Armed policemen on Wednesday dispersed newly-employed teachers who gathered at the Liberation Stadium in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, to receive their deployment letters.
The teachers, numbering 13,000, were invited to the stadium by the state government to receive their letters of postings and to be addressed by the state Commissioner for Education, Alice Lawrence-Nemi.
While some of the teachers, who came into the stadium as early as 7.30am, were chased out by the police, others that tried to gain entrance into the stadium were stopped from entering the arena.
Our correspondent learnt that the teachers who did not vacate the stadium promptly were forced out by the armed policemen.
The policemen, according to sources, had thought that the newly recruited teachers were in the stadium for a demonstration against President Goodluck Jonathan.
Wednesday’s incident is coming on the heels of the blockade of a road leading to the Government House in Port Harcourt on September 12, 2013.
The police had also on September 20, barred some youths from going on a project inspection with Governor Rotimi Amaechi on the excuse that the youths might have been hired by the state government to protest against the President.
One of the teachers chased out of the Liberation Stadium told liveschoolnews that he had hoped to get his letter of posting from the Ministry of Education, but was frustrated by the policemen that came to disperse them.
“My colleagues and I took the exam and we were successful. Now that the Ministry of Education invited us to come and collect our letters of posting, see what the police have done to frustrate us,” the teacher, who identified himself simply as Stephen, said.
When our correspondent visited the stadium, 12 Toyota Hilux patrol vehicles were seen parked at the main entrance with scores of heavily armed policemen guiding the place after the teachers had been dispersed.
Rivers State Commissioner of Information and Communications, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, described the action of the police as “impunity from retrogressive forces.”
Semenitari said, “Virtually, this is the impunity we have been talking about in Rivers State. It is clear to Rivers people that this is the action of retrogressive forces who are totally against development because it is the first time any government, whether state or federal, is employing 13,000 teachers at once.
“These are people who have been unemployed. Nigeria is crying about unemployment, education system is in a mess and a government employs 13,000 teachers, trains them and wants to feed them into the system, and somebody chooses to treat this with levity and to tear gas the teachers and give a very stupid excuse, saying that the teachers were there to protest against President Jonathan.”
The Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Mr. Ahmad Mohammad, said the action of the police became necessary because of an intelligence report at their disposal.
Mohammed said, “We got intelligence report that about 18,000 youths were being mobilised to protest against a very important personality in the country. You are aware that the ban on public procession in the state by the police is still in force.
“In all their activities, they (state government) have always invited us to provide security and we would provide security and leave at the end of such events. They did not write or invite us to this one.
“The police are not afraid of anything. They are only afraid of the breakdown of law and order and that is why they took such action today.”
Meanwhile, the Rivers State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, said Wednesday gathering of the teachers at the stadium was a ploy by the Amaechi-led government to use the youths as protesters on the streets of Port Harcourt against Jonathan.
The party in a statement by the Special Adviser on Media to the PDP Chairman in the state, Mr. Jerry Needam, regretted that Amaechi was cashing in on the misfortune of thousands of unemployed youths in the state to play politics.
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