PORT HARCOURT: The crisis rocking Rivers State, yesterday, took a turn for the worse with the demolition of the River State House of Assembly Complex.
The state government, yesterday morning commenced the demolition of the state House of Assembly building on Moscow Road, Port Harcourt City Local Government Area of the state.
The government said it took the action after the chambers of the state Assembly was burnt down by unknown political thugs on October 30.
It will be recalled that the legislative arm of the state has been involved in crisis, following the move by some lawmakers to impeach Governor Siminialayi Fubara.
About 5a.m., yesterday, no fewer than 10 bulldozers, excavators and other heavy-duty machines were brought to the assembly complex.
About 6 p.m., part of the building housing the Assembly and the conference hall used for public hearings had been fully brought down.
Building unsafe for Rivers State lawmakers — Info Comm
However, the Rivers State Government said that it demolished the state House of Assembly complex following advices from experts.
The government said that the experts noted that the integrity of the structure had been compromised due to the structural defects that arose mainly as a result of the recent explosion and fire incident at the Assembly, and that the building has been rendered unfit for human use.
A statement by the Rivers State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Joseph Johnson, said “After the visit of the governor to inspect the level of damage done to the building on the day of the fire incident, it became necessary to invite professionals to advice the government on the integrity of the building.
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“It will be recalled that on the night of the attack on the complex, explosive dynamites were used, which shook it to foundation. There were visible cracks on the walls afterwards, and the entire structure looked frail and unsafe for legislative business.”
He noted that the government had tried all cost saving measures towards repairing the complex until it bowed to superior view of rebuilding the complex to a more befitting edifice.
Johnson said: “After the assessment of the integrity of the complex, the experts warned the government that continuing to use the building in its present state would be disastrous.
“In the interim, the Rivers State Government has provided an alternative venue for the House of Assembly to conduct their affairs pending the rebuilding of the complex.”
House resumes sitting, elects new leaders
Notwithstanding, the Assembly began plenary in an alternative venue provided for them by Governor Fubara pending the completion of reconstruction work on the burnt Assembly complex.
During the plenary, the House elected Adolphus Orubienimigha, the member representing Opobo/Nkoro constituency, as the Majority Leader, and Dr. Godsgift West, as the Substantive Clerk of the House.
Rivers State Assembly demands investigation into the burning of its chambers
Meanwhile, the Assembly has called on Governor Fubara to set up a Judicial Panel of Inquiry to investigate the burning of the state House of Assembly.
This followed a motion by Victor Jumbo, representing Bonny constituency during the plenary presided over by the Speaker, Edison Ehie, at its new sitting venue within the state Government House, yesterday.
Ehie said the attack and subsequent burning of the Assembly complex was a dastardly act, a clear affront on democracy, noting that those behind the act must be brought to justice.
Assembly declares 25 seats vacant
Also, the House deliberated on the recent defection of 25 of its members to the All Progressives Congress, APC, dumping the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, the platform on which they won the election to the house.
In a quick resolution, Ehie declared the seat of the 25 out of the 27 lawmakers that defected to the APC vacant.
Edison said that their action was in gross violation of 1999 Constitution of Nigeria as amended.
The speaker noted that there was no known crisis or divisions within the PDP, which they cited as reason for their defection, adding that their defection violated the law.
He said: “The house will duly inform the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, of the vacancies in the Rivers State House of Assembly and the need to conduct fresh elections to fill the above vacancies within the time frame provided by law.
“The House, as it stands now is left with six legitimate and constitutionally recognised members and in line with the provisions of the 1999 constitution, precisely section 102, the House will effectively continue to discharge its responsibility of legislation, representation and oversight, notwithstanding vacancies in the membership of the House.”
Leader of the House, Orubienimigha presented the state’s Medium Term Expenditure Framework for deliberation after it was seconded by Sokari Goodboy Sokari and with a unanimously vote, it was approved.
Two lawmakers allegedly reserve to PDP
Meanwhile, there are indications that two of the lawmakers, who earlier moved to the APC had returned to the PDP.
It was earlier reported that two lawmakers, Tonye Adoki, representing Port Harcourt City Constituency II, and Linda Stalwart, representing Okirika, had denounced their movement to the APC.
But, Adoki, who quickly took to social media pages to debunk the claim, noted that he has not changed his decision.
He said: “It has come to my knowledge that some jobless and misguided youths are being used to spread fake news that I, Tonye Adoki have reneged from my defection move. It is on record that I was among the lawmakers that advocated this defection to the APC, and I owe no one any apology. “And I am still a member of APC. I am also using this medium to warn anyone carrying such news in his or her platform to be ready to defend it when the time comes. I am not the kind of politician you toy with.
State APC chair disowns 27 defected lawmakers
Chairman of APC, in Rivers State, Chief Emeka Beke, has said that his party would not accept the 27 lawmakers that defected from the PDP.
Beke said the party at the moment was not aware that lawmakers elected on the platform of PDP have moved to the APC, adding that their intention with the style of the defection was evil.
Beke said his position stems from the fact that the intentions of the decampees lawmakers was not genuine, rather they were moving to destroy the APC. He said the APC would welcome the 27 lawmakers if they show good intentions for the APC.
