The Senate Thursday resolved to take over the functions of the Rivers State House of Assembly in consonance with the earlier resolution of the House of Representatives in accordance with Section 11 (4) of the 1999 Constitution, until peace is restored to the crisis-ridden state.
It also confirmed the appointments of eight ambassadorial nominees whose names were sent to it by President Goodluck Jonathan.
Section 11 (4) of the constitution states: “At any time when any House of Assembly of a state is unable to perform its functions by reason of the situation prevailing in that state, the National Assembly may make such laws for the peace, order and good government of that state with respect to matters on which a House of Assembly may make laws as may appear to the National Assembly to be necessary or expedient until such time as the House of Assembly is able to resume its functions; and any such laws enacted by the National Assembly pursuant to this section shall have the effect as if they were laws enacted by the House of Assembly of the state.”
The House of Representatives had on July 10, a day after the fracas in the Rivers State assembly, passed a resolution to take over the functions of the state legislature.
With the Senate’s concurrence yesterday, the National Assembly would thenceforth assume all the functions of the state legislature.
The crisis in the state reached a head recently when five members of the state House of Assembly opposed to the Governor, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi, attempted to remove the Speaker, Hon. Otelemaba Amachree, to pave the way for the eventual removal of the governor. Twenty seven lawmakers in the 32-member legislature are in Amaechi’s camp.
Human rights activist and civil society organisations are also planning to converge on Port Harcourt to protest the politically motivated violence and other anti-democratic norms in the state.
The protest, tagged, ‘One-day Global Action in Defence of Democracy in Rivers State,’ scheduled for next Tuesday, would be addressed by frontline human rights activists, Mr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), and Femi Falana (SAN).
The Senate resolution on the takeover of the Rivers State legislature Thursday followed the adoption of the report of the Committee on State and Local Government, chaired by Senator Kabiru Gaya (Kano South), which investigated the crisis in the state.
The parliament also asked the Inspector General of Police (IG), Mr. Mohammed Abubakar, to as a matter of urgency redeploy the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Mbu Joseph Mbu, because of irreconcilable differences between him and Amaechi.
The Senate also resolved that its President, David Mark, should mediate in the crisis by reconciling the principal actors with a view to ensuring that peace returns to Rivers State.
It tasked the three senators from the state to liaise with all warring factions in the state with a view to resolving the crisis, which it said had grave implications for democracy.
While presenting the report to the Senate yesterday, Gaya said the protracted crisis was the fallout of a deep-rooted political crisis caused by the alleged highhandedness of Amaechi, which he said was aggravated by the interference of both the president and his wife, Patience.
He further said the committee found that the crisis was fuelled by the insistence of Amaechi to run for a second term as the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), a situation it said did not go down well with his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and the presidency.
The report also said the judgment of an Abuja High Court, which dissolved the Rivers State PDP executive committee led by Chief Godswill Ake and ordered Ake’s replacement with Felix Obuah as the authentic winner of 2012 congress of the party in the state did not go down well with some members of the party who believed that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the case.
Gaya said the committee also found that Mbu took over the party secretariat in the state and withdrew the security aides of Ake, adding that the suspension of Obio/Akpor Local Government on April 22, 2013 by the House of Assembly provoked anger in supporters of the suspended members of the council executive as well as the Minister of State for Education, Nyesom Wike.
After the resolution, Mark talked tough, asking those attempting to remove Amachree with just five legislators to perish the thought, as the era of impunity when such shenanigans took place was over.
Mark, who also said the National Assembly would do all within its power to defend the constitution, explained that the report did not indict anybody but rather aimed at ending the crisis.
“All we want is that peace returns to Rivers State. Let me add that the National Assembly will uphold and defend the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as we all individually swore to do. And this we will do at all times and at all cost. Let me leave no one in doubt that the impunities of the past remain in the past. And the past is gone for good. All that is left is for the proper lessons to be learnt from the past.
“Minority members of the Rivers State House of Assembly cannot remove and should therefore, never contemplate the impeachment of the Speaker of the state House of Assembly or anyone else for that matter and should perish the thought if they ever harboured it.
“Our institutions of state must also uphold the constitution at all times and must not in any way encourage the impression that impunities of the past are possible today. This National Assembly, for the avoidance of doubt, would resist impunity and unconstitutionality. This is the stand of the Senate. And once more, I must emphasise that we remain neutral and we want to see an end to the crisis in Rivers State,” he said.
The Senate has also confirmed the appointments of eight ambassadorial nominees whose names were sent to it by President Jonathan.
The nominees are Mr. O. F. Muoh (Imo), Mrs. T.J. Chinwuba-Akabogu (Anambra), Mr. Adamu Emozozo (Edo), A. Echi (Benue), Mrs. G.M. Quist-Adebiyi (Lagos), Mr. M. Dauda (Borno), Hakeem Sulaiman (Ogun) and Dr. Bolere Ketebu (Bayelsa).
Meanwhile, rights activist and civil society organisations are warming up for a protest in Port Harcourt over the politically motivated violence and other anti-democratic norms in the state.
Addressing journalists in Port Harcourt yesterday, Chairman of the Niger Delta Civil Society Coalition (NDCSC), the group coordinating the protest, Mr. Anyakwee Nsirimovu, said other activists expected to address the rally, besides Agbakoba and Falana, include Emma Ezeazu of Alliance for Democracy (AD); the Chairman, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Prof. Chidi Odinkalu; Festus Okoye of the Human Rights Monitor, Kaduna; Dr. Joe Odumakin of the Campaign for Democracy (CD); and Innocent Chukwuma of CLEEN Foundation, among others.
He said the peaceful rally was aimed at bringing the attention of the international community to the anti-democratic activities and other excesses of the PDP in the state.
“We will embark on a one-day global action in defence of democracy in Rivers State. It is a day of action against impunity and tolerance of the same by a political party that has been unable to organise itself and govern most responsibly in the last 14 years of the transition.
“It is a day of action for a wake-up call for all Rivers citizens to wake up to their responsibilities of taking their rights and freedom seriously, by raising their voices for peace, respect for democratic principles of dialogue, persuasion, rather than gangsterism as acceptable means.
“It is a day of action against politically-instigated violence against the people. It is a day of action against a political police commissioner who must leave, so that the state may be secured,” he added.