Governor Siminalayi Fubara of Rivers State, yesterday, signed an agreement with his predecessor and Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Minister, Chief Nyesom Wike, to end the political crisis in the state.
An eight-point peace deal was brokered by President Bola Tinubu and other stakeholders at a crucial meeting in the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
According to the peace resolutions, impeachment moves against Fubara would be stopped, Speaker Martin Amaewhule, the leader of the G27 lawmakers who defected from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to the All Progressives Congress, APC, would return as speaker while Mr. Edison Ehie will step down. All matters in court would be withdrawn, and the governor will re-submit his N800.3 billion 2024 budget to the whole House. The Ehie four-man House had last Thursday passed the budget less than 24 hours after receiving it from Governor Fubara.
The President met with Fubara, Wike, former Governor of Rivers State, Sir Peter Odili and some other stakeholders from the state at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Also present at the meeting that lasted two hours were Vice President Kashim Shettima, the deputy governor of Rivers State, Ngozi Odu; National Security Adviser, NSA, Nuhu Ribadu and the Chief of Staff to the President, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila.
The resolutions are: “All matters instituted in the courts by Governor Fubara, and his team, in respect of the political crisis in Rivers State, shall be withdrawn immediately
“All impeachment proceedings initiated against the governor of Rivers State by the Rivers State House of Assembly should be dropped immediately
“The leadership of the Rivers State House of Assembly as led by the Amaewhule shall be recognised alongside the 27 members who resigned from the PDP
“The remunerations and benefits of all members of the Rivers State House of Assembly and their staff must be reinstated immediately and the governor of Rivers State shall, henceforth, not interfere with the full funding of the Rivers State House of Assembly
“The Rivers State House of Assembly shall choose where they want to sit and conduct their legislative business without interference and/or hindrance from the Executive arm of government
“Governor Fubara, shall represent the state budget to a properly constituted Rivers State House of Assembly.
“The names of all commissioners in the Rivers State Executive Council, who resigned their appointments because of the political crisis in the state should be resubmitted to the House of Assembly for approval
“There should not be a caretaker committee for the local governments in Rivers State. The dissolution of the Local Government administration is null and void and shall not be recognised.”
The resolution was signed by Fubara, Wike, Prof. Odu, Nuhu Ribadu, Amaewhule, PDP Chairman, Rivers State, Aaron Chukwuemeka, and APC Chairman, Rivers State, Tony Okocha.
The closed door meeting at the Presidential Villa started without Wike but he later joined.
The FCT Minister, was instrumental to the emergence of Governor Fubara and other elected officers from the state in both the state and National Assembly in the last general elections.
The disagreement between Fubara and Wike has polarised the state House of Assembly leading to the defection of 27 Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, legislators to the All Progressives Congress, APC, last week. Two of the 27 lawmakers later returned to the four lawmakers loyal to Fubara. The Speaker Edison Ehie-led House, last week, declared the seats of the 25 led by Martin Amaewhule vacant and ever since both factions have been locked in a tug of war
Abuja court order causing tension in Rivers —Elders lament
Before the peace deal, elders in Rivers State have lamented that yesterday’s decision of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on the political crisis in the state had sparked more tension in Rivers and urged President Tinubu to intervene.
No fewer than 18 elders under the aegis of Rivers State Elders and Leaders Forum, after a meeting in Port Harcourt, regretted that the court order, which leaked on social media on Sunday was delivered, yesterday.
Members of the forum include: former governor of the state, Chief Rufus Ada-George, former Deputy Governor of the state, Chief Gabriel Toby, Senator Bennett Birabi, Chief Anabs Sara-Igbe, Ms Ann Kio Briggs, Captain Sunday Nwankwo, Prof. AW Obianime. Others were Rear Adm. O. Fingesi, HRH N. L. A. Ede Obolo II, Eze Tony Woherom, High Chief Marcus Atata, Dr Kio Tams, Prof. Bristol Alagbariya, Senator Wilson Ake, Dr Silva Opusunju, and Senator Andrew Uchendu.
