Rivers: Tension persists ahead Appeal Court judgement

There is unending tension in Rivers State as feuding parties await the decision of the Court of Appeal.

DAILY POST recalls that at the last hearing, parties presented their final address to the court, after which the suit was adjourned for judgement.

The former speaker of the River State House of Assembly, Martin Amaewhule, and 24 others are before the court against the high court-backed Speaker, Victor Oko-Jumbo and five others.

Amaewhule and the others are requesting the court to halt the implementation of a high court ruling that removed them from office, pause any further actions in the case, and nullify any decisions made by Jumbo while in office.

They also sought a speedy resolution of the matter, arguing that the trial court had overstepped its authority.

At the moment, the crisis centres around the running of the 23 local government areas, as the former chairmen, whose tenure have expired, are insisting that they have the right to remain in office, citing an amended law by the embattled Amaewhuke-led House of Assembly.

Governor Fubara had on Monday, June 17, directed all Heads of Local Government Administration in the state to take charge of councils starting Tuesday, June 18, 2024.

In a broadcast, the governor instructed the HLGAs to “immediately take charge of the Councils with renewed vigour and readiness to serve and await further directives as we navigate towards even greater accomplishments together.”

However, the former chairmen vowed to remain in office, insisting that the embattled faction of the Rivers State House of Assembly led Amaewhuke had extended their tenure by six months.

Their refusal to quit the office triggered controversies that turned bloody on Tuesday when supporters of the incumbent governor and Wike, the current Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT clashed.

At least, two security operatives paid the supreme price during the violent clash. At the same time, scores of other protesters were injured as confirmed by the spokesperson of the Rivers State Police Command, Grace Iringo-Koko.

Subsequently, the Inspector General of Police, IGP Kayode Egbetokun ordered the operatives of the state Command to take over the LG secretariats to forestall more bloodshed and prevent further deterioration of security in the state.

The IGP specifically deployed operatives of the Force Intelligence Response Team, IRT, to assist the Rivers State Command in apprehending the killers of the police officer and the vigilante member.

In a very swift move, Governor Fubara on Wednesday nominated caretaker chairmen for the 23 local government areas to replace the pro-Nyesom Wike former chairmen.

The caretaker chairmen screened by the State House of Assembly led by the Speaker, Victor Jumbo were equally sworn in by the governor the same day.

But the police barred the newly inaugurated caretaker chairmen from accessing their offices in all the 23 LG headquarters as all the secretariats were barricaded with police patrol vans.

Governor Fubara, however, said Caretaker chairmen will operate from alternative secretariats.

APC’s call for state of emergency

Meanwhile, not ready to give up, the All Progressive Congress, APC, in the state has called on the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency.

The party believed that a declaration of a state of emergency would address the political impasses in the state.

Chairman of the APC in Rivers, Tony Okocha, who briefed journalists in Port Harcourt, stated that the call was necessary to safeguard the nation’s economy, warning that without urgent intervention, the situation could have significant economic repercussions.

The call, however, sparked more controversies as stakeholders warned that any attempt to declare a state of emergency in Rivers State would cause more damage to the nation’s democracy.

According to a group of stakeholders under the aegis of the Concerned Citizens Forum of Nigeria, “declaring a state of emergency is not a viable solution, as it will only lead to further violence, displacement, and human rights violations.”

In a press briefing on Friday in Abuja, the Executive Director of the group, Dr. Ekeanyanwu Promise said the move by the APC was a “deliberate and calculated manoeuvre aimed at exacerbating the existing instability in the region for political expediency”.

However, speaking with DAILY POST on Saturday, the Publicity Secretary of the APC, Ikenga Chibike said the party stands on its position.

He said, “Our position on the state of emergency still stands. We called for a state of emergency in Rivers State because of the breakdown of law and order in the state.

“You are all aware that three people were shot dead a day before we called for the state of emergency in Rivers State.

“Aside from those who were shot dead, many other persons had gunshot wounds and matchet cuts. There was a serious security issue. People were unable to go about their lawful businesses”.

