Tuesday, 31 October 2023 05:41

Massive protest in Rivers as gov, predecessor are locked in power tussle. Here’s what we know so far

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Business and other activities in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, were crippled yesterday, following a massive demonstration by youths in the state who were protesting an alleged plot by the Rivers State House of Assembly to impeach Governor Siminalayi Fubara.

The protest followed an incident, where Fubara narrowly escaped being shot as he tried to access the House of Assembly complex, on Moscow Road, Port Harcourt, after a reported explosion at the complex, carried out by suspected political thugs on Sunday evening.

Many observers believe what is unfolding in Rivers State is simply a case of the governor trying to take control of his own political future after an unyielding strangulating grip on power by his predecessor.

Elder statesman, Edwin Clark, the leadership of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Rivers State, former Governor of the State, Rufus Ada-George, and the Ijaw National Congress (INC), all called for peace.

Clark called on President Bola Tinubu to caution Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and immediate past governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, and heads of security agencies over the political crisis brewing in the oil-rich state.

The leadership of PDP in Rivers State sued for caution.

The crisis rocking the state might not be unconnected with an alleged rift between the governor and his predecessor, Wike.

Our correspondent observed that while Fubara and his entourage were driving along Moscow Road, en route to the Assembly complex, they were stopped by police operatives on duty, who barricaded the road. The governor came down from his official vehicle to walk towards the complex, but the security men started splashing water on him, including teargas, to deny him access to the area.

But due to Fubara’s insistence on accessing the complex, he was able to go round the building and noted the level of damage, which he condemned.

Before the governor visited the Assembly complex, lawmakers, led by the Speaker, Martins Amaewhule, had already sat and agreed to remove the Majority Leader, Edison Ehie, and suspended other members loyal to the governor.

The lawmakers started the session about 7am in the Auditorium of House complex and immediately commenced plenary where about 24 of them signed the impeachment notice on the governor.

They further adjourned the Assembly sine die, pending when the damage at the hallowed chamber would be fixed.

Addressing youths in front of the Assembly complex, Fubara described as unfortunate the attempt by some persons to forcefully take over control of the Assembly. He condemned the burning of sections of such an important public institution built with taxpayers’ money.

The governor said, “The truth is that, everybody who knows me know that I am a peaceful person. I can never ever, even if I am aware that there is a plot to impeach me for whatever reason, be part of such destruction.

“I am worried that a facility like this that we used taxpayers’ money to build will be destroyed for selfish reasons just to please somebody. From what I have seen, even the security is compromised because they were shooting at me directly. The DC operations was shooting at me.”

Fubara described as null and void any illegal legislative actions taken by some members who held what he termed a purported plenary session, saying, “Let it be on record, whoever masterminded the attack at the Assembly is trying to divert attention.”

Fubara commended the youths for standing up to protect the interest of the state. He said he was not scared of impeachment but such action had to be properly explained and justified.

He said, “If Siminalayi Fubara is impeached, I won’t be the first, neither will I be the last. But what is important is that any attempt that is not justified will be resisted. Let them come out and tell Rivers people the offence that I have committed to warrant impeachment.

“But my happiness this morning is that the people of Rivers State, represented by every one of you here, is with us. I can go home and sleep. Let me assure Rivers people that we will continue to defend them, protect you people and ensure that they will enjoy the dividends of democracy.”

Rivers State Youth Council Chairman, Chijioke Ihunwo, vowed that they would resist any move to remove the governor, insisting that Fubara has within a short time in office proven to be the man of the people who has the interest of the state at heart

Ihunwo said, “We will give our 100 per cent support to Governor Fubara. By tomorrow, we are going to occupy the streets of Port Harcourt and we are saying no to ‘God Fatherism’, no to traitors, no to those who want to cart away the money that belongs to Rivers people. That is why the youth will occupy the streets, because we have a governor that has a passion for Rivers people.”

The Commissioner for Information and Communication, Joseph Johnson, who spoke with journalists during the protest, said, “I am a lawyer, we live in the principle of verifiable and cogent reasons. So they must tell Rivers people what the governor has done. The governor has urged the police and other security agencies to unravel the mystery behind the sudden explosion at the Assembly building.

