The Senate and the House of Representatives yesterday took steps to resolve the Rivers State crisis. While the Reps made a resolution to take over legislative affairs of the Rivers State House of Assembly, the Senate tried to resolve the face-off between Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and state Commissioner of Police, Joseph Mbu.
The Senate rebuffed the resolution adopted in the House of Representatives for the immediate removal Joseph Mbu.
The deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, Chief Emeka Ihedioha presided over the session. 18 members spoke in favour of the resolution proposed by Albert Tsokwa, Donga/Usa Federal Constituency of Taraba State for the House to mandate an investigation into the crisis which he said had paralysed activities of the State House of Assembly.
His motion also prayed the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar to immediately redeploy Mbu from Rivers State on the basis of what he claimed was the ineffectual policing of the state and the state House of Assembly.
In the motion titled “Motion of Threat to Democracy and inability of the House of Assembly of Rivers State to sit and transact legislate business in the House,” Tsokwa said “the House of Assembly of Rivers State had on previous occasions tried to hold its normal sittings and transact parliamentary business but was unable to do so as a result of the presence of hoodlums in the precincts of the House and the inability of the Nigerian Police to provide the legitimate authorities of the House with Security.
He explained that “the Rivers State Police Command which had pledged to provide security for the sitting of the House watched the violence unleashed on members of the State House of Assembly without intervention.
He said “in a situation where the Commissioner of Police, Rivers State is alleged to have taken sides, and five out of a 32 members House procured thugs and hoodlums to disrupt the sitting of the House and prevented the State House of Assembly from performing its constitutional functions.”
“Concerned that five out of the 32 members of the House of Assembly of Rivers State purportedly attempted unsuccessfully to remove the Speaker and Leadership of House of Assembly of Rivers State.
Tsokwa thus prayed the House “to condemn in very strong terms the failure of the Nigerian Police Force, Rivers State Command, to provide security for the Rivers State House of Assembly which has led to the disruptions of the sittings of the House.
“An Ad-hoc Committee should be constituted to visit the House of Assembly of Rivers State on a fact-finding mission and report back to the House within seven days.”
But the prayers were amended when Hon Emmanuel Jime, (PDP, Benue) intervened during the debate and proposed an amendment to reflect that:
“The House resolves that the IGP should immediately redeploy the Rivers State Commissioner of police for dereliction of duty,” and for the National Assembly to take over the legislative duties of the Rivers State House of Assembly on the fact that the state legislature is unable to perform its functions”.
Lamenting the development in the state as a dangerous precedent for the country, Rep EziucheUbani (PDP, Abia) said: “It began as a quarrel, with a party and it is now going beyond that to affect democracy in our country. Since the police has shown that they can compromise the security of some people, the IGP should appear before the House tomorrow or today”.
Rep Aminu Suleiman, (PDP, Kano State) made a passionate appeal for the House to take over the legislative duties of the state House of Assembly upon the breakdown of law and order in line with section 11:4 of the Constitution
Several other members also spoke including Rep Yakubu Dogara, Bauchi, Said Kutigi (Niger State), Nnena Elendu Ukeje (PDP, Abia State), Garuba Datti, (CPC, Kaduna State).
Rep Femi Gbajabiamila, the Minority Leader of the described the events in Rivers State as a democratic coup.
Gbajabiamila said: “Section 1 sub 2 of our constitution describes exactly what has happened in Rivers. In that section lies the offence of treason. If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it is a duck.
“What is happening in Rivers is a democratic coup and we should treat it as such.”
Of the 20 members who contributed to the debate only two members, Ken Chikere and Kingsley Chinda opposed the motion.
Both men incidentally from Rivers State alleged infractions on the part of the Rivers State House of Assembly which they said had become a tool in the hands of the state administration.
Chikere said: “It is wrong to wake up and sack local government suddenly and nothing is done. Anyone that comes to equity must come with clean hands. If you love Rivers, provide an avenue for settlement”.
Chinda rebuffed insinuations that the group of five legislators provoked the mayhem on the floor of the House.
He said his brother, and member of the House of Assembly, Michael Chinda, who belongs to the group of five was beaten mercilessly by the majority leader of the House, Chidi Lloyd.
“I appreciate the passion with which every member contributed to this motion, I would have done the same. But unfortunately we don’t have the fact and if we had, we would have spoken differently. As I speak, my brother, Chinda, is in coma in the hospital. He is one of the five,” he said even as his assertions raised muttering among members forcing Ihedioha on the dais to call the House to order.
“The impression we have is that the other five members were the aggressors and we are hinging our prayers on a wrong premise,” he submitted as he urged his colleagues to tread the path of caution”.
Following the caution from Chinda many members of the House softened their temper and adopted the amendments proposed by Jimi that the House take over the legislative duties of the State House of Assembly and urge the redeployment of the Commissioner of Police, Mbu.
At a briefing House spokesman, Zakari Mohammed said the House was already in consultation with the Senate on activating the constitutional clause on the take over of the legislative duties of the state House of Assembly.
The Reps resolution to take over the affairs of the House was based on Section 11 (4) of the constitution which states thus:
“At any time when any House of Assembly of a State is unable to perform its functions by reason of 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”.
The debate on the upheaval in Rivers State came by way of personal explanation brought by Senator Magnus Abe, PDP, Rivers State.
The debate on the development inevitably derailed the debate on the Constitution Amendment Bill which commenced on Tuesday.
Before commencement of the debate, the Senate moved into closed door during which argument was made for the Senate to give Mbu a soft landing.
That agreement was, however, almost derailed following the submission by some senators led by Senator Babajide Omoworare, (ACN, Osun East), challenging the subtle ruling by Senator David Mark who presided that Mbu be given a soft landing through an order to the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar to reconcile the commissioner of police and Governor Amaechi. [Vanguard]