December 18, 2023

Rivers crisis: RVSG, PDP, G27 lawmakers disagree over vacancy of seats

Rivers crisis: RVSG, PDP, G27 lawmakers disagree over vacancy of seats

By Omeiza Ajayi, John Alechenu, Daniel Abia, Davies Iheamnachor & Fortune Eromosele

The G27 faction of the Rivers State House of Assembly, led by Mr. Martins Amaewhule, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and the state government, yesterday, disagreed over the vacancy of  seats in the House.

While Amaewhule said their seats are not vacant, because their defection from the PDP, to the All Progressives Congress, APC, was constititional and due to the crisis rocking the PDP in the state, the Rivers State government and the PDP disagreed.

This happened on a day an alleged draft of an Abuja court order backing the G-27 and commencement of impeachment process against Governor Siminalayi Fubara surfaced.

Why we left PDP- Amaewhule

Amaewhule stated that the 4-man faction of the Assembly led by Edison Ehie cannot form a quorum and whatever they were doing in the name of the Assembly was null and void.

Speaking during a dedication service and stakeholders’ meeting of the APC in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, Amaewhule said: “We begged Mr President, the former president could not attend to the  problems of the State, so we begged Mr President (Tinubu) that we have a problem. Look at the East-West Road; the Ogoni  road unlike the previous president,  the president gave us his words and said go back home irrespective of your party, I am a detribalized Nigerian. That’s what the president told us.

“We defected in line with the provision of the 1999 constitution, section 109. We didn’t do anything contrary to the constitution. We have evidence that there is crisis in the PDP. We have every right under the constitution to defect.

“We hear that some four persons gathered and are meeting somewhere we don’t know. Whatever they are doing, Rivers people should know it today the House of Assembly of any state is defined by the Constitution. The only way you can reconvene the House, you need to have quorum and quorum is 11. If you are not upto 11, anything you are doing is a family meeting.

Anything they told you they have done, ignore them. It’s null and void. The law is clear anything you are doing, you must do it in line with the dictates of the constitution and the standing orders of the Rivers House of Assembly. We are 27 in all. They are just four. So whenever we meet it is Rivers State House of Assembly that is meeting.”

Other reasons we left

Apart from crisis in the PDP, Amaewhule said other reasons they left the PDP include: “The East-West Road, work is on going and in no distant time that project will be completed. Access to the refinery, access to all the companies along the stretch of the road will be complete.

That is the president that says a thing and does it. Do you know what the president is doing since he became president, he has given appointments to Rivers people irrespective of parties. Mr. President for the first time gave a strategic appointment to somebody that is not from his party. It’s not only the appointment of the FCT Minister, he has given appointments to many Rivers sons. 

“All the people he appointed are not APC members. The president shows that he is detribalised. So, in making a choice of which party to go to, this is a president that means well for the people. Let me inform you we have done investigation and we know that in the coming weeks, early next week, a lot will be done and we believe that when we have petroleum products refined in this part of the country, prices of petroleum products will drop. A lot of work is going on at the Port Harcourt refinery now.

“I did not say that everything is well in the country. The president has started well and the foundation is strong. The president needs the support of Nigerians.”

Alleged draft of Abuja court judgment surfaces 

As Amaewhuke spoke,  a draft of an alleged judgment in favour of the impeachment of Governor Fubara, to be delivered by a Federal High Court holden in Abuja on Monday, leaked.

The development has worsened the already ruptured peace between the government of the state and the former governor of the state.

It was gathered that the Federal High Court in Abuja in suit no FHC/ABJ/CS/1681/2023, had written a judgment to give powers to the 27 lawmakers in the Rivers State House of Assembly to impeach Fubara.

The suit was filed by the 25 lawmakers led by  Amaehwule, who is standing as the first respondent

In the leaked judgment, the declaration of the seats of the 25 lawmakers vacant was voided.

It was learned that the draft was mistakenly shared, yesterday by a principal officer of a state legislator on a WhatsApp platform and it was hurriedly deleted.