“It is a fight for Rivers people and Fubara. Rivers people gave him that mandate and it is Rivers people that should decide. Power is not in any man’s hand, it is in the hands of God. So, power must shift and it has shifted.”

But the member representing Ahoada East constituency in the Rivers State House of Assembly, Ehie, announced that he had been elected new Speaker of the 10th Assembly.

Briefing journalists in Port Harcourt, Ehie, who was removed by 24 members of the Assembly earlier yesterday as Majority Leader, said his emergence as the new speaker came after 26 members of the Assembly elected him during plenary following the suspension of some key officers of the Assembly.

Ehie, a strong ally of Fubara, promised to discharge his duty without fear or favour, and be just to all and sundry. He promised to give fair hearing to suspended members of the Assembly through the Committee on Petition.

He stated, “As you can see, the house just rose from plenary and with all humility I must thank my colleagues, 26 Assembly members, who have just elected me as the new speaker of the 10th Rivers State House of Assembly.

“My commitment to Rivers people is that I will be fair, I will be just to all and sundry, and I will ensure that the rule of law gets its course. I will not betray Rivers people, I will not betray my constituents. I will also ensure that independence of the Rivers State House of Assembly is adhered to with mutual respect to the judiciary and the executive arms of government.

“Everything due my colleagues as honourable members constitutionally will be given to them. The members that have been suspended, as has been published, will also be given fair hearing.

“The Committee on Information will publish their names and the house has urged the Committee on Petitions to give them fair hearing.”

Ehie, also announced the adjournment of the Assembly sine dine following a circular served by the Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria (PASAN) to commence an indefinite nationwide strike.

Reactions Trail Impeachment Plot

The leadership of PDP in Rivers called for caution in the crisis rocking the state.

A statement signed by the state party chairman, Desmond Akawor, called on both the legislative and executive arms of government in the state to exercise restraint in the ongoing impasse between them.

PDP said it was confident that the situation would be handled amicably.

The statement read, “The party is consulting with elders of the party and other notable personalities in the state with a view to resolving the situation at stake. It expressed optimism that the conflict, which is a family affair, would be resolved amicably at the end of the day.”

The PDP leadership called on youths in the state to exercise caution and resist any temptation to use the situation to embark on wanton destruction of state property. PDP said the youth should rather continue to maintain the existing peace and tranquillity in the state. It called on the people of the state to remain calm and await the peaceful resolution of the situation.

Some elders of the state said last night that the crisis was being resolved, stressing, “There is no cause for alarm.”

Former governor of the state, Rufus Ada-George, condemned the crisis rocking the Assembly, which led to the setting ablaze of the hallowed chamber in the early hours of today.

Ada-George, in a statement made available to journalists, sued for peace, and advised those he described as the dramatis personae in the crisis to seek a quick resolution. He said the crisis, if not checked with the urgency it deserved, had the capacity to precipitate violence of unimaginable magnitude.

An elder statesman and former publicity secretary of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Anabs Sara-Igbe, described the situation as a mutiny against the state and the people.

Sara-Igbe said, “What happened today is mutiny against the people of Rivers State. So I strongly, whole heartedly, condemned what happened in Rivers State.

“It goes to show that somebody somewhere wants to show power, it goes to show somebody wants to continue to run the state.

“A situation where somebody is a governor and you don’t have any power to appoint any member of your cabinet and someone will be telling the governor what he will collect from the revenue is a mutiny.”

Sara-Igbe alleged that Wike was suppressing the incumbent governor in the governance of the state.

He stated, “Rivers State belongs to all of us and it does not belong to one man. You have looted enough and you are not satisfied after you left. You want to control Abuja, you want to control Rivers State and the governor is till loyal, but you don’t want to give him little space.

“You want to cut-off his neck. He has gone beyond his boundaries and so the Rivers people should get up.

“Rivers people voted for Sim Fubara as governor of the state and they didn’t vote for Wike as governor of the state. Wike was brought by Goodluck Jonathan and his wife, they made him governor, they did not dictate for him.

“They did not force him to be bringing Rivers money to them, so why should he ask somebody, because he assisted him.

