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Obio/Akpor council officials defy Amaechi's dissolution order

By The Rainbow
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The political crisis in Rivers State has assumed a new dimension as the elected officials of Obio/Akpor Local government Council have vowed not to obey Governor Chibuike Amaechi's order dissolving the council.

Amaechi had on Thursday night announced the dissolution of Obio/Akpor Local Government Council through a statement issued by the Secretary to the State Government, Mr. George Feyii.

The statement had also directed the Chairman of the council, Prince Timothy Nsirim, to hand over to the Head of Personnel Management HPM) of the council, Mr. Singer Azubuike Singer.  But Nsirim; the Vice Chairman, Mr. Solomon Eke; and the 17 councillors of the council were at the secretariat at Rumuodomaya yesterday and vowed not obey the governor's dissolution order.

This came as the state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Worgu Boms, restated that Amaechi had the powers to dissolve the council as the court did not amend any section of the state Local Government Law.

Some youths of the area, who had gathered at Rumuigbo to demonstrate in support of the dissolution of the council, were also dispersed by the police. Although there was increased police presence at the council secretariat at Rumuodomaya, Nsirim and other officials sat in their office as if nothing happened.

They vowed not to respect the dissolution order, noting that the action of the state government was in violation of the judgment of a Rivers state High Court, presided over by Justice Adama Iyayi-Lamikanra, which ordered the state governor not to interfere in the affairs of Obio/Akpor council.

Nsirim, while speaking to journalists yesterday, said he stood by the court judgment which re-instated him as the chairman of the council.

Explaining why they would not obey the governor's dissolution order and vacate the secretariat, Vice Chairman, Mr. Solomon Eke, said the actions of the state government would remain void as it violated the judgement, which ordered the state governor to refrain from interfering with the affairs of the council area.

He said, 'Rivers state is not his (Amaechi's) father’s company; he does not have any say as far as Obio/Akpor is concerned until he gets the court to vacate its order. The court has told him to hands off Obio/Akpor until the elected officers complete their three-year tenure. He should respect the court judgement.

'If he does not obey the court, we cannot obey whatever directives or order he gives. Whatever order he gives on Obio/Akpor will be flouted by us.' Eke also said the council did not know any HPM called Singer and wondered if the head of personnel management was the highest civil servant of the council it all they were to obey the dissolution order.

According to him, 'Singer is not the highest ranking civil servant in the council. The head of local government is the highest civil servant in the council. We did not create the law. Besides, I do not know Singer. I have not seen him before. Perhaps, he is the HPM appointed by the caretaker committee. If he is a worker in the council, why did he not resume in the council when others resumed? The civil servants we know all resumed work with us when the court delivered judgment and the council secretariat was re-opened. So, I don't know where he is coming from.'

On his part, Singer said he has assumed duties, but expressed worry that Nsirim was yet to hand over to him as directed by the State Governor.

But the State Government has insisted that it was not in error to exercise one of its statutory functions, insisting the council remained dissolved.

Addressing journalists in Port Harcourt yesterday, the state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Worgu Boms, said the judgment by Justice Adama Iyayi-Lamikanra of the State High Court did not stop Amaechi from dissolving Obio/Akpor council.

According to Boms, the judgement by Iyayi-Lamikanra did not declare any section of the Rivers State Local Government Law 2012, as regards the responsibilities of the governor invalid.

Boms said, 'There is nowhere in the 25-page judgment of my lord, Hon. Justice Iyayi-Lamikanra where any of the sections of the Rivers State Local Government Law No 2 of 2012 was declared invalid.

'The suit brought before Justice Iyayi-Lamikanra, which led to the November 25, 2013, has nothing to do with the dissolution of the Obio/Akpor local government council. What the governor did was not derived from the judgement of Justice Iyayi-Lamikanra, but from the provision of the Rivers State Local Government Law No2 of 2012.'

The attorney general insisted that the suit which led to the judgment of the High Court had nothing to do with dissolution of the Obio/Akpor Local Government Council but the suspension of the chairman, his deputy, and the 17 councillors of the area.

The Deputy Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon. Leyii Kwanee, also described the stance of Nsirim as an illegality, saying the governor has the constitutional powers to dissolve the council. He said the governor is backed by the Local Government Law to dissolve the council, saying any attempt by Nsirim to be defiant to the dissolution would amount to illegality.

Kwanee said, “The Governor has the constitutional powers to dissolve Obio/Akpor or any local government in the state and anybody who is not satisfied by the action should go to court.”

He explained that the suspension earlier slammed on Nsirim by the state House of Assembly was in order, just as he said the state Assembly was behind the governor over his defection to the All Progressives Congress (APC). Meanwhile, the state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has described the dissolution of Obio/Akpor Council as the worst form of impunity.

The party, in a statement issued by the media aide to the state chairman, Mr. Jerry Needam, said, 'The PDP is in possession of a subsisting court judgment delivered on Monday, November 25, 2013, by Hon Justice Iyayi Lamikanra perpetually restraining Governor Rotimi Amaechi, his agents, privies etc from suspending, dissolving and or doing anything that will truncate the tenure of the Chairman of Obio/Akpor Council, Hon Prince Timothy Nsirim, his Vice and the 17 Councillors.'

They noted that Amaechi had taken several steps to stop the court from delivering judgment on the Obio/Akpor matter, adding that the dissolution of the council was as a result of the failure of his plans.

It said that Amaechi had also said he would abide by the judgment of the High Court, adding that the party was therefore shocked at the announcement of the dissolution of the council.

'What an irony of history? Rotimi Amaechi, who became Governor through court process without contesting an election, today disdains the same process he benefited from…How else could anyone explain the purported dissolution of Obio/Akpor Local Government Council?

'Is this not impunity in the worst form? Must this injustice be allowed to continue in Rivers State unchallenged?' it queried.

According to the statement, 'The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Rivers State chapter, hereby directs the elected chairman of Obio/Akpor Council, Hon. Prince Timothy Nsirim, his Vice Chairman and the 17 Councillors of Obio/Akpor Council to go about their normal duties without any fear.

'The purported dissolution is hereby declared null and void, illegal, unconstitutional, and in defiance of a subsisting Court judgment, and therefore, has no effect.' THIS DAY