Your seats remain vacant, you aren’t lawmakers —PDP

Meanwhile,  the PDP has saod that the seats of the 27 lawmakers that left the party remained vacant as declared by the new speaker of the House, Edison Ehie.

The Public Relations Officer of the PDP in Rivers State, Sidney Tambari Gbara, noted that the lawmakers failed to obey the law, adding that their seats remain vacant.

Gbara said: “We are all aware of what is going on in the state and those who are alleging that there is crisis in PDP that led to their defection should prove it.

“I don’t know where the problem is. They are in a better position to explain if there is problem in the party or not.

“Yes, President Tinubu has done so well to appoint some Rivers sons into positions. As it is, we should all be happy as Rivers people. We have seen appointments, FCT Minister, EDFA, NDDC, Federal Commissioner and other and we believe we will get more.

“On the issue of the decamped lawmakers talking about  quorum and no quorum, those who defected, their seats have been declared vacant. The truth is that the state must move forward.”

Also, the state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Joseph Johnson, said the lawmakers were caught up with the law they failed to obey.

Johnson said: “The interpretation in Section 109 ( 1) (g) and the form that every parliamenterian signs clearly states that if you move from your party to another, you lose your seat. The law stands.

“The law you fail to obey cannot protect you. The 27 lawmakers, elected by their constituents decided to walk out of their constitutional responsibility. They went out of their assignment on their  volution, they said they have finished. They took the flag of APC. They bid PDP bye. What are they doing in court?

“They have violated the law and left what they are supposed to do as lawmakers. They did what they shouldn’t do.

“They signed a form for Parliamenterians that when you leave your party, that you will never be a lawmaker. They violated it. Amaehwule and his co-travellers signed the form.

“Saying that they are still members of the Rivers State House of Assembly is a wide goose chase. They are no longer lawmakers.”

We remain united, indivisible under Damagun—PDP

In like manner, the national leadership of the PDP, dismissed the claims by 27 of its estranged members in the Rivers State Assembly that the party is factionalised.

Deputy National Publicly Secretary of the party, Ibrahim Abdullahi, said this in a telephone interview with Vanguard, in Abuja.

Responding to claims by the lawmakers under the aegis of G-27 that they resigned their membership of the PDP to join APC, because the PDP was factionalised.

Abdullahi explained that Nigerians are aware that the estranged lawmakers are acting at the behest of “a former governor of the state,” whose conduct is at variance with his claim of being a member of the PDP.

Abdullahi said: “Your guess is as good as mine. These people are simply being mischievous.

“Every right thinking Nigerian knows that they are being motivated by the antics of a man who has derived benefits from his membership of our great party but has decided to turn against it and accept an appointment from the APC.

“You cannot be working for an APC government and want to dictate what happens in the PDP.

“The 27 members who joined him know within themselves that our party is united and cohesive under the leadership of our Acting National Chairman, Ambassador Umar Damagum.

“As a party, we’ve made some mistakes which we’ve learnt lessons from and are now rebuilding under the purposeful leadership of Amb. Damagun.

“If there are factions in the PDP like they are claiming, let them name such factions and those who lead them.

“The PDP is united and focused. We refuse to be distracted by the antics of a few who want to precipitate a crisis where none.”

APC must take responsibility for crisis in Rivers —Lukman

However, the immediate-past National Vice Chairman, Northwest, of the APC, Salihu Moh. Lukman has said the party should take responsibility for the political crisis in Rivers State.

Speaking in an interview on Sunday, Lukman said it was unfortunate that democracy has now taken flight in the state and politicians were behaving like persons without civilization.

He said: “I think we should take responsibility in some ways because perhaps if as leaders of the party we didn’t indulge Nyesom Wike the way we did, he would have managed his relationship back in Rivers with the governor and other political leaders better. I think, for me honestly because I don’t want to play cheap politics, we must appeal to Wike if for whatever reason he will make the choice he made to support Siminalayi Fubara to emerge as the Governor, he must take responsibility and leave with the consequences and find a way to swallow the bitter pill. Because we are not talking about governance. The more he mismanages his relationship with Fubara, and they continue the fight, those who are going to be receiving the short end of the stick are the people of Rivers State.