“I have severally advised former governors not to do wrong to avoid the law of karma and it will come when you do not expect. I think the karma wants to start by his own fault, not that the governor wants to pay him back but by his own natural fault he is inviting the karma upon himself.

“I think Mr. Governor should take steps. He has constitutional powers, he should takeover government. He should not rely on Wike or anybody because they are not trustworthy.”

Sara-Igbe advised Fubara to call an emergency security meeting, stressing, “For them to be looking at the governor and splash him hot water, is a disgrace to Rivers people. And for you to point gun at the governor, you have pointed gun at Rivers people.”

Reacting, also, a chieftain of All Progressives Congress (APC), Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, urged the people of Rivers State to rally around Fubara and save the state “from a very unprincipled emperor.”

In a statement made available to journalists in Port Harcourt, Eze cautioned Wike to refrain from “his indulgence targeted against efforts to resist his boundless sense of entitlement and overlordship over the public and private lives and concerns of others, especially those who hold public office in trust for the people.

“The attempt to commence impeachment process against Rivers State Governor just because he wants to revive most of Amaechi’s vision, like the Songhai and the Greater Port Harcourt, all aimed at making Rivers State not only self-sufficient, and empowering most youths in Rivers State is sad and unfortunate.”

As at the time of filing this report, the PDP stakeholders in the state were in a closed-door meeting with Fubara. It was learnt that their visit was to broker peace between Wike and the governor.

Meanwhile, Clark cautioned Wike and heads of security agencies over the political crisis brewing in the oil-rich Rivers State.

Clark, who spoke with journalists in Abuja, said, “I have been greatly disturbed by the reported developments in Rivers State in the last 24 hours. I have been reliably informed that there is a plot to unlawfully remove the governor of Rivers State, Fubara, who has spent only about five months in office

“I understand the sad episode is being orchestrated by the immediate past governor of Rivers State and the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Wike.

“I have been told that the intention is to remove the governor, force his deputy, Ngozi Odu to resign, and install the Speaker of the House of Assembly, another Ikwerre person, as the governor of the state.

“Let me warn strongly, we won’t allow that to happen!”

The National Leader of the South-south geopolitical zone, who is also the founder of the Pan Niger Delta Forum, urged Tinubu to call Wike and the security agencies in Rivers State to order, to avert crisis in the state.

Clark said, “Last night, the hallowed chambers of the Rivers State House of Assembly was burnt, in what apparently is part of the plot to destabilise the state.

“The governor was tear-gassed and was even threatened with being shot at when he visited the Assembly complex after the incident, to assess the level of damage.

“We are not in a barbaric state where people can do whatever they like; we are in a democracy and the tenets of constitutional democracy must be upheld by all.

“Rivers people have suffered enough political crises, the state should not be allowed to degenerate again into its dark past, and the Niger Delta region, by extension. The consequences would be dire for the stability of the region and the national economy.

“What has Fubara done wrong? Refusing to be further ‘remote controlled’?

“Wike was Governor for eight years, nobody hassled him. He governed Rivers State like an emperor, he did not show any iota of respect and regard to anyone, not even those who imposed him on Rivers people in 2015.

“Tinubu must act fast and avert the unfolding crisis in Rivers State in the interest of his administration, the nation’s democracy, and the country at large.”

Former Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, also condemned attempts by some political actors to plunge Rivers State into another round of violence, which she described as “unnecessary and avoidable”,

Semenitari called for immediate stop to the crisis, saying the Rivers State has had too many political crises, and at no time was the state the ultimate beneficiary.

She said, “This state has had too many political crises and has at no time been the ultimate winner. At each time, the economy and the people suffered. We cannot continue to whine in this sad cesspool while other states move up the political and economic ladder.”

Condemning attempts to impeach Fubara, Semenitari frowned upon both the motive and its execution. She noted that it was outrageous that only six months into the administration anyone would consider the impeachment of the governor.

“This goes against the grain of all that is noble,” Semenitari said. She added, “The Nigerian constitution is clear on this fact, which is that a sub-nation in the Nigerian federation should have only one elected governor who shall serve a four-year tenure, renewable, though, for another four. Why then does anyone want to render the outcome of the elections still born?”

