Rivers crisis escalates as Wike, Fubara go full blown

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    The political crisis rocking Rivers State deepened last week, with shots fired from each side of the divide.

    Leadership of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the state had asked the state lawmakers to begin the process of impeaching Governor Siminalayi Fubara.

    Fubara’s estranged godfather and FCT Minister, Nyesom Wike, on his part, described the choice of his successor as a mistake.

    Wike, who spoke at an event in Rivers, begged God and his political family to forgive him.

    According to him: “I want to say this clearly: in life, we make mistakes. I have made a mistake. I own it up and I say God forgive me. I have said all of you forgive me. But we will correct it at the appropriate time.

    “I am human. I am bound to make mistakes. So forgive me for making a wrong judgment. So nobody should kill.”

    Wike also urged his supporters in the state assembly not to succumb to intimidation, saying: “Don’t be afraid. Nobody will remove you as lawmakers.

    “Most of you don’t understand. This is our work. Our business is to make them to fear. That is what I am doing. We will make them to be angry every day and they will continue to make mistakes.”

    Mr Edison Ehie, the Chief of Staff to the governor did not waste time to respond, as he used the opportunity of another event in the state to vow that Fubare would teach his opponents a political lesson.

    He attributed the crisis in the state to the struggle for resource control.

    According to Ehie: “We are going to teach them a lesson of political arithmetic. What that small boy (Fubara) will do to you, you’ll know that khaki no be leather.

    “The problem we have in the state is that 11 persons said they would control the resources of Rivers State. These 11 persons now called 20 others to allocate resources to themselves.”

    However, recent happenings show that the factional state lawmakers are living up to Wike’s directive.

    DAILY POST recalls that the now suspended House had earlier overruled the governor when it passed into law several bills, which Fubara’s camp believes were aimed at weakening the governor’s control of the state.

    But in what appeared to be a fight-back, a Rivers State High Court barred the pro-Wike speaker and 24 other lawmakers from parading themselves as members of the House of Assembly.

    Meanwhile, Fubara earlier on Friday ordered an immediate relocation of the legislative business of the state House of Assembly to Government House in Port Harcourt, where the Oko-Jumbo and the other two lawmakers are expected to carry out legislative functions.

    The relocation order was contained in the state’s official Gazette, Executive Order of the Rivers State Government 001-2023.

    The order came about 24 hours after Victor Oko-Jumbo, a lawmaker loyal to the governor, emerged as a new factional speaker of the assembly.

    DAILY POST recalls that the governor on Monday, April 6, declared that members of the state assembly, as currently led by the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Martins Amaewhule, were no longer lawmakers, saying they do not even exist.

    Fubara noted that in seeking peaceful resolution to the political crisis that erupted in the state last year, he had attended several reconciliation meetings, whose resolutions the other party, where the state’s lawmakers belong, had rebuffed.

    The comment, which marked the beginning of the current face-off, was not unconnected to the inability of the assembly to approve some requests from the governor.

    This is even as the lawmakers also accused the governor of deliberately withholding his assent from bills already passed, terminating the peace deal brokered by President Bola Tinubu on December 18, 2023.

    DAILY POST recalls in a bid to quell the lingering political crisis in the state, Fubara and Wike alongside other stakeholders including the Rivers Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, chairperson, Aaron Chukwuemeka, and the Speaker of the state assembly, Martin Amaewhule, in December last year, signed a resolution document after a meeting with Tinubu.

    However, keen watchers of the activities in Rivers say whatever is contained in the resolution now belongs to the dustbin of history as both factions have returned to trenches.

    What triggered the recent crisis

    DAILY POST gathered that the recent feud followed the enactment of the Rivers State Local Government (Amendment) Bill and the refusal of the governor to assent same.

    On March 13, 2024, the House passed the bill and forwarded it to Governor Fubara for assent, but he declined.

    Overriding the governor, the House led by its Speaker, Hon Martin Amaewhule, at its 159th Legislative sitting held at the Assembly Quarters in Port Harcourt on Monday, passed the bill into law.

    The lawmakers wanted the tenure of the Local Government chairmen extended.

    The chairmen are all loyal to former governor and FCT Minister, Nyesom Wike.

    DAILY POST reports that the Chairmen in the 23 local government areas of the state are expected to bow out of office on June 17, 2024 as their tenure elapses.

    A source privy to the happenings told DAILY POST that the House members, particularly the 27 lawmakers loyal to the FCT Minister, by the amended law, wants the office of the Chairmen extended at least by six months.

    The source, who does not want to be mentioned, however, alleged that the governor withheld his assent because he was nursing the plan to appoint caretaker chairmen who will be loyal to him.

    “His plan is to ensure that everyone in the government who is loyal to Chief Wike is pushed out. We all know that the current chairmen are not with him, in fact, they also want the governor impeached.

    “From the look of things, Fubara does not want to conduct elections to replace the outgoing chairmen. He wants to install his own people first before conducting the election. This is what is happening in the state.

    “All these battles against the House of Assembly are because of the LG chairmen. If you could remember, when the governor wanted to pass the budget last year, he installed a factional speaker to make it possible.

    “Now, he has installed another Speaker who will allow him to appoint his boys to serve as caretaker chairmen in all the local government areas”, he alleged.

    The source further alleged that the lawmakers have vowed that any attempt by the governor to appoint caretaker chairmen would lead to his immediate impeachment.

    Meanwhile, PDP and APC have been trading words over the call for the impeachment of Governor Fubara.

