Today, July 19th 2016, about three hundred men, women and children from waterfront communities threatened with ongoing forced evictions by the Rivers State Government took to the streets to protest against the 7-day ultimatum given to the communities to vacate the waterfronts. It is estimated that at least 60,000 people are expected to be affected by the demolitions of 17 waterfront settlements in Rivers State. Details can be found in the joint press statement attached
The rationale for the demolition is that these settlements harbor kidnappers and cultist hideouts, unfortunately this has been sold to the general public and has gained sentiment for the government.
A press briefing was fixed to hold by 10:00 am, and afterwards the community folks planned to proceed from the Mile One fly-over to the Rivers State Government House. However due to the uncertainty and eagerness of the affected community members to stall losing their homes and source of livelihood, they proceeded to the Government house without holding the press briefing.
The procession resulted in the release of teargas and rubber bullets by the fully armed police officers present, the protest was pushed back to UTC junction where the community members were spoken to by civil society organisation representatives who re-organized and requested they acted in unity and spoke with one voice.
However, they were blocked by the police present and given strict order not to go beyond a certain point, failure to comply would have resulted in manhandling of citizens. The agitated citizensexpressed their grievances to the media houses present at the protest while demanding that a peaceful demonstration to stop the demolition of their homes was their right.
There was heavy police deployment. Caution had to be taken because a slight provocation could have turned the whole protest sour and played to the favor of the government. Amongst those present was Anti-Cultism Squad, Anti-Kidnapping Squad, Operation Swift Action, Mobile Police and an armoured tank.
The arrival of the Deputy Police Commissioner put to rest some grievances and asked that some persons be chosen to represent them at a meeting with the Governor who was ready to speak with a delegation and not address the entire group of protesters. Updates on this meeting will be provided after they are made available by the community delegation
This was done, the crowd dispersed while some stayed back to wait for the delegates.