Rivers disaster: Political gladiators take battle to grassroots

DENNIS NAKU writes on the contemporary political disaster in Rivers State emanating from the tenure of native authorities chairmen and traces the start of the feud between godfather and godson

One factor within the minds of many eager watchers of political occasions in Rivers State is how the festering disaster between the state Governor, Siminalayi Fubara, and his predecessor and estranged political godfather, Nyesom Wike will finish. One query political observers will ask is who will giggle final?

Little did anybody know that the disagreement between them would degenerate into the present advanced state of stress and uncertainty.

The nomination of the chairmen and members to function the caretaker committee for the 23 native authorities areas of the state by the governor and their subsequent screening and affirmation by the Victor Oko-Jumbo-led Assembly loyal to him following the expiration of the tenure of the then-serving chairmen on June 17, 2024, set the stage for the showdown,

Before now, the Martin Amaewhule-led 27 lawmakers elected when the present Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike, held sway because the governor had vetoed the incumbent governor to amend the State Local Government Law which main provision was the extension of the tenure of the native authorities chairmen for six months over the failure of Fubara to conduct LG elections.

But the governor had referred to as their bluff, refusing to utter a phrase over the motion of the pro-Wike state lawmakers, conserving his plans to his chest and ready to strike when the iron was scorching

By Tuesday, June 18, 2024, the governor had sworn within the CTC chairmen, who in flip inaugurated their members after the state House of Assembly loyal to him (Fubara) gave them a clear invoice of well being forward of Wednesday’s resumption of labor after the two-day Eid-el-Kabir holidays the place they’d be anticipated to take over the varied councils.

This was as 21 of the 23 native authorities chairmen elected below Wike, vowed to not vacate workplace, citing the amended native authorities regulation made by the Amaewhule-led Assembly which prolonged their tenure for six months.

Most of the council chairmen because it have been below the aegis of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria made good their vows and proceeded to their council headquarters, however little did they anticipate the extent of resistance they met on Tuesday, July 18.

Not solely had a whole bunch of Fubara’s supporters and sympathisers alike occupied the power, however additionally they chased the outgone chairmen who dared to place up look with temerity, simply as a few of them escaped being attacked by the whisker.

One of the hotbeds of the melee was the Port Harcourt City Local Government Area the place the chairman, Allwell Ihunda, as he then was, who doubles because the State Chairman of Association of Local Governments of Nigeria, was chased by offended protesters, together with members of the Ijaw Youths Congress, who hoisted the physique’s flag on the entrance of the council secretariat, protesting the tenure elongation whereas he tried to make his means into the council premises.

It took the intervention of his safety particulars who fired gunshots into the air to pave the best way for his escape by Bank Road in direction of the regional CBN workplace in Port Harcourt. However, operatives from close by State Police Command arrived shortly afterward, taking pictures reside bullets and tear gasoline to scare away the youths, who insisted that they have been there on a peaceable protest and to execute the directives of the governor for the newly sworn-in CTC chairmen to take over the affairs of the council.

Also, in Obio/Akpor, the native authorities of the FCT Minister, the gang of protesting youths who made their means into the council headquarters in Rumuduomaya was overwhelming. The then LG boss, George Ariolu, was fortunate as he was nowhere to be discovered the stress there tripled as they unleashed the anger that welled in them on considered one of his vehicles discovered contained in the premises, smashing the windscreen and damaging different elements.

While the protest assumed a fever pitch, a bunch of protesters reached for a statue of the previous Rivers State Governor contained in the council secretariat, dragged and pulled it down, destroying it into particles.

While the youths additionally chased out ALGON members who they describe as cussed from assessing the secretariat in Eleme, Ahoada East, Tai, Khana, and different LGs, the state of affairs was excessive in Eberi-Omuma in Omuma LG of the state, as a conflict between supporters of each camps turned bloody and left a policeman and member of an area vigilante group lifeless after they have been shot.

The casualty little question necessitated the police takeover of LG secretariats and the following directive by the Inspector General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, that the police barricade would stay till a courtroom of competent jurisdiction guidelines on the matter of the council chairman which was already a topic of litigation.

The litigated issues are that there’s a subsisting May 2024 judgment of the Rivers State High Court presided over by Justice Daketima Kio which made any transfer to elongate the tenure of the council chairmen unlawful after the declaring of the Local Government Amendment Law made by the 27 lawmakers as inconsequential with the provisions of the structure.