The party’s image maker accused Governor Fubara of abandoning his responsibility of protecting lives and properties.

“We strongly feel that the governor has abandoned his responsibility which he took an oath for”, he added.

He clarified that the party has no grudges against the governor as being insinuated in some quarters, stating that APC in Rivers is only opposing some unhealthy policies of the government.

He said, “We are not against the governor as a person but his office and his government. We are not personal in whatever decision we are taking.

“We are looking at programs and policies of the government which ordinarily should have enhanced the survival and good living of citizens of the state but the reverse is the case.”

More protests loom as police continue siege on LG secretariats

DAILY POST gathered on Saturday that some group of youths are planning to stage a protest against the continuous barricade on the LG secretariats across the state by operatives of the Nigeria Police Force.

According to a source who preferred to be anonymous, “What the police are doing is not helping any matter. They should allow the caretaker chairmen to resume their duties and do their jobs.

“We don’t want to believe that they are being used by some forces from Abuja to cause more problems in the state.

“If they continue like this, they may have many people to contend with. Everybody including the youths is angry. The governor should be allowed to rule his state in peace”.

Recall also that the Civil Liberties Organization, CLO, and over 40 affiliate organizations on Friday threatened to embark on a statewide protest if the Inspector General of Police refuses to withdraw his men from the 23 local government councils.

South-South zonal chairman of CLO, Comrade Enefaa Georgewill, called on the police to stop turning Rivers into a police state, adding that the continuous blockade of the councils’ gates was “insulting and demeaning to the people of the state.”

The human rights group issued a seven-day ultimatum to the police to vacate the secretariats or risk a statewide mass anti-police protest in Rivers State.

ALGON issues strong warning

On its part, the Rivers State Chapter of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria, ALGON, has alerted security agencies, the state government, and the public to the potential repercussions of an alleged planned protest by the former local government chairmen and former members of the state and National Assembly.

In a statement signed on Sunday by the 23 Local Government Council Caretaker Committee Chairmen, ALGON warned that the protest was a deliberate attempt to incite anarchy and chaos in the state.

Speaking at a press conference in Port Harcourt, the ALGON Chairman, Prince Ichemati Ezebunwo, who also serves as the Caretaker Committee Chairman of the Port Harcourt City Council, alleged that the protest aims to destabilise governance and create a pretext for declaring a state of emergency in Rivers State.

Ezebunwo said: “We are drawing the attention of the general public to the planned protest by the immediate past local government chairmen, former House of Assembly members, and National Assembly members loyal to the Federal Capital Territory Minister, Chief Nyesom Wike, against the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) manning the 23 local government councils across the state.

“The planned protest is not in the interest of the local governments and the state in its entirety. Rather, it is a calculated attempt by enemies of our dear state to paint the people of the state in bad light, unleash mayhem while at it, and use it to further buttress their inordinate call for the declaration of a state of emergency in our dear state.

“We emphatically state that we, members of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria, Rivers State Chapter, and our people are in support of the police decision to take control and protect all local government council secretariats until further directive on the matter.”

Ezebunwo clarified that since the new caretaker committee chairmen were sworn in by Governor Siminalayi Fubara, there have been no attempts to forcibly take over or access any of the local government secretariats, adding that this compliance follows the governor’s directive to await the police withdrawal from the secretariats.

He added: “We want to categorically state that we are not in any way linked to the planned protest, as it is inimical to the progress and well-being of the people of the state, considering the sinister plots by some desperate politicians to take advantage under the guise of protest, to cause chaos and destabilise governance in the state.”

The Port Harcourt City Council Caretaker chairman urged the Inspector General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, and the State Commissioner of Police, Olatunji Disu, to take immediate action to maintain law and order by preventing any illegal protests in the state.

However, when contacted by DAILY POST on Saturday, the Rivers State Police Public Relations Officer, Grace Iringe-Koko said the command was not aware of any impending protest.

“We are not aware of any protests coming up. All I know is that Rivers State is relatively calm and we have deployed adequate security across the state,” she said.


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