By Henry Umoru
On Tuesday, the political quagmire in Rivers States reached the climax.
The dramatis personae in the crisis shifted the battle to the state House of Assembly where there was a free-for-all following an attempt to impeach the Speaker, Hon. Otelemaba Amachree.
At the end,, the Leader of the House, Michael Chinda, and another lawmaker, Martins Amahule, sustained injuries.
Five members of the Assembly opposed to Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi engaged the pro- Amaechi legislators in a fight shortly after the latter resisted the move to impeach the Speaker. Amachree is a die-hard loyalist of Amaechi since the problem in Rivers State started.
Aghast by the violent turn in the Rivers crisis, the Senate, on Wednesday, intervened when they held a closed-door meeting on how to find a lasting solution to the logjam.
The Senate had been scheduled to continue the debate on the report of the Senator Ike Ekweremadu-led 1999 Constitution Review. It made a detour to discuss the violence in the Rivers House.
After the closed-door session, Senate President David Mark asked Senate Leader Victor Ndoma-Egba, PDP, Cross River Central, to read the five resolutions taken by the lawmakers.
Ndoma- Egba said the senators resolved to direct its Committee on States and Local Government, led by Senator Kabiru Gaya, ANPP, Kano South, to wade into the crisis in the Rivers House and was given one week to report to the general house.
The Senate also urged all parties in the crisis to restore peace and the status quos to remain.
The last resolution, which threw the Senate into a rowdy session, was that the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, should take immediate steps to address the issue of the broken relationship between Amaechi and the state Commissioner of Police, CP, Joseph Mbu.
Twice, Mark called out the question and twice the “nays” carried the day.
Trouble started as senators jumped out of their seats to give the Senate President support. More than 11 senators elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the opposition parties surrounded him, offering suggestions on how to resolve the problem.
It was a difficult decision for Mark but he used his military background to resolve the situation that could have led to the throwing of chairs.
At the end of the tension-soaked session, with consultations and the upper house broken into camps, with sharp division between the opposition and ruling party, the seventh Senate, for the first time, relied on Order 73 (1-4) of the Senate Standing Orders, where each member cast his/her vote on whether the chamber should urge IGP Abubakar to wade into the crisis or not.
It was a tight vote with ayes scoring 50 votes against 47 for the nays to resolve that the Senate could only urge the IGP “to take immediate steps to address the issue of the broken relationship between Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi and the Commissioner of Police (CP), Joseph Mbu.”
Three senators abstained while seven were absent.
The CP was then given a soft landing by the senators. This did not go well with some lawmakers on the grounds that it was a complete departure from what was agreed at the closed-doors session where the lawmakers resolved that the IGP should, as a matter of urgency, remove CP Mbu from Rivers State as a way of curtailing the lingering political crisis.
The proceedings of the day began when, after taking the day’s prayer, Senator Magnus Abe, PDP, Rivers, South/ East, moved a motion, citing Order 43 of the Senate Rules and he was obliged because the Order allows a senator to make a personal explanation in the chamber.
Abe recounted the events of the previous day in Rivers House as he said that because of the problem, ‘’for 63 days, the Rivers State of Assembly has not been able to sit”. He continued: “This week, the Assembly got notice from the governor that he wanted to bring an alteration to the state budget which prompted the Assembly to write the Commissioner of Police for protection.
‘’ Rather than offer protection, mayhem ensued. I wonder how law and order could break down when the Assembly is directly opposite the state police command on Moscow Road.
“This incident happened right under the nose of the police, who were believed to be there to protect the Speaker and members of the House of Assembly.”
The senator urged his colleagues to wade into the development in his home state if they were interested in the country sustaining democracy, even as he accused the Rivers State Police Commissioner of being partisan in the politics of the state.
Immediately Abe finished his speech, an angry Senate President Mark, who condemned the action of the lawmakers in Rivers State, said that, as senators, they were prepared to sacrifice their blood to uphold the constitution.
According to the Senate president, Abe had raised very serious issues and it was proper to take steps to ensure that the Rivers House of Assembly was restored to normalcy.
”I also believe that the relationship between the governor and the Commissioner of Police is not the best at the moment and the IG must take immediate steps to ensure by whatever means that this situation does not continue because the governor and the Commissioner of Police must learn to work together in all the states not just in Rivers State. There has to be synergy, there has to be understanding based on terms as specified in the Constitution”, Mark said.
“As human beings there may be disagreements but it must not be to the extent to result to the breakdown of law and order.”
Before voting started in line with Order 73 of Senate Standing Orders 2011 as amended, the Senate president said, “Before I put the question, we must be conscious of the fact that the IGP has operational responsibility over the police and, in making our recommendations, we make sure that we make recommendations that, in the position of the IGP with his operational capability, he would make a judgment that will be in the interest of the police.”
The voting took place when the Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Federal Character and Inter-Governmental Affairs, Senator Babajide Omoworare, ACN, Osun East, called for division, just as he stressed that he was not satisfied with the voice vote, thereby invoking Order 73 (1-4) of the Senate Rules.
After Omoworare rounded off with the Order when he read it and in preparation for the voting proper, Mark ordered the security to “clear the lobbies and lock the doors. For once, let’s test where we stand on issues.”
Omoworare then moved his motion. Thereafter, Senate Clerk, Ben Efeturi, stood up and began the process of calling each senator starting with Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, PDP, Abia South, to vote.
Rather than announce the result after the vote was concluded, senators broke up into another round of consultations, which lasted several minutes.
Serving as the Chief Returning Officer, the Senate president announced the results, adding that three senators abstained, seven were absent while 47 members said “nay”, with 50 “ayes.”
Soon after the announcement, the chamber erupted in noise as some senators shouted, ‘No! no!!’ repeatedly.
To stamp his authority and ruling on the matter, the Senate president announced the results he declared were the final figures and said that whoever was not satisfied could go to the tribunal, adding, “This is the authentic figure…whoever is not satisfied can go to the tribunal and I am the tribunal.”
He was apparently joking because there was no provision for election tribunal after the process.