Rivers Crisis; Why I Stormed Assembly: Gov. Amaechi Tells It All
RIVERS State Governor Rotimi Amaechi spoke yesterday – for the first time – on his presence at the House of Assembly when five lawmakers attempted to impeach the Speaker. There are 32 lawmakers in the House.
Amaechi said he went to the Assembly to restore order, which had broken down when the five lawmakers, who are believed to be associates of Minister of State for Education Nyesom Wike, attempted to impeach Speaker Otelemaba Dan Amachree.
The governor spoke at the Chatham House in Central London where he delivered a lecture on “Resource and governance in Nigeria”. But the audience asked him about the political crisis in the state, particularly why he went to the Assembly on July 9.
He said: “When I heard the members of the Assembly had been attacked by thugs, I went there with my security attache to rescue them because the police assigned to the Assembly had been compromised.
“I abhor violence. The first thing to condemn are the policemen who had refused to perform their duties of protecting the lawmakers.”
Amaechi also said that the current political crisis involving him was “based on the assumption that I want to run for 2015 elections”.
“But again, there is no law that criminalises ambition in Nigeria, It is sad because people do everything to bring you down. If this crisis continues, one group will lose and that is the people of Rivers State.”
“Should the state suffer for the so-called ambition of the governor?” he asked.
A crowd of Rivers State's indigenes was at Chatham House.
They carried placards, praising Amaechi's good work. Many of them are students enjoying the state's scholarship scheme designed to improve manpower.
Chaired by the British MP Richard Fuller, the vice chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Nigeria in the House of Commons, the session was part of Chatham House's African dialogue series. Home of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House regularly invites Nigerian politicians to the UK to participate in its discussions about how Africa is developing.
Outlining a catalogue of achievements his administration can boast of since assuming office in 2007, Amaechi reeled off a list that included infrastructural projects, agricultural plantations, sending hundreds of students on scholarship to the UK and Canada and the massive funding of education. He said 500 primary schools had been built during his tenure and 250 more would be inaugurated starting from October.
Amaechi said: “The academic structure we inherited was very bad as many children could not stay in school and those who did got a very poor education. We are building schools and uniforms, sandals, bags and books are free, while with healthcare, we have built 60 health centres and 70 more will be commissioned before the end of the year.
“We send 300 every year to the UK and Canada on scholarship and we have established palm oil and banana plantations that employ workers. By the end of our tenure, we would have laid the foundation for a more robust and less oil-dependent economy in Rivers State.”
Speaking about his recent political troubles, Amaechi said they all began when it was suspected that he had higher political ambitions for 2015. Stressing that he has not declared for any position yet, the governor said the impact of the clampdown was that several projects had been put on ice by the Federal Government.
Amaechi said: “When the Federal Government suspects that you have an ambition, they do everything to bring you down. For instance, we have two helicopters to monitor security that they have refused permission to be brought into the country and they have frustrated plans we have to open a syringe manufacturing factory in Rivers State.
“Even if they have an issue with me, why should the whole of Rivers State suffer? We have numerous projects which we have signed agreements with the Federal Government to introduce and implement but since this crisis began, they have suspended all of them and the people feeling it are the ordinary people of Rivers State.”
Stressing that Rivers State has the second largest economy in Nigeria, the governor said he is of the opinion that good political leadership could improve things further. However, he added that the political culture in Nigeria where politicians believe they are doing the people a favour is a huge impediment as is the refusal of certain people to leave the political scene.
According to Amaechi, certain politicians have remained on the scene despite having nothing more to offer because they have no other means of earning a living.
Stressing that the crisis in Rivers State threatens security, Amaechi said that some of the militant groups that had been disbanded are being used to cause mayhem and protest against his administration. He added that on the day there was a fracas in the Assembly, many of these thugs were brought in with the connivance of the Police.
Amaechi said: “I used to be the speaker of the house and the law is that you are not even allowed to bring your walking stick in when entering. How did these people manage to bring in thugs, weapons, a fake mace and cause mayhem while the police were not only looking on buy aiding them?”
He pointed out that the violence started long before the recording seen on the widely circulated Youtube began when five Assemblymen smuggled a fake mace into the House and used their hoodlums to create chaos. According to Amaechi, after the police commissioner refused to do anything about it, he went there with his security detail and it was they who eventually restored order.
All APGA members should join hands to support Chief Sir Victor Umeh's leadership.