Politics

PDP, Wike supporters talk tough

• APC’s protest in Port Harcourt shameful –G-60

 

From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja and Tony John, Port Harcourt

There is no letup in the crisis rocking Rivers State as the camp of Governor Siminalayi Fubara and that of former governor and incumbent FCT minister have continued to brandish their sword rather than sheathe it. Latest to join the fray is the elders and leaders of the state across political party lines who have called on the governor to halt any plan to tamper with structures at the House of Assembly quarters located on Aba Road in Port Harcourt.

The elders, comprising past and present members of the National Assembly, local government chairmen and opinion leaders, spoke when they visited the quarters to assess the condition of the buildings, yesterday. Their intervention followed the recent visit of the governor to the facility and insinuations of a plan to renovate the estate, which currently houses the chamber of the House of Assembly.

Martin Amaewhule, speaker of former governor Nyesom Wike-led lawmakers, told the leaders that there was a grand plot by the governor to bring down the structures the same way he ordered the demolition of the House of Assembly complex located on Moscow Road to stop them from sitting.

He said the structures were in excellent condition, fully functional and occupied by the lawmakers and their family members.

He condemned the way and manner the governor stormed the quarters aided by thugs and armed policemen alleging that Fubara broke the gate and allowed others to scale the fence.

Amaewhule said the lawmakers never invited the governor to the quarters, adding the estate remained the property of the Rivers State House of Assembly.

Addressing the elders, Amaewhule said: “Your visit is unusual. It shows that the good people of the state are concerned about what is happening. This facility is the facility of the Rivers State House of Assembly.

“We have also brought in experts, and engineers to assess the structure and they said there is nothing wrong with the structures. They are fully in use and fully functional. All the experts confirmed to us that this building is one of the best in the entire West Africa.

“This complex was constructed by Wike, and inaugurated in August 2022 by the current chief of staff to Mr. President, Femi Gbajabiamila. We are happy with the building and everything is working well.

“We did not write to the governor and we did not invite him. We did not ask for his help because we didn’t need it. We don’t need his intervention in any way. Any attempt to talk about reconstruction or demolition is clearly an assault on democracy and an assault on members resident in these buildings.

“The Rivers State government is not the office of the governor. It comprises the legislature, executive and the judiciary. The governor has no right to claim it as his personal property. It is the property of the Rivers State House of Assembly. So, without an invitation to the governor, he has no right to break into our property.”

Amaewhule, while showing the leaders the legislative chamber at the complex, insisted the governor had no right to make any executive order directing lawmakers where to hold their sitting.

Citing the judgment of Omotosho, Amaewhule described the governor’s actions as a flagrant violation of orders of the Federal High Court, none of which he said had been vacated.

The Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Kingsley Chinda, said they were worried about reports of another impending demolition of a democratic institution, and decided to assess the condition of the premises.

Chinda said before their visit, they had engaged experts to assess the integrity of the structures at the complex, and their report showed that they would last for more than 25 years.

He observed that the Assembly built by Wike about two years ago and inaugurated by a former speaker of the House of Representatives, remained the best in Africa and was better than the national legislative quarters.

“We want to advise the governor to bridle a bit the exuberance that we had seen within this period. It doesn’t portend well for our state.”

Chinda said the National Assembly was observing and monitoring the situation in Rivers, and would soon take a decision in the collective interest of the state.

In his remarks, Igo Aguma, former member of the House of Representatives, said Justice Omotosho’s judgment indicted the governor of wilful destruction of the Assembly complex, alleging that Fubara committed a criminal offence.

“That is malicious damage to public property. It is a criminal offence. The red biro will run dry one day and you will be made to answer. It (Omotosho’s judgment) has not been appealed against. I want to also let him know that Rivers people will muster all democratic institutions in the world to defend democracy in Rivers.

“We will not run away. We will fight him back. Democracy is the best form of government and we will have democracy in Rivers. He should take pity on the governed and to remember that Rivers State House of Assembly has made itself financially autonomous,” he said.

