failure of Governor Siminalayi Fubara to conduct local government elections.

Alongside their loyalists, they stormed their various council secretariats in solidarity with the ongoing barricades by the police.

The council bosses and the 27 lawmakers of the state House of Assembly maintained their loyalty to Wike, who has been having a running battle with Fubara over the control of the political space in the state.

Last week Tuesday, Fubara, in a statewide broadcast, announced the end of the tenure of the council bosses and wished them well in their future endeavours.

Following the broadcast, there were invasions in all the council headquarters as loyalists of the governor trooped in to send the ex-LG bosses packing.

On Wednesday, the governor announced the list of caretaker committees for the councils. However, the police stepped in to prevent a breakdown of law and order as they barricaded the secretariats, preventing the newly constituted council from taking office.

In the Obio-Akpor LGA, George Ariolu, who said he remained the authentic chairman pending the decision of the court on tenure elongation, led residents of the council to the police barricades.

Ariolu said they were out to defend democracy and the rule of law against the forces plotting to force the police to vacate the councils so they could perpetrate violence.

He stated, “We are democrats and we must defend this democracy. The beauty of democracy is the rule of law. That is what we stand to defend. We are not going to relent from doing this.

“The police are here to maintain law and order. Their constitutional duty is to protect lives and property.So when we heard that some people wanted to come and cause mayhem, we decided to say we won’t stand, fold our arms and see it happen.

“It took us a lot to keep the secretariat the way it is today and we won’t allow anybody to come and destroy it. We are here to support what the police are doing.

“The police will not allow them to enter. If they do, we will also get into the councils and what they want to avoid will happen and it will not be in the interest of anybody.”

In Ikwerre LGA, Dr. Samuel Nwanosike also led hundreds of supporters to the police barricade in Isiokpo.

Nwanosike said he remained the properly elected chairman  of the council.

He said, “I am still serving this council. Today I have five months and 25 days remaining in office by the laws made by Martins Amaewhule-led House of Assembly.

“We got credible information that those who are members of the caretaker committees in the name of civil servants and who want to be judges in their own matters, had gone to connive with hoodlums to come and intimidate and harass the police to leave the council.

“Nothing on earth will make us break the laws of Nigeria and nothing on earth will make us disobey your orders. We have been patient with the Nigerian police even when it hurts us we still understand that the constitution is the grund norm and the judiciary is the last hope of the common man.

“We are not here to foment trouble but if they want to take their luck too far, we are here to state that we own this council. These men and women here laboured and inconvenienced ourselves to rebuild this council from scratch when these hoodlums struggling to enter this council embezzled all that was available to them and refused to work for this council.

“Today the council is a beautiful edifice, an envy of all and everybody is doing everything to come and occupy it. It is a good thing but what we are saying is we didn’t create the lacuna that is happening today.

“Our governor refused to conduct elections as provided by law and you know in governance there is no vacuum. We are here to state that as long those miscreants don’t come here we will continue to stand by the side, eat and drink.”

The Area Commander commended them for their peaceful conduct and urged them not to do anything that would cause a breach of the peace.

Meanwhile, hundreds of pro-police protesters marched to the Port Harcourt City Local Government secretariat along Bank Road and commended the police for remaining neutral in discharging their responsibilities of maintaining law and order in the state.

The protesters, who had gathered opposite the post office along Azikiwe Road marched to the council, pledged their support for the police barricade, and returned to the starting point where they addressed newsmen.

One of the conveners, Kingsley Ohunda said: “We are Rivers people, and as you can see this a harmless and an armless protest.

“The police have asked everybody to steer clear of the council premises. We got information that there are people who are trying to protest and ask the police to leave the gate, but we are saying no.

“The matter before the court is going to be decided soon. When that matter is decided, whoever is supposed to be in the council, should go to the council.

“So what we are saying is that the police should remain and maintain peace and order. As you can see, we are peaceful and law-abiding. What we are doing is to ensure that democracy survives in Rivers.”