Recall {that a} three-man Appeal Court panel had adjourned the case of the LG chairmen to June after listening to arguments from the events.

The appellate courtroom presided over Justice B.B Aliyu delivered the ruling after the Chairman of Opobo-Nkoro LG, Enyiada Cookey-Gam, and 6 others dragged Fubara and others to courtroom. The Appellants had queried the modification made by the Martin Amaewhule-led 27 pro-Wike lawmakers.

Also, Justice Dakatima Kio of the Rivers State High Court nullified the six-month tenure elongation for the native authorities chairmen granted by the Martin Amaewhule-led state legislature.

Justice Kio had on May 21 declared the native authorities regulation No. 2 of 2024 which provision extends the tenure of the native authorities chairmen invalid.

Looking again, the disagreement between the FCT minister and Fubara, a former Accountant General of the state, which has now spiraled to the native governments, started from the state House of Assembly following an alleged try to interchange the Amaewhule-led management of the Assembly and exchange similar with a Speaker that shall be loyal to the governor, to allow him steadily construct his political construction, a transfer that opened the floodgates of violence.

An elder statesman and pioneer spokesperson for the Pan Niger Delta Forum, High Chief Anabs Sara-Igbe, throughout considered one of his media outings, mentioned, “Do you know that the governor almost resigned because of the overbearing influence of the FCT minister; but for the intervention of some critical stakeholders, Governor Fubara would have left.”

“It is unfortunate, and we must tell the minister to concentrate on his job in Abuja and allow the governor to govern the state,” Sara-Igbe, who can also be an activist, added.

As the cordial relationship between Wike and his godson started to bitter, the Martin Amaewhule-led majority lawmakers tried to outsmart their counterparts by plotting to take away Edison Ehie, who was then the chief of the House and staunch supporter of the governor by means of suspension. They (pro-Wike lawmakers) additionally appointed one other chief to pave the best way for them to start the impeachment course of on the state chief government.

Prior to that point, Governor Fubara had began pursuing his future, frolicking with perceived foes of his predecessor, specifically Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State and his Bayelsa state counterpart, Senator Douye Diri, and the latter’s predecessor, Seriake Dickson, amongst others.

On October 30, 2023, the State House of Assembly positioned alongside Moscow Road was bombed, leaving the hallowed chamber destroyed, and the mace; the image of legislative authority, was carted away.

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The day after, the pro-Wike lawmakers made their means into the Assembly, which was already below lock and key and manned by armed policemen. They held a plenary in one of many halls contained in the advanced and commenced an impeachment of the governor who they accused of incompetence and gross misconduct.

Amidst heavy safety presence and barricades, the pro-Wike lawmakers afterward left the advanced the identical means that they had entered in an extended white bus escorted by armed operatives.

About an hour later, the governor, accompanied by the House Leader, Edison Ehie, some aides, and a few youths strolling in direction of the Assembly advanced from the state secretariat axis have been accosted by the safety operatives who fired a number of pictures into the air.

The police sprayed water on the governor however the youths that accompanied him stored shouting ‘He is the Governor of Rivers State’, simply as Fubara superior in direction of the advanced, the youths pressured the gate open, and the governor inspected the bombed facility and thereafter addressed the press. He queried the rationale the 27 lawmakers needed to question him.

With water dripping from his garments, the governor even confronted a senior police officer who he alleged fired straight in his path. A couple of days later, the state authorities ordered the demolition of the Assembly citing structural defects because of the explosion, at the same time as the power has remained shut ever since.

Following the imbroglio, the pro-Wike lawmakers throughout plenary on the Assembly quarters positioned alongside Aba Road, introduced the suspension of Ehie as House chief and changed him with Major Jack.

The 27 lawmakers throughout considered one of its sittings introduced their defection from the Peoples Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress, even because the House turned factionalized. Ehie, on his half, instructed newsmen that 24 of his colleagues had elected him as the brand new Speaker after a sitting contained in the Government House in Port Harcourt, whereas he introduced the suspension of Amaewhule and different few different colleagues.