In a communique, the elders kicked against alleged plots by some lawmakers to impeach Governor Fubara, saying “The attempt to impeach the governor of Rivers State barely about six months in office without explaining to the good people of the state, the reasons and infractions of the law is unacceptable.”
The Forum regretted that neither Governor Fubara nor Chief Wike responded “To our letters seeking an audience with each of them” and called for a proper investigation of the crisis in the state and those responsible should be brought to justice.
On the controversial court verdict, Ada-George said: “We saw it (leaked judgement), it was all over the social media. It has been delivered the way it was written. They want to stop the earlier declaration of their seats vacant, an action that has been completed.“It has been done today. It is disturbing and it is generating serious tension in the state. It is giving us serious concern. We don’t know what their next action will be.”
Ada-George urged security agencies not to give attention to the order, noting that actions on it may worsen the security situation in the state.
He said: “We are calling on all security agencies to be wary of their actions in order not to worsen the tension already created in the state. How can a judgment of court be seen by people before it was delivered? It was in the same version.
“We will meet our lawyers to advise us on proper actions to take on this development.”
The elders’ communique read in part: “The Forum reviewed the outcome of its previous meetings and follow up actions which include letters seeking audience with our sons; the governor of Rivers State, Sir Fubara, and Chief Wike, former governor and presently, Minister of the Federal Capital Territory.
“The Forum reviewed the embarrassing and dangerous ongoing happenings in Rivers State and by extension Nigeria, viz: attempt to impeach Sir Fubara, governor of Rivers State, bombing of the Rivers State House of Assembly Chambers, attack on the life of the governor, Fubara allegedly by some security agents on October 30, 2023, and other acts of impunity and lawlessness which portend great dangers to the peace and security of Rivers State and Nigeria as a whole.
“After an extensive deliberation and consideration of the issues, the forum resolved as follows: “The Forum regretted that neither Governor Fubara nor Chief Wike responded to our letters seeking an audience with each of them.
“The attempt to impeach the governor of Rivers State barely about six months in office without explaining to the good people of the state, the reasons and infractions of law is unacceptable.
“The Forum condemn every form of violence and lawlessness in Rivers State and therefore, demand proper investigation of the crisis and those responsible be brought to justice.
“The Forum reviewed the demolition of the Rivers State House of Assembly by the Rivers State Government and urged the government to expedite action on rebuilding the demolished House of Assembly Complex, so that lawmakers will continue their legislative business in the permanent site within the shortest possible time.
“The Forum condemn in its entirety, the misuse of Rivers people’s political power vested in politicians for personal gains and interest. Hence, we condemn in its entirety, the recent defection of 27 law makers without recourse to their constituents.
“The Forum is aware of and thus rejects, the news making the rounds on social media of forum shopping and purchase of legal instruments outside Rivers State to cause crisis in the state, thereby endangering human lives and property.
“An alleged already written/ premeditated court ruling by one Justice Donatus Okorowo of Federal High Court, Abuja on an ex parte application secretly filed in the night by pro Wike former lawmakers, which the judge wants to deliver, where he wants to stop the declaration of their seat vacant, an action that have been done and also give them the legitimacy to move in with DSS and police to start the illegal impeachment of Governor Fubara.
“The foregoing is disturbing and generating serious tension in Rivers State, and thus giving the Forum great concern.
“We, therefore, urge the judiciary and all security agencies to be wary and alive in discharging their responsibilities in order not to worsen the already tense atmosphere in Rivers State.
“Finally, the Forum urges President Bola Tinubu, to consolidate on his earlier intervention as the consequences of inaction may not only affect Rivers State, the Niger Delta region and the Federal Government. The Forum owes this solemn truth as a duty to the Federal Government.”
We’ve not been served any court process—PDP
Meanwhile, the PDP has said it was yet to receive any correspondence from any court in relation to the declaration of the seat of 27 Rivers State lawmakers who defected to the APC.
National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Debo Ologunagba, said this in response to enquiries from Vanguard over the news making the rounds that the estranged party members had obtained an injunction nullifying the declaration of their seats vacant.
