… as gov reaches out to feuding lawmakers, pays entitlements
There are indications that Governor Siminalayi Fubara may have begun the implementation of the controversial eight-point resolution reached in Abuja to end the political crisis in Rivers State despite opposition by his allies.
Although the State Executive Council, SEC, has not met after nine members resigned from the cabinet, it was gathered, at the weekend, that the governor on return from Abuja, where the deal was brokered by President Bola Tinubu, met with key members of his administration and asked them to work out modalities on how the Abuja deal could be implemented.
This was despite calls from notable stakeholders and leaders like Edwin Clark, Mr Femi Falana, Chief Rufus Ada-Geroge, and others against implementing the peace accord.
Fubara had, on Monday, signed an agreement with his political godfather, the Minister of Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike, to end the political war in the state.
The political crisis became public on Monday, October 30, when the Leader of the State House of Assembly, Edison Ehie, was removed from office in what was interpreted as a bold move to rid the Assembly of Wike’s loyalists. This was after a fire gutted the Assembly complex the previous night.
Following Ehie’s election as Speaker, 23 out of the 26 lawmakers of the State Assembly quickly commenced impeachment proceedings against Fubara. The demolition of the House of Assembly complex was seen as a strategy by the governor to avert his impeachment. But the state’s Commissioner for Information and Communications, Joe Johnson, said the decision to demolish the complex built during the administration of Dr Peter Odili was a result of the fire incident. According to him, after the visit of the governor to assess the damage caused by the October 29, 2023 explosion, he contacted a firm that reported that the building had integrity issues and was unfit for legislative business.
The imbroglio has led to the defection of 27 lawmakers believed to be loyalists of Wike from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to the All Progressives Congress, APC, as well as resignations of nine commissioners and key aides, said to have been nominated by the former governor into Fubara’s government.
Meanwhile, President Bola Tinubu waded in and seemingly resolved the crisis. Tinubu, at a meeting held with Fubara, Wike, a former governor of the state, Peter Odili, and other stakeholders at the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja, made the critical stakeholders in the political conflict sign a peace agreement.
According to the resolution signed by Fubara, Wike; National Security Adviser, Nuhu Ribadu; Speaker, Rivers State Assembly, Martin Amaewhule; PDP Chairman, Rivers State, Aaron Chukwuemeka and APC Chairman, Rivers State, Tony Okocha, Monday night, the President directed that all matters instituted in the courts by the governor and his team in respect of the political crisis be withdrawn immediately.
Also, all impeachment proceedings initiated against the governor by the state House of Assembly be dropped immediately.
The resolution read, “The leadership of the Rivers State House of Assembly as led by the Rt. Hon. Martin Amaewhule shall be recognised alongside the 27 members who resigned from the PDP.
“The remunerations and benefits of all members of the Rivers State House of Assembly and their staff must be reinstated immediately and the Governor of Rivers State shall henceforth not interfere with the full funding of the Rivers State House of Assembly.”
Given the inhabitable state of the Rivers State House of Assembly building, Tinubu directed that the lawmakers “shall choose where they want to sit and conduct their legislative business without interference and/or hindrance from the Executive arm of government.”
Also, Fubara, who had earlier presented the 2024 Appropriation Bill of his state to four members of the Assembly, “shall re-present the state budget to a properly constituted Rivers State House of Assembly.”
Likewise, the President directed that the names of all commissioners in the Rivers State Executive Council who resigned their appointments because of the political crisis in the state “should be resubmitted to the House of Assembly for approval” adding that “There should not be a caretaker committee for the local governments in Rivers State” declaring the dissolution of the Local Government administration as “null and void”.
However, the signing of the Tinubu deal attracted condemnation by stakeholders, opinion leaders and politicians across divides.
The 8-points proclamation had come as shocking to the people of the state and South-South zone as it is believed that the governor should not have appended his signature on the document that ran contrary to all known laws in the country.
While many people believe that the governor who ought to honour the mandate of Rivers people signed the deed under duress, others think that Fubara endorsed the document to escape presidential ambush.
A former Commissioner for Water Resources in the state, Chief David Briggs, who said he was present during the peace pact, claimed that Tinubu intimidated Fubara into signing the peace agreement.
Briggs said Fubara endorsed the resolution under duress, adding that Tinubu had threatened that there would be grave consequences should the governor fail to sign and abide by the substances of the document.
He said: “I was there, so I’m a witness and what I say is primary, not secondary. We were invited for a meeting but that was not a meeting, what happened is that Mr. President walked in with a written resolution, addressed us, and declared that what he had in his hand was a presidential proclamation and emphasised the fact that he was the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and anybody who dares to say no to what he was saying would face the consequences.
“That, in a simple layman’s word is called a threat. Let’s get it very clear, if you are in the position of the Governor, what will you do? Will you get up and go and say no to Mr President with that kind of subtle but energetic threat?
He disclosed that most Rivers people who were present at the meeting including Adokiye Amaesimaka were shocked at the President’s attitude.
Rivers elders blow hot
The Elders and Leaders Forum also rejected the peace deal, noting that the directives contravened Nigeria’s constitution which the President swore to uphold at all times.
The group condemned in totality the 8-point directives noting that Nigeria is a constitutional democracy where only the courts can order the reversal of acts done or carried out under the provisions of the law.
Chairman of the Forum and a former governor of the state, Chief Rufus Ada-George, said the proclamation undermined the legal position of the judiciary in the governance of the nation.
But, contrary to the position of Fabara’s allias, Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Joseph Johnson, revealed that the governor willingly signed the peace agreement and was ready to implement the deal.
He added that Fubara would take actions that would cement peace in the state.
“And if the President has intervened, he (Fubara) is not a man of perfidy. He will not say something and do the other. In the next couple of hours, I will be unveiling some of the approvals the governor has already given as an indication that he is prepared for peace,” Johnson said.
Fubara pays 27 lawmakers
As Johnson assured, Sunday Vanguard learnt that Fubara has cleared all the entitlements of the 27 lawmakers for November and December.
According to a source who pleaded anonymity, the lawmakers were paid the said entitlements on Thursday.
The source said: “The government has paid the allowance and entitlement of all the lawmakers for November and December. The payment got to all the lawmakers including the 27 lawmakers who decamped to APC.
“The governor has also bought cars for all the Commissioners who are in his cabinet. The 10 people who are working with him got it. I think the governor is gradually implementing the presidential directive.”