Soldiers Take Over Rivers Assembly
A detachment of soldiers have taken over the Rivers House of Assembly following the fracas that erupted there on Tuesday and spilled over today.
The soldiers took over when two youth groups numbering over 2,000 and are pro-Governor Chibuike Amaechi and those against him attempted to storm the Assembly this morning to either prevent the five renegade lawmakers from sitting or aid them, depending on which camp the groups support.
There was a clash between the youths and one was reportedly shot. No one knows who actually fired the shot.
The pro-Amaechi group, which is under the auspices of Ikwerre Youth Movement, IYM, was this morning led by Tony Okocha, the Chief of Staff, while the other group of youths under the aegis of Grassroots Democratic Initiative, GDI, is loyal to Nyesom Wike, the Minister of State for Education.
The police had earlier cordoned off Moscow Road leading to the Assembly complex, Bank Road adjacent the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Port Harcourt branch, and the state secretariat.
Speaking on the crisis, Mrs Ibim Semenetari, Commissioner for Information, confirmed that there was mass protest this morning, adding that there is an attempt to cause mayhem in the state.
She also said that the Governor has been having consultations with security agencies to ensure that there was no breakdown of law and order.
An ethnic bent is now being read into the crisis as Councillors of Asari Toru Local Government area the constituency of the Speaker of the House, Otelemaba Dan-Amachree, have vowed that they will resist any attempt for another ethnic group, (referring to Evans Babakaya Bipialaka from Okrika) to usurp their slot (Kalabari).
Bipialaka told some journalists that after he was ‘elected’ yesterday he wanted to commence sitting today but found that the Assembly complex had been cordoned off by security personnel.
“We will come back tomorrow to commence sitting,” he vowed.
One of the five lawmakers, Mr Kelechi Worgu, representing Omuma Constituency, vowed in a telephone chat with a local radio station in Port Harcourt this morning that “the battle has just started. Any how we must sit.”
At the time of the report, the opposing youth groups were milling around government gate inching to enter despite the heavy presence of the police.
Some youths actually entered the Government House at exactly 11.50 a.m. and there was shooting of tear gas canisters by Government House policemen to disperse them. There was confusion at Government House at the time of this report.
Meanwhile, prominent Nigerians this morning condemned the fracas which broke out on the floor of the Rivers State House of Assembly, southsouth Nigeria, Tuesday, with many of those who spoke calling for very stiff sanctions against the lawmakers who initiated the fracas.
While some of them accused President Goodluck Jonathan of attempting to truncate the country’s democracy, others called for the removal of the Commissioner of Police in Rivers State, Mr. Joseph Mbu, since he has continually shown his incompetence and partisanship.
Some even urged that the five minority members of the House, who allegedly enacted the show of shame, should be made to undergo psychiatric tests. Former Governor of Ekiti State and Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) topshot, Otunba Niyi Adebayo described the incident as absolutely disgusting.
He said it was a shame that President Jonathan supported illegality, reminding the President that people lost their lives for the democracy he is making attempts to truncate.
“The President should wake up and do something about this rubbish going on in that state,” he said.
Former Governor of Old Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, noted that the brawl between the members was a direct result of the Jonathan-Amaechi squabble.
According to him, the incident is a repeat of what happened in Bayelsa when the President was after former Governor Timipre Sylva. “This is not good for Nigeria’s politics and even President Jonathan. The incident debases him as a leader of a country and there is no way he can win the other parts of Nigeria if he fails to get the backing of his own area. Sincerely, I don’t know what is wrong with Nigerian politicians,” he lamented.
A federal lawmaker in the second republic, Sidi Ali, described the situation as disgusting, noting that Nigeria was yet to recover from a similar incident that happened in Plateau State during the administration of ex-governor Joshua Dariye.
The 75-year old member of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and a staunch supporter of President Jonathan attributed the fight to those who want to please their leaders in order to retain their offices at all costs.
“If we allow this illegality to go on, then we are going to crash.
“It is very unfortunate that the Commissioner of Police in the state thinks he can fight the governor. A commissioner is not expected to talk the way he is doing. “I know that five people cannot form a quorum to do anything, but in this case, they feel they have backing somewhere. I am disappointed,” he said.
Lagos-based human rights lawyer, Bamidele Aturu, said “it was a show of shame, thoroughly disgusting that people turned legislative work into banditary.
“We must now redefine the word: ‘hoodlum’. It was an elite hooliganism and a very shameful display of lack of responsibility.”
He noted that the lawmakers used cudgels which could make them pass for murderers. He also cautioned President Jonathan, asking the presidency to distance itself and ensure it punishes those who caused the fracas.
“The way politicians are behaving now, they would derail our democracy and if this happens, they would be the first casualties. I can assure them of that,” he said.
Another human rights lawyer, Festus Keyamo, said it was the height of lawlessness and illegality. He also asked that the Commissioner of Police in the state be removed immediately.
“The Rivers Commissioner of Police must be removed because he is bringing democracy down on all of us. What is happening in Rivers is already affecting democracy in the country,” Keyamo said The President of Voters Awareness Initiative, Barrister Wale Oguntade, said it was a big problem for democracy in the country.
“I am using this opportunity to call on Nigerians to demand for certificates of psychiatric tests conducted on politicians in future elections, because it is only insane people who can conduct themselves the way it happened at the Rivers Assembly.
“It is barbaric. Those lawmakers are supposed to be kept in the zoo because they are potential dangers to the society.
“If those considered potential danger to the society now make law, then you can imagine the kind of laws they would make,” he lamented.
A member of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Gbolahan Yishawu, said the situation must be condemned by all Nigerians, calling it a very barbaric act.
“We are supposed to be parliamentarians and if you want to remove anybody, the rules must be followed.
“It is unfortunate the President of the country is attempting to polarise the state and it is unfortunate that some lawmakers are giving people the opportunity to use them. It is very unfortunate,” the lawmaker said.