Mayhem in Rivers State House of Assembly

By The Rainbow

Anomy bought a ticket on Tuesday and gained full entrance into the hallowed chambers of the Rivers State House of Assembly.

It unfurled its package: chaos.
An attempt to impeach the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Mr. Otelemaba Amachree, sparked a free-for-all. Some lawmakers were seriously wounded and hospitalized.

Trouble started when five lawmakers loyal to the Minister of State for Education, Chief Nyesom Wike, claimed to have impeached the Speaker. Political observers saw the action as testing the waters for eventual impeachment of the State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, who has been having a running battle with the Peoples Democratic Party and the Presidency.

Hell  was let loose when the pro-Amaechi group mobilized to swiftly thwarted the alleged impeachment. Blows rained freely  at the main chambers of the House of Assembly in Port Harcourt, between the pro and anti-Amaechi lawmakers.

The five lawmakers loyal to Wike - Michael Okechukwu Chinda (Obio/Akpor II constituency), Kelechi Godspower Nwogu (Omuma), Evans Bapakaye Bipi (Ogu/Bolo), Martins Amaewhule (Obio/Akpor I) and Victor Ihunwo (Port Harcourt III) - attempted to impeach the Speaker, Otelemaba Dan Amachree.

The five anti-Amaechi members, who were present at the House as early as 8am on Tuesday,  had  after procuring  a fake mace,   decided to take charge of the sitting after waiting to no avail for the Speaker and his Deputy, Mr. Leyii Kwanee, to arrive.

It was gathered that one of the anti-Amaechi lawmakers, Mr. Kelechi Wogu,  moved a motion for Amaechree's removal as the Speaker, a development, which infuriated Lloyd.

Lloyd was said to have dashed out of the Assembly with about four pro-Amaechi's lawmakers to inform the governor about the development.

Before Lloyd and the  four lawmakers returned to the House, the five  anti-Amaechi members of the Assembly had already impeached Amachree and elected  Evans Bipi as his successor in a sitting that  was  described as a  kangaroo plenary. Amaechree was accused of ineptitude.

It was, however, at the point where Bipi was about giving his acceptance speech that  Amaechi,  Lloyd, Amachree, other lawmakers and security operatives  arrived at the Assembly.

Bipi was hurriedly elected speaker, amid tight security provided by the police. He announced the suspension of 15 unnamed lawmakers - in a 32-member Assembly.

As Bipi mounted the speaker's seat to give his acceptance/maiden speech, the state Amaechi, who is also the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors' Forum (NGF), stormed the main chambers with Amachree, other lawmakers and security men. Then the fisticuffs began.

The Speaker and the Leader of the House, Chidi Lloyd, a lawyer, who represents Emohua Constituency and loyal to Amaechi, were attacked. Lloyd was among the hospitalised.

Amachree is known to be one of the governor's strong supporters in the  crisis ravaging the state since the past four months.

The House was immediately turned into a boxing arena as a majority of the lawmakers fought one another  with dangerous objects.

Lloyd and Amahule, who sustained  serious injuries  were rushed to the hospital for  treatment. Lloyd  accused   Bipi and  Chinda of using the tripod of a camera to hit him several times.

Scores of policemen, who were present when the incident occurred, watched helplessly as the legislators threw punches at one another.

Bipi was said to have punched the lawmaker from Abua/Odual Constituency, Mr. Augustine Ngo, who fell on the ground and was able to get back to his feet with the help of his aides.

Some computer sets in the  Assembly  were  also destroyed   during the fight.

Amaechi ordered the arrest of Bipi, but the policemen and operatives of the State Security Service (SSS), who were with the Rivers governor, were resisted by the security personnel guarding the 'new speaker'.

A policeman cautioned another for bringing tear gas canister into the main chambers. The policemen were obviously divided in their support for Amaechi and Wike.

Calm however returned to the Assembly 30 minutes after the five anti-Amaechi lawmakers left the chamber of the Assembly   even as their leader  made spirited efforts   to be allowed to be part of the sitting.

The Assembly later sat with Amaechree presiding as Speaker , even as the Deputy Governor, Mr. Tele Ikuru, presented a document for the amendment of the 2013 Budget to the House.

Ikuru, an engineer, was ushered into the Assembly chambers at 11:42 pm to present amendments to the 2013 budget, on behalf of Amaechi. This lasted from 11:44 pm till 11:48 pm when it was laid on the table. Ikuru left the main chambers at 11:51 pm.

The Speaker said the amendments would not affect the earlier figure of N490 billion. Shortly after Ikuru left, the House was adjourned sine die (indefinitely) at 12:01 pm.

The deputy governor was attacked by thugs around 12:26 pm as he was leaving the Assembly complex on Moscow Road. His car was badly damaged.

After the brawl by the two opposing sides, Amaechree  and Bipi each insisted he was the authentic speaker.

Following the brawl, the House of Representatives  ordered investigation into show of shame by the lawmakers.

The House directed the Deputy Leader of the Assembly, Leo Ogor (PDP,Delta) and the Majority Whip, Ishaku Bawa (PDP, Taraba), to liaise with the ad-hoc Committee that was constituted last week to look into the feud between Governor Rotimi Amaechi and the Police Commissioner, Joseph Mbu.

The decision of the House followed the adoption of a point of order on a matter of urgent public importance by Andrew Uchendu (PDP, Rivers) who posited that democracy is under threat, with ex-militants attacking members of the Assembly yesterday morning.

Stressing that the motive was to prevent the House from sitting, Uchendu said the hoodlums must have acted on information supplied by the Commissioner of Police who already had knowledge of the sitting.

He said: 'I regret to inform the House that some militants invaded the House of Assembly to prevent the House from sitting. This is prior to the information the House Assembly gave to the Commissioner of Police that the House would sit today.

'In the ensuing fracas, there was a free for all and so many members were wounded. The House Leader, Hon. Chidi Lloyd, who spoke to me on phone, said that so many members were wounded.

'The interesting thing is that the House still went ahead to sit with many members and their stained clothes. Democracy is being threatened by the activities of the police and hoodlums and ex-militants. It is obvious that democracy is seriously being threatened.'

The presiding officer, Deputy Speaker Emeka Ihedioha, refused to entertain debate of the motion, being an investigative motion, but he stressed the urgency of finding a lasting solution to the crisis.

Ihedioha said politicians and other state actors must realise that the country's thriving democracy was not achieved on a platter of gold.

'It does appear some of us have forgotten how we got this democracy. Some of us were in the trenches fighting for this democracy and cannot fold our hands and sit when the democracy is threatened,' he said.

Ihedioha directed that the report of the ad hoc Committee be submitted next Tuesday.