The former NDDC Chief Executive Officer also said, “Our law enforcement agencies should always draw the line between loyalty to Nigerian taxpayers and political actors. It was bizarre to see Nigeria Police personnel let loose their water cannon and teargas canisters on the Rivers State governor. I condemn it in very clear terms.”

Many stakeholders, including traditional rulers and ex-militant leaders from the Niger Delta, described the development in Rivers State as an evil machination.

A group, Citizens for the Sustainable Development of the Niger Delta (CSDND), condemned the purported suspension of the Majority Leader of the state Assembly, the impeachment notice against Fubura, and the alleged tear gas attack by some policemen on the state governor while on his way to assess the fire outbreak at the state Assembly complex on Sunday night.

In a statement made by its National Coordinator, James Okpara, CSDND said it was also too early for political actors to engage in show of strength and ego clash that will throw the state into chaos.

According to the group, it would be a shame for a governor, who had just spent only five months in office, to be confronted with this magnitude of coup d’état against.

CSDND, in the statement, argued that despite the fact that the emergence of Fubara, an ijaw, was welcomed by the majority of the stakeholders from the region, “The evil plot to destabilise the state House of Assembly and the executive arm in a battle for control is evil and should be widely condemned.”

It added, “The suspected dynamite explosion at the state House of Assembly complex in Port Harcourt, suspension of the Majority Leader, and impeachment notice against Governor Fubura is an indication that those behind the attack are desperate and are enemies of the Rivers people.”

In a similar vein, Ijaw National Congress (INC) called on Tinubu to prevail on Wike to discontinue his alleged plan to “unlawfully impeach” the duly elected governor of River State.

INC, in a statement signed by its president, Benjamin Ogele Okaba, also called on all Ijaw sons, daughters and friends to rally their support to the governor of River State, saying injustice to one Ijaw man is injustice to over 40 million Ijaw people across the world.

The statement added that the development could lead to unwarranted state of insecurity and instability that could throw the entire Niger Delta and the Nigerian economy into serious crises.

The statement titled, “A clarion call by the INC on the president and Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces to prevail on the Federal Capital Territory Minister to discontinue his dastardly act in Rivers State,” said Fubara had done nothing wrong to warrant his removal.

The statement read, “Following reports of ongoing activities in Rivers State, the jaw National Congress wish to state as follows:

“The attention of the Ijaw National Congress has been drawn to a grand plot masterminded by the immediate past governor of River State, now the FCT Minister, Wike, to unlawfully impeach the duly elected Governor of River State, Fubara, who is barely five months in office as Governor of River State.

“The INC considers this development very worrisome and capable of generating an unwarranted state of insecurity and instability that can throw the entire Niger Delta and the Nigerian economy into serious crises.

“From reports gathered, Governor Fubara has done nothing wrong to warrant his removal except for the fact that he has decided not to remain a stooge to the immediate past governor.

“The INC, therefore, condemns in its entirety this barbaric, selfish, nepotistic and unconstitutional act capable of derailing the process of democratic consolidation in Nigeria.

“Wike should be advised to concentrate on his responsibilities as Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, and stop interfering and arm swinging the political machinery in Rivers State to advance his personal and selfish desires.

“The INC is hereby calling on Mr. President, Tinubu, to call his FCT minister to order.”

In his reaction to the development, Magnus Abe said in as much as he had chosen to remain silent on the political issues in Rivers State, “I say clearly and unequivocally that the burning of the hallowed chambers of the Rivers State House of Assembly complex, which not only serves as a democratic institution, but a sacred asset of the state, is highly condemnable.”

Abe added, “As seen in trending videos in the media space, the direct gun shots and tear-gassing on the person of the governor of Rivers State, Fubara, who is the chief security officer of the state, was wrong. This is beyond politics, and I publicly condemn it.

“I believe that in the interest of the state, the Nigerian police needs to have a deeper conversation with the governor who is the current chief security officer and the only Rivers man that currently enjoys constitutional immunity.

“There can be only one governor at a time, so whatever our political differences, we must look for ways to resolve them without jeopardising the peace and security of our fellow citizens. The politics of it all is absolutely of no interest to me at the moment.”



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