“This is happening at the expense of governance. You can see based on the street fight, an ‘arrangee’ has been made, Fubara presented a budget to four people and in less than 24 hours it was passed. This is not democracy anymore.

“So, I am not going to sit down here and condemn Fubara or Wike or even shoot our party. We are responsible and both Fubara and Wike have become something else. To put it in a crude way, they are no longer behaving like people who have gone through some level of training, education and civilization. Politics is not madness and leadership is not a chess game.

“Leadership is about taking full responsibility, sometimes denying yourself. It is like, as a father, it is not everyday I sit down here and watch things happening and I say I am happy. Sometimes, I have to just swallow things so that other people in the family remain happy even when I am not happy myself. That is what I expect from Fubara and Wike and even from our party so that the people of Rivers State will be happy. If this is happening at the beginning of a tenure, then this is going to define the tenure.

“Look, if this democracy is to move this country forward, we need leaders who will make the needed sacrifices so that citizens can be happy, and not to go on street fighting simply because you disagree with yourselves”.

He expressed sadness that politicians are already thinking of the 2027 elections instead of concentrating on the delivering the dividends of democracy to the people.

“You are witnesses, I am sure. When the group of the so-called Caretaker Committee came to pay a courtesy visit to the national chairman and shortly after that the national vice chairman South South led APC leaders from that state to go and visit Wike and after that without any local problem in Rivers state the National Working Committee sat down and dissolved all structures of APC so as to open the door for Wike to come into the party, I mean you just gave him license to say you are welcome, whatever you do we accept it. That is what I mean by indulgence and I don’t think we should reduce politics further.

“Unfortunately for us, that is where we are. We reduced the whole politics to the issue of electoral contest. Less than six months coming out of a general election we are already commencing the contest for the next general election which will come up in the next four years. The question of what elected representatives should do to deliver on the promises made has already been sacrificed.

“Citizens are just waiting, they are at the receiving end. We promised renewed hope, we are doing nothing to renew the hope and everybody is quiet. So, for me if you accuse me of attacking leaders because I said some of these things, I accept it, I take responsibility and if leaders are angry with me to the point that they want to expel me from the party, I also accept it. It just means they are not ready to really behave like truly progressive politicians which we sold to Nigerians”, he declared.

G-27 lawmakers plotting to sabotage fresh elections —Group

Meanwhile, the Centre for Africa Liberation and Socioeconomic Rights, CALSER, has accused some  lawmakers in the Rivers State House Assembly of plotting to sabotage byelections to replace them in the State.

The Executive Director of the Centre, Princess Ajibola, stated this at a press briefing in Abuja, weekend, where she said lawmakers plan to approach the courts to challenge the legality of the letter sent to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to conduct by-elections to fill the vacuum created as a result of their defection to another political party.

Ajibola, however, called on the lower courts not to allow itself to be used to undermine the stability of the country by rejecting the overtures from the 27 defected lawmakers in the Rivers State House of Assembly.

She added: “The position of the Supreme Court is clear about defection from one political party to another. Section 109. (1) (g) of the Nigeria constitution clearly states that ‘A member of a House of Assembly shall vacate his seat in the House if being a person whose election to the House of Assembly was sponsored by a political party, he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which that House was elected.

“We must recall that in 2022, a Federal High Court in Abuja sacked 16 Ebonyi House of Assembly members for defection. The court held that the movement breached Section 109(1)(g) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, providing that defector legislators are not allowed to retain their legislative seats.

“The same provisions were also applied in Cross River state, including the Federal House of Representatives. Suppose this is the position of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended in Section 109(1)(g). In that case, the lower courts do not have the jurisdiction to entertain any matter of defection from one political party to another.”

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