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Halt anarchy in Rivers State

The power struggle between the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and former governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, and Governor Simi Fubara, has…

The power struggle between the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and former governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, and Governor Simi Fubara, has unsettled the oil-rich state, bringing governance to a standstill, and creating the fear of the spread of the conflict from political to ethnic. In the face-off so far, acts that constitute a violent abuse of democracy at that subnational level have occurred, including the dynamite attack on the House of Assembly complex, the demolition of the multibillion Naira worth facility, resignation of House of Assembly members and commissioners, and the last week passage of N800 billion 2024 budget by only four House of Assembly members, out of 37 members.

Since October 2023, the battle between Wike and Fubara has killed peace in the state. The situation came to a head when some House of Assembly members attempted to impeach Fubara, without clearly spelling out the ‘grave misconducts’ committed by the governor, barely six months on the seat as the Chief Executive of Rivers State. Rather, the ‘misconduct’ as perceived by the general public, for which the 24 Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) loyalists in the House wanted to impeach the governor, was linked to a supposed disagreement with Fubara’s ‘godfather’ Wike. It is a pure denigration of the integrity of the third arm of government, the legislature, for lawmakers to do the bidding of an individual, instead of adhering to the provisions of the Constitution and carrying out their responsibilities in a manner that will be of benefit to the people of Rivers State who voted them into power.

It is unacceptable for the lawmakers and the state executive to be at the beck and call of ex-Governor Wike, as if Rivers State has become Wike’s personal estate on account that he was governor for eight years. No doubt, the former governor contributed to the development of the state in diverse ways, but we insist that Governor Fubara must be given the free hand to run the affairs of the state for the next four years, irrespective of some godfather. In like manner, we unreservedly condemn the violence visited on the House of Assembly. More worrisome is the fact that instead of the state launching an investigation into the bomb blast, fish out perpetrators and punish them, Governor Fubara rather ordered the demolition of the complex, hiding under an excuse that the integrity of the facility was in doubt due to the bomb attack. That the complex was demolished primarily to prevent anti-Fubara lawmakers from convening to embark on the impeachment exercise was not lost to the people. The act is very crude, uncivilised, undemocratic and a waste of the resources of the people of Rivers State.

In the face of the crisis, the National Assembly has been silent. The crisis has incapacitated the House of Assembly from carrying out its functions, to the extent that only four House members passed River State’s 2024 budget into law. Such a move is an abuse of the constitutional and democratic tradition. The lawmakers did not form a quorum to pass an appropriate bill into law. Even if they formed a quorum, the processes involved in passing a budget into law are much more than a mere emotion-filled acquiescence to the desires of a governor being victimised by his ‘godfather’. It is absurd to pass a bill of that magnitude to a law in a space of 24 hours.

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In a nutshell, lawmaking has collapsed in Rivers State and the National Assembly must step in, in accordance with the law.  Section 11(4) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria: “At any time when any House of Assembly of a State is unable to perform its functions by reason of the situation prevailing in that State, the National Assembly may make such laws for the peace, order and good government of that State with respect to matters on which a House of Assembly may make laws as may appear to the National Assembly to be necessary or expedient until such time as the House of Assembly is able to resume its functions; and any such laws enacted by the National Assembly pursuant to this section shall have effect as if they were laws enacted by the House of Assembly of the state: Provided that nothing in this section shall be construed as conferring on the National Assembly power to remove the Governor or the Deputy Governor of the State from office.”

As a newspaper, we call for peace and order in Rivers State. Though we concede that the FCT Minister, Wike is an important stakeholder in Rivers State, he must give Governor Fubara the liberty to run the state as a duly elected governor. We call on the judiciary to stop fuelling the crisis by granting frivolous ex-parte motions brought to them by parties to the conflict. Rather, they must act as enablers of peace and political cohesion by throwing out requests that do not contribute to the resolution of the logjam. All arms of government at the national level must prevent the crisis from degenerating into widespread violence. We must quench the fire immediately without hesitation.

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