Police Seal Off Rivers Assembly As Row Deepens
...Wole Soyinka seeks end to ‘executive impunity’
...Youths protest, demand recall of suspended lawmakers
DESPITE the public outrage at the political crisis in Rivers State, it continues to worsen with the police sealing off the state House of Assembly Monday.
On Monday too, Nobel Laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka urged President Goodluck Jonathan to check the nation’s crises. He specifically urged Jonathan to stop what he called ‘executive impunity’ in Rivers State.
Soyinka’s statement entitled “Cool it, President Goodluck Jonathan” read: “The increasing flash-points in the nation have reached an unsustainable level, and responsible governance must accept that it is an urgent duty to diminish, not increase them.
“Even the notoriously short Nigerian memory remains traumatised by recollection of the rape of Anambra that was enabled by the connivance of federal might, and the abandonment of all moral scruples in executive disposition.
“The people of Ogun State were humiliated by the antics of a power-besotted governor, with their elected legislators locked out of the State Assembly for upwards of a year.
“That hideous travesty was again made possible by the abusive use of the police.
“Even a child in this nation knows that the police derives its enabling and operational authority from the dictates of the Centre, so there can be no disguising whose will is being executed wherever democratic norms are flouted and the people’s rights ground to mush under dictatorial heels.
“Before the irretrievable point of escalation is reached, we have a duty to sound a collective alarm, even without the lessons of past violations of constitutional rights and apportionments of elected representatives of the people, and their consequences. There is an opportunity in Rivers State to break this spiralling culture of executive impunity - manifested in both subtle and crude ways - that is fast becoming the norm in a post-military dispensation that fitfully aspires to be called a democracy.”
Hundreds of irate youths stormed the Rivers Assembly complex to demand the restoration of the suspended chairman and 17 councilors of the Obio-Akpor Local Council.
The Rivers State House of Assembly planned to reconvene yesterday, but this was abruptly aborted by the Speaker, Mr. Otelemaba Dan Amachree, who alleged that there was a ploy to stall the sitting of the House through disruptive and violent acts by five members of the House.
Amachree, who alleged that 27 pro-Governor Chibuike Amaechi lawmakers had in recent days been inundated with threats of arrest and assassination had demanded the immediate redeployment of the Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Joseph Mbu, out of the state as the government no longer had confidence in his ability to carry out his constitutional duties legally.
But the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Chairman, Felix Obuah, has described the Speaker’s demand as baseless, reckless and another demonstration of legislative rascality.
As early as 6.00 a.m. yesterday, irate youths stormed the Obio-Akpor secretariat along the Port Harcourt International Airport Road, ostensibly to prevent the caretaker committee chairman, Dike Chikordi and other members from accessing their offices. The protestors, who obstructed vehicular movement and chanted anti-Amaechi slogans, also demanded the immediate reinstatement of sacked Obio-Akpor chairman, Timothy Nsirim, his deputy and 17 councillors.
One of the leaders of the protesting youths, Melchizedek Ogonda, told The Guardian that the lawmakers’ action was predicated on political vendetta following an Abuja High Court’s judgment which ousted the pro-Governor Chibuike Amaechi-led state PDP executive of Godspower Ake and the emergence of Obuah as the party chairman.
“Assuming but not conceding that the chairman of Obio-Akpor actually committed the crime they accused him of, there is a process. Section 22 sub-sections 1 and 4 of the Rivers State Assembly Rule is clear on that. There will be a petition which must bear the name of a member and duly signed and then he will have to lay it before the House and the Speaker will then transfer it to the appropriate committee which happens to be Committee on Petition and Public complain,” he said.
Scores of anti-riot policemen, State Security Service (SSS) operatives and Civil Defence Corps used their vehicles to barricade the Obio-Akpor secretariat main gate. The security agents effectively prevented anyone from gaining access to the secretariat to avoid vandalism of council property.
Piqued that they were denied access to the council secretariat, the youths who assumed that the House of Assembly was to sit yesterday, proceeded to the House of Assembly complex at Moscow Road and invaded the premises which had been sealed off by the security agents. Only five lawmakers who are pro-Minister of State for Education, Nyesom Wike, were present in their offices while the other 27 members had gone to court for a suit challenging their suspension by the Obuah-led PDP state executive.
In a statement, the Speaker said some Abuja-based politicians with the collaboration of some politicians and security agencies in the state had hatched a plan to destabilise the state.
“We condemn in very strong terms this planned war of dangerous attritions and actions to destabilise our dear state and destroy its young democracy. We call on the Inspector-General of Police to cause an investigation into these brazen abuses of office and the immediate redeployment of the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Joseph Mbu, out of Rivers State as we no longer have confidence in his ability to carry out his constitutional duties legally,” he said.
The Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, warned of a ploy to impeach Amaechi using a minority of the state lawmakers.
Semenitari declared that irrespective of the political crisis rocking the state, Amaechi remained in full control. She said government was aware of few hoodlums and rabble-rousers from Khana, Emohua, Etche and some other councils have been recruited to cause mayhem in the state.
“We are aware that people were imagining that it will be possible to attempt a Dariye treatment in Rivers State where they will take just five members of the Rivers State House of Assembly out of 33 members and attempt an impeachment of the Governor of Rivers State. But, this is Rivers State, this is not Plateau State and Nigerians are lot more aware now than they were at that time,” she said.
“This democracy must stand and the people of Rivers State will defend every vote that they have cast for Governor Chibuike Amaechi. So, there is no way it is going to happen that a very tiny insignificant minority in the Rivers State House of Assembly will be able to oust Governor Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi,” she added.
But Obuah yesterday blamed the Speaker for the rumours of planned impeachment of the governor, arrest of government functionaries, and a declaration of state of emergency in the state.
The Gaurdian Nigeria