A former speaker of the Rivers House of Assembly, Ikuinyi Ibani, said their assessment had shown there was nothing wrong with the structures and called on the governor to jettison any plan to tamper with the quarters.

He warned the governor to desist from any action that could trigger violent reaction in the state, saying Fubara must, at all times, promote law and order in the state.

The Rivers Caretaker Committee Chairman of the  All Progressives Congress (APC), Tony Okocha, commended the leaders and elders across party lines for defending democracy, saying it was a demonstration of the unity in the state.

Okocha said the 27 lawmakers remained members of APC, adding that the party would continue to protect them.

He said at every twist and turn, the governor would always confess his support for President Bola Tinubu, but he alleged that Fubara did not vote for President Tinubu in the last election.

Other leaders at the visit included Emmanuel Deeyah, former House of Representatives member; Olaka Nwogu, Desmond Akawor, former Peoples Democratic Party chairman, Rivers State; Fred Kpakol, former finance commissioner; Emeka Woke, managing director/chief executive officer, Ogun-Osun River Basin Authority; George Ariolu, chairman of Obio/Akpor, Andoni and Ikwerre local government areas among others.

Meanwhile, the Group of 60 Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members of the House of Representatives has described the solidarity protest by leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the House of Assembly quarters as a show of shame.

Spokesman of the group, Ikenga Ugochinyere, in a telephone interview with  Daily Sun, said there was no basis for the APC leaders to embark on a protest to the Rivers State House of Assembly quarters, as those who invited them are allegedly no longer members of the state Assembly.

Ugochinyere said: “It is because Nigeria is a country where there is no shame, that is why APC instead of advising those who crossed-carpeted to do the needful are protesting.

“What are you protesting for? They are not your lawmakers. They are PDP lawmakers who cross carpeted and have lost their seats and you want them to continue to be addressed as lawmakers, so that they can help you impeach the governor.

“The complex does not belong to them. As far as I am concerned, the person that will give the governor the go-ahead to do whatever he wants is the rightful speaker, which is Oko-Jumbo.

“The G-60 is in support that the governor should eject them from the quarters because they are no more lawmakers. For you to live in those quarters, you must be a lawmaker. They have lost their seats. It is time the governor, as the chief law officer, ejects them.

“Our view is that they should be ejected. The law has upheld Jumbo as the speaker. If you go by strict application of the constitution once you decamp when there is no division, you lose your seat. They lost their seats a long time ago,” he said.

Meanwhile, former aide to Wike, Opunabo Inko-Tariah, has faulted claims by some political leaders that Governor Fubara has no right to visit the residential quarters of members of the state House of Assembly or carry out any rehabilitation on the structure.

Inko-Tariah attributed the reactions of the political leaders and the Amaewhule-led group to politics, wondering why people did not react when Wike visited judicial and House of Assembly quarters.

“The Rivers State House of Assembly residential quarters is a government property. And the governor is the governor of the state. Nobody can prevent him from visiting those quarters, especially if he has information on the integrity of the structure.

“Even if there is no information, the governor has the right to visit the quarters. It is a public facility owned by the government. And the governor is the chief executive officer of the state. So, just because there is this friction between the former governor, Wike, and the governor of Rivers State; who complained when Wike visited judiciary quarters, Assembly quarters, who complained? Nobody complained. Why would anybody complain right now?

“And having visited, if the integrity of the structure is questioned, of course, engineers would advise him on what to do – to renovate, pull down or tell him there is no problem with the integrity. I don’t know why it should generate this kind of reaction. It is all politics because of the House of Assembly complex that was pulled down.

“It is the governor that would tell the House of Assembly where to sit. The governor has the constitutional power to decide where the Assembly would sit.   The governor decides where to provide and how to provide where the Assembly would sit. It is not the Assembly that would decide where to sit. The governor is in charge of all government property.  Amaewhule and the rest of them should not see themselves as lawmakers. This is because they did not meet the conditions of defection,” he said.

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