Police Teargas Rivers State Lawmakers.
Nigeria's Rivers State Police Command today freely used teargas to disperse 22 lawmakers, who had come to the Assembly Complex to sit, following a court order yesterday that invalidated the appropriation of its functions by the National Assembly.
The House had suspended its sessions in July after a fracas durimg which five minority members said to be loyal to President Goodluck Jonathan and his wife, Patience attempted to sack the Speaker of the Assembly, who enjoys the support of 26 members.
The Police command sealed the Assembly premises thereafter.
Amidst reports of a plan by six members to begin an impeachment proceedings against Governor Rotimi Amaechi, 22 of the 26 members said to be loyal to Governor Rotimi Amaechi, had converged at the Assembly today to sit in compliance with the court order. But the police barred them from entering the chambers.
The session was to be presided over by the deputy speaker, Leyii Kwanee.
The lawmakers pleaded fruitlessly with the police team to allow them access to perform their legislative functions.
When their pleadings appeared to have fallen on deaf ears, the lawmakers decided to commence sitting on the main road opposite the Assembly Complex after the leader of the Police team, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) in-charge of Port Harcourt Area Command, Mr. Aliyu Garba, insisted that they must show him a written permission of the state the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Mbu Joseph Mbu,who is said to take instructions from the president's wife.
But rather than allow the lawmakers sit in the open, the about 300 police men fired several canisters of teargas at them, the aim being to disperse them. The police were reportedly armed to the teeth, with two armoured vehicles and 20 patrol cars.
The lawmakers scampered into safety.
Also affected by the tear-gas, were the Chief of Staff, Government House, Port Harcourt, Hon. Tony Okocha, interim Chairman of APC in the state, Chief Davies Ibiamu Ikanya, chairmen of some local government council as well as journalists, who had come to cover the resumption of the House of Assembly.
Reacting to the prevention of the pro-Amaechi lawmakers from having access to the House of Assembly complex, the interim chairman of APC in the state, Chief Davies Ibiamu Ikanya, said there was a plot by the police to sneak in the five anti-Amaechi lawmakers to carry out the duties of the state legislature.
Ikanya said; “You have seen the situation in Rivers State. You have been here with us to see how power is being used against the people. Today, the majority of the members of the House of Assembly came and sought to see the Commissioner of Police because, there was a High Court judgement in Abuja that said they should resume their duties. But, surprisingly, the police commissioner has refused to grant entry to these people.
“We suspect very strongly that there is an attempt to allow five lawmakers to sneak into the Assembly to say they are carrying out the functions of the Assembly. This was the case when the almost succeeded in impeaching the governor of Rivers State by just five of them in a 32-member House of Assembly. Now, the police are barring genuine House of Assembly members from having access to the Assembly building.
The state commissioner for information, Ibim Semenitari, in her reaction said, “It is an indication of the impunity ravaging the country and a clear indication that the PDP under the present leadership has lost all forms of democratic conduct.
“They can't even pretend to wear a mien of civility rather they are practising jackboot governance and repression worse than we have ever seen under the military.”
Meanwhile,Evans Bipi, who leads a minority of five members and who parades himself as speaker of the assembly, has said that “As the Speaker of The Rivers House of Assembly,I have not reconvened the House as the Court Judgment has not been served to the Police and other security agencies. All the so-called Governor Amaechi lawmakers have all been suspended by me and by Peoples Democratic Party.They cannot function until I called them back.Amaechi must recognize me as the authentic Speaker.But we must stop him from using Rivers money to sponsor APC,”he boasted on a live radio station today.
Speculations are rife that six lawmakers would be aided to sit any time soon to begin an impeachment proceeding against Governor Rotimi Amaechi.
Earlier today, the All Progressives Congress issued a statement on the unfolding drama in Rivers House, vowing to resist any unconstitutional move.
The party warned against any reliance on Wednesday's judgement of a federal high court, nullifying the takeover by the National Assembly of the functions of the Rivers State House of Assembly, to perpetrate any mayhem or unconstitutional acts in Rivers State.
In a statement issued in Osogbo on Thursday by its Interim National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party also warned the police and other security agencies not to provide cover for renegades to engage in any illegality, saying their role must be to ensure the safety and security of all legislators if and when the house decides to sit.
It said there is no doubt that the six legislators opposed to Gov. Chibuike Amaechi will try to hide under the cover of the judgement to convene the Assembly with the sole purpose of removing the Speaker as a prelude to impeaching the State Governor, but warned that any such act will constitute an illegality and trigger a cataclysmic reaction, the end result of which no one can predict
”The six legislators opposed to Gov. Amaechi do not and cannot form a quorum (9 members) that will even allow the House to convene legally, not to talk of at least 20 members – representing two third majority – that can constitutionally impeach the Speaker. In a house of 32 members, there is no way six members can be more than 26, even under the warped arithmetic which the Jonathan Administration has been conjuring in recent times to back the losing faction of the Nigerian Governors' Forum.
”However, we are aware that the renegade legislators, with the clear backing of President Goodluck Jonathan, have nothing but disdain for constitutionality and the rule of law, hence will have no qualms about carrying out any act of impunity.
”We are therefore constrained to warn, in the strongest possible terms, that we in the APC will take any impunity in Rivers as an impunity to all, and will vehemently resist such with a spontaneous explosion of people power not only in states under our control but across the country,” APC said.
Urging the police not to allow themselves to be used to perpetrate violence and chaos, the party said already, the Police Commissioner in Rivers has ordered that all roads leading to the House of Assembly complex in Port Harcourt be barricaded, perhaps as a prelude to escorting the renegade members to convene to illegally remove the Speaker.
To President Jonathan, APC said he must not allow personal and partisan considerations to blot out his responsibility as the father of the nation and put in jeopardy his constitutional role of ensuring the country's unity.
”We are aware of the letter to President Jonathan by former President Olusegun Obasanjo virtually accusing the President of destroying the same nation he was elected to preside over and uplift. We hope he will not allow Obasanjo's prognosis about him to come true so soon by backing any move that can plunge Nigeria into chaos.
”This is because we in the APC have resolved never to sit by and allow anyone, no matter how highly placed, to engage in actions that will make our country a laughing stock and a pariah in the comity of nations. Therefore, there will be no peace anywhere in the country if this Federal Government supports the perpetration of impunity in Rivers. This is not a threat, but the sure consequences of any acts of impunity,” it said
The party called on all people of goodwill, especially past leaders, to prevail on President Jonathan to back off the renegade MPs who are hell bent on causing mayhem in Rivers.
Meanwhile, the party has described Wednesday's court ruling as bizarre and alarming, against the background of the massive mayhem that was unleashed in the Rivers House of Assembly last July.
It wondered why the court will say there were no facts that the House of Assembly could not carry out its functions, with the Mace as well as several heads broken and the hallowed chambers desecrated by a free-for-all that was watched all around the world.
”What else must occur before the stipulated conditions can prevail for the National Assembly to take over the functions of the Rivers House of Assembly? Is it when MPs are slaughtered like rams that such a condition will be deemed to have prevailed?
”We are astonished and concerned by this court ruling, especially coming shortly after we warned the judiciary not to allow itself to be used by unscrupulous people to reverse the gains that have been recorded under the present Chief Justice of Nigeria, who has embarked on determined and sincere efforts to clean up the judiciary,” APC said.