Rivers assembly: Fubara, pro-Wike lawmakers clash over relocation

By Dennis Naku

The Rivers State Government and lawmakers loyal to the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike, on Sunday disagreed over an executive order, which relocated the sitting of the state House of Assembly to the Auditorium of the Administrative  Block of the Government House, Port Harcourt.

The order, which was released by the state Governor, Siminalayi Fubara on Friday,  is contained in the state’s official Gazette, tagged Executive Order of the Rivers State Government 001-2023.

While the state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Joseph Johnson, insisted that Fubara had the power to relocate the state assembly, the pro-Wike lawmakers described the relocation as illegal.

As the governor and Wike’s loyalists disagreed on the Assembly relocation, the pro-Fubara lawmakers on Sunday invited  Danagogo Iboroma, SAN, for screening and confirmation on Monday as a member of the state executive.

After Thursday’s visit to the state legislative quarters, where the lawmakers relocated to when the Assembly complex was demolished last year, the governor on Friday released the executive order on the relocation.

Last year, amid the feud between Fubara and his predecessor,  Wike, there was an explosion at the state House of Assembly.

Despite the explosion,  the pro-Wike lawmakers found their way into the complex and attempted to impeach the governor.

 On December 13, 2023, the House of Assembly complex was demolished under the supervision of  Fubara after the state government said the building was defective.

Fubara on Thursday said the legislative quarters would be renovated, a plan pro-Wike lawmakers alleged was a plot to demolish the quarters.

Addressing elders and political leaders loyal to the FCT minister, during a solidarity protest to the Legislative Quarters, in Port Harcourt on Sunday, the Speaker of the pro-Wike faction of the state Assembly, Martins Amaewhule, faulted the executive order.

Amaewhule insisted that the governor had no right to make any executive order directing lawmakers where to hold their sitting.

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

He stated, “ The governor has no power to issue any executive order directing lawmakers where to sit. There is a subsisting judgement barring the governor from interfering with the sitting of the House of Assembly.

“Only the Federal High Court has the jurisdiction to entertain matters regarding the declaration of any seat vacant. We relocated here. We furnished it. This building is less than two years old and built by the best engineers.

“It is a new building. This is where we are sitting. There is no problem at all. We have not invited him. We need to invite him before he can do anything.”

Amaewhule said 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.

He said the structures, as could be seen by the leaders, were in excellent condition, fully functional and currently occupied by the lawmakers and their family members.

Reacting to the claims and the protest at the legislative quarters, Johnson dismissed the statement by Amaewhule, as he described him as a former lawmaker.

Johnson stated, “He does not have a locus. He is no longer a speaker and he cannot even dictate whatever he would have loved to say thereafter. There is already an existing court ruling, even though an ex parte order.”

The commissioner further stated that “Amaewhule has lost status, and if he truly is a lawmaker, the law says that the law you fail to respect cannot protect you.

“The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Section 109(1g) says that you lose your seat once you cross. They crossed before they got the judgment that they claimed they got from Omotosho.

“And from then till now, they do not exist. It does not require anybody to interpret that law. That law is self-explanatory. That law can only be thwarted by the court, and the only court that can thwart it is the Supreme Court.’’

Among the political leaders who staged a solidarity protest at the quarters on Sunday were the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives,  Kingsley Chinda, representing Obio/Akpor Federal Constituency;  Emmanuel Deeyah, a former member of the House of Representatives;  Olaka Nwogu, another former member of the House, and the Caretaker Committee Chairman, Rivers State All Progressives Congress, Chief Tony Okocha,

Also at the protest venue were former Rivers State PDP Chairman, Ambasador. Desmond Akawor, former Commissioner for Finance, Fred Kpakol, former Commissioner for Species Duties, Emeka Woke, local government chairmen, among others.

While speaking at the protest, Chinda said they were worried about reports of an imminent demolition of a democratic institution and decided to assess the condition of the premises.

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

He stated,  “As members of the National Assembly from Rivers State, we have joined the leaders and elders of the state to discuss the issues happening in our state, the latest being the threat to bring down the structures on this premises.

“We have commissioned engineers and experts to study and give us the report of the integrity of these structures. We have received the report. The report says these structures have a lifespan of nothing less than 25 years.

Worgu, in his contribution, said it was not the building that made the parliament, but the people and the constitution.

He said if the governor continued to destroy hallowed chambers, the members would continue to create more in the defence of democracy.

Worgu recalled the destruction of the state House of Assembly complex, saying it was the greatest assault on democracy.

“I have never seen a situation where those tasked with protecting public property will be those to destroy such property. When the Rivers State House of Assembly was brought down, it was like a movie to most Nigerians. That was the greatest assault on democracy.

“No matter the reason people try to put before things, I don’t think there is any Rivers son or daughter that will support that the assembly was brought down because some people think it will help their self-preservation.

“Today, the Rivers State Assembly sits here and again they want to bring it down. Let me make it clear that it is not the building that makes the parliament. It is the members themselves and the constitution,” he said.

The former lawmaker added, “Even if you pull down this place, the members can decide to sit in any place that their resolution favours. Parliament is self-regulatory. Nobody regulates them.

“You can break a thousand chambers and they will create more. It is about us, the people, the institutions and their duty to provide checks and balances on our behalf within the tenets of democracy.

“We are a nation of laws. You cannot be protected by law when you become the chief lawbreaker.

On his part, the APC Caretaker Chairman, 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 the party, 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 Tinubu, but he alleged that Fubara did not vote for the president in the last election.

Okocha stated, “This goes to show the world that Rivers people are united. We are one. The speaker had taken us around the premises and had given us the synopsis of what transpired when the governor came to harass the inhabitants here.

Reacting to the criticism by the elders, the information commissioner described the governor as a beneficiary of genuine democracy, adding that most of those who visited the legislative quarters were kinsmen of Wike who did not even represent the people of Obio/Akpor.

He said contrary to the claims by the so-called leaders, the people of Ikwerre ethnic nationality loved Governor Fubara.

“This is just to say that Governor Fubara is the governor of Rivers people, and nothing short of it can convince anybody to say that five greedy, selfish people, not Obio/Akpor people, not Ikwerre people.

“Ikwerre people love Governor Fubara. Obio/Akpor people love Governor Fubara. We are resolute as Rivers people. We will resist them. They have no fate politically and will not be able to win any election.

“No Opobo man (Fubara’s LGA) is afraid of any human being on the surface of the earth.’’

Pro-Fubara lawmakers

Meanwhile, the state House of Assembly loyal to Fubara led by factional Speaker, Victor Oko-Jumbo, has invited a commissioner-nominee, Iboroma for screening.

Iboroma may replace Prof Zaccaeus Adangor, SAN, who recently resigned as the state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice.

 Adangor’s resignation came after he rejected his deployment to the Ministry of Special Duties (Governor’s Office).

The nominees’ invitation was contained in a letter signed by the factional Clerk, Dr G.M. Gillis-West, who asked Iboroma to appear before the House on Monday by 10am.

The factional clerk directed Iboroma to appear at the state House of Assembly in the auditorium of the administrative block of state Government House Port Harcourt.

The letter read, “The Rivers State House of Assembly hereby invites the following  Commissioner-nominee for screening and confirmation as a member of the Rivers State Executive Council. Danagogo I. Iboroma, SAN.

“Date: Monday, 13th May 2024. Time: 10am. Venue: Hallowed Chamber, Rivers State House of Assembly Auditorium, Admin Block, Government House, Port Harcourt.

“The nominee is to come along with 10 sets of his curriculum vitae, photocopies of his credentials and the original.”

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