Later, throughout plenary, Ehie, presiding as factional speaker, declared the seats of the 27 defected lawmakers vacant for dumping the occasion below which platform they have been elected into the House, saying the House would write to INEC to conduct bye-elections to fill the vacant seats.

At the height of the disaster, President Bola Tinubu intervened and invited the feuding events to Abuja, a improvement that led to an eight-point peace settlement the place Wike and Fubara agreed to sheathe their swords and implement the agreements.

But a number of months down the road, the peace brokered by President Tinubu broke down and each events returned to the trenches with renewed hostilities.

With the likes of the previous performing nationwide chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, former Transport Minister, Dr Abiye Sekibo, and Senator Lee Maeba, becoming a member of forces with Fubara in opposition to their recognized political foe, the disaster assumed a brand new twist of realignment.

At the centre of the deadlock is the management of the political construction, and by a logical extension, management of the state which clearly explains why the battle has shifted to the native authorities areas.

Fubara, having survived an impeachment which was gathered, adopted an earlier try by the governor to alter the management of the state Assembly with those that could be loyal to him fairly than eating with recognized enemies.

Meanwhile, the governor whereas swearing within the CTC chairmen mentioned they might function from wherever for now in the event that they encounter any problem, at the same time as he urged them to keep up peace always.

Commenting on the takeover of the LG headquarters by the police, the President of Ijaw National Congress, Prof. Benjamin Okaba, disagreed with the place of the IG that policemen would proceed to man the LG secretariats.

This got here because the Caretaker Committee Chairman of the APC within the State, Chief Tony Okocha, referred to as for the declaration of a state of emergency in Rivers State, citing the violence that greeted the tenure of the LG chairmen.

Okocha whereas expressing fear over the lack of lives mentioned, “So the Federal Government ought to do what they need to do to make sure that this state of anarchy we’re heading to, doesn’t degenerate for us to be seeing fireplace in all places.

Continuing, the INC boss, Prof. Okaba mentioned, “The IG directive that the police ought to be there, perhaps from one perspective, you can say that the police haven’t any enterprise barricading the place significantly now that the governor has put in place a caretaker committee, which, although not within the structure, is sort of a norm in Nigeria; different states have carried out the identical factor as an interim measure earlier than elections are performed into councils.

“Again, because of this we now have been speaking in regards to the independence of the police. The structure says the governor is the Chief Security Officer of the place. The Commissioner of Police ought to have taken orders from the governor. Now he’s taking orders from the IG which once more defines the type of democracy and separation of powers we function on this nation.

“So, in all, it’s a misnomer, which is sort of changing into a norm within the nation we discover ourselves in. I really feel we ought to be very cautious with what’s going on.

“It is very provocative if not properly managed can lead to bloodshed and all of that, and those are the things I have warned against. So, it is now left for stakeholders at the state, and federal levels to sit down together and look for a way out of all of this mess. I call it a very messy situation,” he mentioned, at the same time as he referred to as on the President to intervene within the disaster rocking the state.

On his half, the Chairman of the Rivers State Civil Society Organisation, Enefaa Georgewill, mentioned the stance of the IG confirmed that “the police have already put themselves in the arena by trying to be an interpreter of court judgments.”

He mentioned, “We would want to warn that the police shouldn’t create situations where civil organizations like ours and other interest groups would have to move into the streets to demand that the police remove themselves from the political arena of Rivers state and obey a subsisting court judgment and equally respect our constitution that says that every local government chairman is supposed to stay for three years. Anything outside this, we will be left with no choice than to begin to mobilise our affiliates and other interest groups and to move to the streets of Port Harcourt and Abuja.”

Similarly, the River State chapter of the National Union of Local Government Employees mentioned it had issued a four-day ultimatum for the police to vacate the LGA secretariats, saying its members could be pressured to take to the streets afterward.

The state NULGE President, Clifford Paul, who spoke to Saturday PUNCH on the phone, mentioned, “We have made a press release asking the Rivers State Police Command to reopen the gates for the employees as a result of after the dissolution of the LG councils by the chief governor of the state, since then, all of the gates of the 23 LG councils have been and there’s no means my employees shall be exterior or shall be absenting themselves from work.

“So, we are requesting that the needful has to be done. They should vacate the gates so that we can access our premises. We are giving them a four-day ultimatum, and after the four days, as a union, I will reserve that comment.”



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