By Henry Umoru & Joseph Erunke
ABUJA—THE Senate, yesterday, ordered the National Assembly, which comprises the House of Representatives and the Senate to, as a matter of urgency, take over the legislative functions of the Rivers State House of Assembly.
The Senate in its findings and observations after investigation into the crisis in Rivers State, however, fingered President Goodluck Jonathan and his wife, Dame Patience Jonathan in the crisis following their perceived undue interference with the political security structure of the state as well as what the Senate committee described as alleged high-handedness of Governor Chibuike Amaechi.
According to the Senate yesterday, the take-over of the Rivers House of Assembly was pursuant to Section 11(4) of the 1999 Constitution(as amended) pending resolution of the lingering political logjam and restoration of peace in the state.
Deliberating on the report of the Senate Committee on States and Local Governments Administration on the Investigation of Crisis in the state House of Assembly, led by Senator Kabiru Gaya, ANPP, Kano South, the Senate, yesterday, urged the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar to urgently redeploy the Commissioner of Police, Rivers State, Mr. Mbu Joseph Mbu given the fact that his relationship with Governor Chibuike Amaechi has broken down irretrievably.
Approved Senate committee Report
The prayers of the committee which were approved by the senators read thus:
* That the Inspector-General of Police should as a matter of urgency redeploy the Commissioner of Police, Rivers State, Mr. Mbu Joseph Mbu since his relationship with the Governor has broken down irretrievably.
* That the National Assembly should as a matter of urgency take over the functions and duties of the Rivers State House of Assembly, pursuant to Section 11(4) of the 1999 Constitution(as amended) pending the resolution of the crisis and restoration of peace in Rivers State.”
Meanwhile, Senate President, David Mark while speaking after the prayers were taken by the senators warned that minority members of the Rivers State House of Assembly cannot remove the speaker, just as he said that they should not even contemplate his impeachment, adding that the present National Assembly would resist impunity and unconstitutionality.
According to him, “all we want is for peace to return 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. This we will do at all times and at all cost. Let me leave no one in doubt that the impunity of the past remains in the past, and the past is gone for good.”
Senator Mark who urged all warring persons involved in the Rivers State crisis to sheathe their swords and embrace peace in the interest of the state and the country, said: “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 impunity of the past is 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.”
The Committee’s report also stated that the purported impeachment of the Speaker, Otelemaba Daniel Amachree by the five members of the State House of Assembly led by Hon. Evans Bipi was not in compliance with the provisions of Section 92(2)(c) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), and also not in compliance with Orders 12 and 28 of the Rivers State House of Assembly Standing Orders, 1999.
The report stated: “The Committee finds no evidence to support the claim by the five members of the Rivers State House of Assembly that the Speaker was properly impeached and Hon. Evans Bipi elected Speaker.
“Governor Amaechi’s insistence to run for a second term as the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, NGF did not go down well with the PDP and the Presidency. The suspension of the Governor of Rivers State by the PDP National Working Committee in Abuja on May 27, 2013 did not go down well with the supporters.”
Senate remains neutral — Mark
Earlier, the senators at a a closed-door meeting discussed the crisis in Rivers State for over four hours and when they reconvened at the end of the meeting, Senate President, David Mark said: “We spent several hours this morning discussing in great detail the situation in Rivers State. We devoted so many hours because we believe it is important that we look at it from the prism of our own committee that went there to find out exactly what happened. And we are happy we sent our own team to go and investigate and report back to us.
“Our final objective, throughout our discussion, was to ensure that peace returned to Rivers State. That was the focus of the discussion this morning. Our appeal to all the principal actors involved is that unless there is peace in Rivers State they cannot ensure development in the state. We want development across the length and breadth of this country.
Therefore, we use the opportunity once more before we go to the prayers to appeal that all those involved sheathe their swords so that peace can reign in Rivers State. The Committee has not indicted any particular group of people. It has not indicted any section and I don’t think it has indicted any individual. The reason is because we want to ensure that there is peace. The Senate as a body wants to be an integral part of the solution to the problem in Rivers State. We remain neutral.
“We have not taken sides with the groups and we are not going to take sides, but we will stand on facts. When we eventually approve our prayers, those prayers will be based on the facts that are known to us and our neutral position. And we hope that all the parties involved would appreciate that what we want to ensure is peace in Rivers State.”
It’s good decision — Abe
Reacting to the decision of the Senate, Senator Magnus Abe, PDP, Rivers South/East while speaking to journalists noted that the Senate acted in a manner that was consistent with its mandate, just as he stressed the need for all to leverage on what the Senate did, adding that the senators acted from an informed position.
Some of the recommendations made by the Committee include:
*That the Senate President should intervene and mediate in the Rivers State political crisis and see to its amicable resolution;
*That all security agencies in Rivers State should complement each other and ensure greater cooperation and inter-dependence in addressing the security situation in the state;
*Urge all heads of security agencies in the state to demonstrate high level of professionalism and ensure full co-operation with the State Governor, who is the Chief Security Officer of the State;
*That the Court of Appeal and the Rivers State High Court be allowed to respectively, determine cases of the removal of the Party Executive and the suspension of Obio/Akpor Local Government Council pending before them in the absence of any resolution to settle out of Court.
*That the Commissioner of Police should comply with the subsisting Court Order directing the Police to vacate Obio/Akpor Local Government Secretariat to enable the workers resume work until the Order is set aside by a Court of competent jurisdiction.
*That the Director- General of State Services(DSS) investigate and cause the prosecution of Hon. Chidi Llyod and all those found to be actively involved in the brutality of Hon. Michael Chinda and other members.
*That Hon. Evans Bipi be investigated and if found culpable, prosecuted for bringing armed thugs into the Chambers and for the assault on the Speaker and other members which precipitated the crisis.
*That the Governor, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi should review and improve on his relationship with stakeholders in the crisis for peace to reign.
*That Governor should revisit all those that claimed their houses were demolished and hotels acquired and if necessary restitution be made where necessary.
*That the Honourable Speaker, Rt. Hon. Otelemaba Daniel Amachree should reunite the warring members of the House of Assembly.”