    While the APC alleged that the governor no longer respects separation of powers, accusing him of abusing his office, the PDP insisted that the seat of the 27 lawmakers plotting Fubara’s impeachment does not exist owing to their defection.

    Why Governor Fubara must be impeached – APC

    The spokesman of the Rivers State chapter of APC, Ikenga Chibike told DAILY POST on Saturday that the impeachment call became necessary to restore normalcy in the state, alleging that the governor had taken the law into his own hands by hijacking the state assembly.

    Explaining what necessitated the impeachment call, Chibike said, “we called for his impeachment because the governor has become dictatorial.

    “He has no respect for due processes and he has been attacking the House of Assembly and even the LG chairmen.

    “The governor has taken the law into his own hands by trying to intimidate the state assembly and all other persons who failed to agree with his opinion on issues.

    “Nigerians can recall that the president intervened in the disagreement between the executives headed by the governor and the House of Assembly headed by Martins Chike Amaewhule. The special intervention came with a proclamation of about eight items.

    “In the document, the lawmakers were asked to withdraw their impeachment notice, which the assembly has graciously done.

    “The governor was also asked to present the budget before the properly constituted assembly headed by Hon Martins but the governor refused.

    “The governor had planned to hijack the responsibility of the assembly. All the bills that were passed, the governor decided to withhold his assent.

    “The assembly decided to override him and he took offense and decided to intimidate the assembly by declaring that 27 members do not exist.

    “So we called for the impeachment of the governor so that we can have a responsible person who can take care of the state.”

    Asked why the APC was concerned over the crisis in the state citing the fact that the two major actors, Wike and Fubara are both members of the PDP, he said, “the 27 lawmakers are members of our party, so we must stand and defend their interests.

    “Secondly, because Fubara is the governor of Rivers State doesn’t mean he should govern only PDP members. He is the governor of Rivers State and that includes those in his party, those in the opposition party and those who are non-partisan.

    “We are interested because the crisis affects our people and it affects the development of our state.”

    On the alleged move by the governor to appoint caretaker chairmen for the 2023 local government areas, the APC spokesman said, “I will not be surprised if the impunity continues. I won’t be surprised because the governor has again proclaimed another faction of the state assembly.

    “These are the signs of impunity and I won’t be surprised if the governor continues on that line.

    “It was on the basis of the fact that the tenure of the current chairmen will elapse on the 17th of June that the assembly asked the executive to conduct elections so that we can have democratically elected chairmen.

    “The assembly gave the Chairmen six months extension to enable the governor conduct the election.

    “If the election had been conducted before the expiration of their tenure, there wouldn’t be any need for extension.”

    Lawmakers with legibility issues can’t impeach Gov Fubara – PDP counters APC

    In a counter reaction, the spokesman of the PDP in Rivers State, Sydney Gbara told DAILY POST that the 27 lawmakers loyal to the FCT Minister lacked the power to impeach the governor.

    According to him, “the truth is that the impeachment is not possible.

    “In the first place, the 27 lawmakers have eligibility issues because they defected from the PDP to APC when there was no crisis in the party.

    “Ordinarily, they are not supposed to be acting except for the presidential intervention which the governor signed and accepted to recognize the Martins’ faction.

    “You know at that time, we had two factions. We had the Martins’ faction and the Edison Ehie’s faction which was recognized by a court of competent jurisdiction.

    “Edison would have gone ahead to function as the Speaker that is recognized by law which has not had a contrary judgement up till today.

    “Because of the governor’s stance for peace, he told Edison to resign to give way to the other faction to operate.

    “So they have only been operating by the lifeline given by the governor of Rivers State, His Excellency Siminalayi Fubara but they abused the privilege. Day in, day out, they continue to push out one retrogressive law or the other against the state.

    “They have been causing legislative nuisance in the Rivers State politics.

    “They are only for their selfish interest and that of their pay master. The governor has pronounced them non existing and the pronouncement stands.

    “Today, we have a new Speaker, Hon. Victor Oko Jumbo. He has been sworn in to continue from where Edison stopped. The new assembly is the legally recognized 10th assembly in the state.

    “This is why I said the impeachment cannot work. They are illegally occupying the seats. They were there on the lifeline of the governor and since the governor has withdrawn that, they cannot function.

    “The Rivers Youths have vowed that they will besiege wherever they seat to pronounce any impeachment against the Governor.”

    On the allegation that the new Speaker emerged to enable the governor to appoint caretaker chairmen in the 23 local government areas, the PDP spokesman said, the new faction emerged because “Martins’ faction had laid siege on the governor and the people of the state. Nothing is working.

    “The government is moving in a mechanical and arithmetic progression when they are supposed to be acting in geometric progression.

    “House of Assembly in other states are making laws for the development of their various states. With or without them, the government has to move on.

    “That is why we now have a government recognized assembly that will work with the government for the betterment of the state.”

    Meanwhile, President Bola Tinubu has told the political actors in Rivers that he would not take sides in the ongoing crisis.

    Tinubu, who spoke through his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale, said that anyone with the belief that President Tinubu would take their side in the political crisis would be disappointed.

    The Special Adviser made the President’s position known during an interview on TVC, insisting that Tinubu won’t allow any attempt to frustrate the Rivers government.

    “I believe that anyone who believes that by their actions, whether it’s from the Federal level, State level or the legislative branch in the State or the executive branch in the state, if they are banking on Mr. President to take sides on this matter, they’re mistaking and they’ll be disappointed,” he said.

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