He regretted that the 27 persons have not truly proven that they were moving to the APC, adding that they ought to first go to the world level to declare their intentions.
He said: “As the chairman of the APC in the state, duly elected, I am not aware that anybody has defected to our party. They know that APC has a process we accept defectors. They will have to go to the ward level to indicate their interest, before they can come to the centre.
“Politics is grassroots-based, so they must indicate their interest at the local level. We will not accept them. These are the same set of people that worked to destroy our party. They are the people who attacked former President Muhammadu Buhari, and President Bola Tinubu and other leaders of APC when they visited Rivers State during the formative stage and now they want to come over here, we will not accept them. But if their interest is for good, we will accept them.”
PDP NWC to write INEC over 25 vacant seats
The National Working Committee, NWC, of PDP, has resolved to write INEC, to officially demand that fresh elections be conducted to fill 25 vacancies created by the defection PDP members of the Rivers State Assembly.
The party in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, in Abuja, yesterday, said: “At its 580th meeting on December 13, 2023, NWC members thoroughly reviewed the state of the party in Rivers State, particularly with regard to the defection of 25 now former members of the Rivers State House of Assembly from the PDP, the political platform upon which they were elected into the House, and resolved as follows;
“That the party communicates to INEC by formally informing the commission of the vacancies in the Rivers State House of Assembly as a result of the defection of the 25 now former members, who by virtue of Section 109 (1)(g) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) vacated their seats by their action.
“That the party officially demand that INEC should within the Constitutionally stipulated time, conduct fresh election in the 25 State Constituencies in Rivers State, where vacancies now exist in the Rivers State House of Assembly as a result of the defection of the 25 now former members.
“Direct the National Legal Adviser to commence appropriate legal action with respect to the declaration of the seats of the 25 defected former members vacant and the conduct of fresh election into the 25 State Constituencies in Rivers State in accordance with the provision of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).
“That the PDP will take every step necessary and available in a democracy to ensure that the votes and mandate of the people of the 25 State Constituencies in Rivers State are protected and not appropriated under any circumstance whatsoever.
FG has no hand in Rivers crisis — Info Minister
Meanwhile, the Federal Government, yesterday said it has no hand on the ongoing political crisis in Rivers State involving the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Nyesom Wike, his loyalists and Governor Fubara.
Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, who briefed State House correspondents after on the outcomes of the Federal Executive Council, FEC, chaired by President Bola Tinubu at the presidential villa, Abuja, maintained that FG has no hand in creating the crisis, which has seen the FCT minister and members of the Rivers State House of Assembly pitted against Governor Fubara.
Asked whether FG shares Wike’s position on the matter as a member of the federal cabinet, he said: “Well, he is a federal cabinet member, he is involved in the situation in the state. That cannot be a Federal Government position. How can it be the Federal Government’s position?
“The Federal Government is always interested in the well being of all the states, and in that direction, FG will always align with everyone in Nigeria to make sure that there is peace and tranquility in all parts of this country.
“But you know that what has happened in Rivers is not a creation of FG. It is a political problem that is brewing in the state.
“Of course, the government will ensure that there is peace and stability for all Nigerians, including River State, but you can’t say that this is a creation of FG. The Federal Government has no hand in creating that problem.”
On allegation raised by Asari Dokubo, accusing President Tinubu of ignoring the festering crisis in Rivers State, he said: “I saw Asari Dokubo’s message. It was an advisory. He made an advisory. And when you make an advisory, you allow time to see whether the person you have given the advice will look at it again and come back to you. That does not suggest anything. That doesn’t suggest that the federal government created that problem. It was never a creation of the federal government. It is a creation of the political situation in River State.”
Ijaw angry with Tinubu govt over Rivers crisis – Asari Dokubo
Meanwhile, a former Niger Delta militant leader, Asari Dokubo said the Ijaw people were angry with the President Bola Tinubu-led Federal Government over the ongoing political crisis in Rivers State.
Dokubo, leader of the Niger Delta Volunteer Force, NDVF, stated this in a viral video clip, yesterday. He said the Niger Delta people, particularly the Ijaw ethnic group, were already angry with the current government.
Dokubo, who was a staunch supporter of Tinubu and the All Progressives Congress, APC, during the 2023 general election campaign, lamented that it was disappointing that he had earlier assured the Ijaw people that the government would perform well.
He, however, alleged that the present situation has indicated that the Tinubu administration was a nightmare for the Ijaw people.
The former Niger Delta militant said the political crisis rocking the Rivers State would serve as a litmus test for President Tinubu’s administration.
According to him, if there would be “any fire” as a consequence of the alleged bad governance, it would begin in Rivers State.
He said: “This is the worst government. Ijaw people feel this is the worst government. This is a nightmare for them. When we were campaigning for you, many Ijaw people called and said “Presido, Tinubu is your friend oo, we hope he is not going to look the other way.
“And I assured everybody that if Tinubu fails, they should hold me responsible. Now they are asking me if I am still sure.
“Rivers State is a litmus test, if there is any fire, it will start in Rivers State,” he added.