He said: “We’ve not received any order of court, when and if we receive one, we will respond appropriately.”
We’re waiting for INEC’s bye-election timetable-CUPP, group
On its part, Conference of United Political Parties, CUPP, said what was expected now is the fixing of date for bye-elections by Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to fill the “vacant” seats in Rivers.
National Secretary of the CUPP, Chief Peter Ameh, said: “The 27 former members of the Rivers State Assembly are trying to resurrect a matter that had already been settled by the Constitution. Section 109 (1) is clear about the fate of any lawmaker who defects from a political party after winning an election on its platform.
“They have forfeited their seats which have been so declared by the Speaker of the Rivers State Assembly, he has written to INEC by that action, the process is complete.
What we expect now is for INEC to release a time table for the conduct of a bye-election to fill the vacant seats. They have the option of trying their luck in court.
“We appeal to security agencies to respect their oath of office and maintain their fidelity to their constitutional roles and resist the temptation to be dragged into the political area by desperate people.
“This special appeal is hinged upon the intelligence we’ve received that a court has given an order for security agents to provide protection for the former lawmakers to carry out functions they no longer have powers to engage in.”
Also, former Chairman of Andoni Local Government Area of Rivers State, Mr. Friday Gogo-Ogute urged the INEC to urgently conduct by-elections for the Constituencies vacated by the 27 lawmakers.
At a press conference held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, a group, Ida Obolo Sim Vanguard also called on President Tinubu to urgently call Wike in order to save the state and the nation’s economy.
You recommended, approved demolition of Assembly complex, APC chieftain reminds Wike
A chieftain of APC, Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze has reminded the FCT Minister, that he recommended and approved the demolition of the Rivers State House of Assembly Complex.
Eze said that former governor recommended the demolition of the complex before he left office.
He added that given recent events, including the fire incident that engulfed the facility, causing a serious structural defect, Governor Fubara was constrained to commence renovation works on the complex, which include demolition after some expert advice; and this was after he got approvals from the state legislature.
He maintained in a statement that Fubara acted upon the advice of Wike, who while commissioning the Legislature Quarters two years ago stated that the state Assembly built about 20 years ago was leaking and in a very deplorable condition.
On the fate of the G-27 defected lawmakers, Eze said the former governor had already made their fate known when he stated after the defection of Governor Umahi and his Zamfara and Cross River states counterparts that when one defects, he loses his seat.
“The ex-lawmakers should blame no one but their principal for their woes and the misfortune that had befallen them,” and counseled them to tread with caution as they stand the risk of facing contempt charge, if they continue to disobey valid court orders regarding their status.
He added that at the moment, Rivers State has only five lawmakers as sanctioned by the court and every business of the legislative arm was efficiently transacted by the five lawmakers.
Tinubu’s intervention not needed in Ondo, Rivers — Fashola
Former Lagos State Governor and former Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, SAN, has said that the intervention of President Tinubu was not needed in the ongoing political crisis in Ondo and Rivers states.
Fashola argued that despite calls to amend the Constitution at different times, it was high time Nigerians amended ‘our ways’.
He said that the constitution was clear on what should be done when such situations arise and the roles to be played by individuals involved.
Fashola at the Nigerian Air Force Officers Mess Honorary Members Forum, HMF, 2023 Annual Lecture in Lagos, said: “We have amended the constitution, so, what is left to amend, except ourselves? Is this a matter that requires presidential intervention as some people are calling for the President to intervene? Does the Constitution assign a role to the President in this matter?”
“Are those inviting the President to act in Ondo and in Rivers states not aware that the President has no constitutional role in these matters? Are they not also those who argue that the Federal Government and, by extension, the President are too powerful and encroaching on the powers of state governments? Is this a case of passing the buck when tough leadership calls are requested to be made?
“Happily, in our Ondo case, some blue blood Ondo indigenes have stood up to be counted. But they are in an obvious minority. They intervened in the pursuit of law and constitutionality before the governor’s letter restored calm. And we wait for leadership in Rivers State to do the needful,” he added.