Rage in Rivers Assembly swells loyalty to Amaechi
The Rivers State crisis which virtually bothers on political supremacy and selfish interest almost got to its climax on Tuesday, July 9, 2013. Nobody had got the pre-knowledge of what was in the air that wet day but all the lawmakers of the state’s House of Assembly had sensed exactly what would play out.
As expected, the embattled House of Assembly Speaker, Otelemaba Dan Amachree had issued a circular through the Clerk of the House, Sir Emmanuel Ogele to all members that there was an important issue that bothers on the interest of the state that must be deliberated upon that day.
Last Tuesday was the first time the 32-man House of Assembly would sit after 27 of its members were suspended on grounds of anti-party activities by the state chairman of the PDP, Chief Felix Obuah on April 9, 2013. People were already wondering how the 2013 budget would be passed without having the lawmakers deliberating on its content and value.
As early as 8 a.m. that fateful day, the faction of lawmakers who are loyal to the Minister of State for Education, Nyesom Wike had started their own proceedings for the day. A motion was moved for Hon Chidi Lloyd, the majority Leader of the House to be removed. The action was to have an easy ride to the Speaker of the House, Amachree.
The faction then moved that Hon Evans Bipi should assume the position of the Speaker of the House as Dan Amachree was purportedly impeached by the five legislators. By this time, there was a sense of trouble in the air already. But the mace which is the symbol of authority was smuggled out of the Chambers by one of the suspected 27 members.
That did not deter the Wike group as they were determined to “die today”, as shouted Bipi. Shortly after the early morning fracas which saw some of the lawmakers descending on Lloyd deploying the camera stands, computer monitors and other weapons at sight to hit him severally, Bipi left the Assembly for a while.
Nobody knew where he actually headed and his mission of storming out of the House. He was later found at the eastern by-pass which is behind the Assembly Complex. About two Jeeps and a white Hilux car filled with armed Mobile Police men were in the convoy.
It was not up to 30 minutes before he resurfaced again. This time he moved into the Chambers with thugs numbering over 200. They were singing war songs as they broke their ways into the main bowl of the complex.
Before this time, the state governor, Rotimi Amaechi who was reported to have made two attempts at entering the Assembly did not succeed because of the rowdy nature of the environment. Even at that, the governor was said to be determined in doing that which he set out to do that day, presenting the budget for the correction of “a minor error”.
It was indeed a free-for-all as the House Leader, Lloyd was spotted hitting his colleague with something that looked like a mace consistently on the head. Meanwhile, the sole objective of the G-5 legislators was to ensure that Hon Bipi gained access to the Speaker’s seat.
If he had succeeded in doing that and the cameras picked him up, then the anti-Amaechi group would have sent a strong message to the world about their mission. But they couldn’t as the 27 others repelled them forcefully.
Recounting his bitter experience on the sick bed in the Government House clinic where he is receiving treatment, Lloyd narrated that Amachree had directed that the House be reconvened to consider an amendment to the 2013 appropriation law which the governor had communicated to him via a letter “and as if Mr. Speaker saw what was going to happen he wrote a letter through the Clerk of the House to the Commissioner of Police to provide security for sitting and he also wrote to the commander of 2 Amphibious Brigade who also doubles as the head of the internal JTF.”
“So when we got to work that morning, we saw the presence of policemen numbering over 50 and we thought that this was in response to Mr. Speaker’s request.
“Shortly thereafter, I noticed that the five anti-Amaechi members were discussing in clusters and calling on their boys to come in. Initially, the policemen were searching everybody who would come into the premises. I had to even come down at the gate and trekked into the premises. So after a while, we learnt that there were phone calls and the Commissioner of Police personally called the unit, the man in charge to allow everybody in.
“We went in as members who have not seen ourselves for sometime because of the crisis in the state. I was on my seat, without provocation, Hon. Evans Bipi came to me in the full glare of everybody on camera and started raining punches on me. As his leader I did not react because I felt that it is something we could settle, whatever it is, maybe I didn’t greet him also.
“The Speaker intervened and said, ha, what’s happening. Then he reached out for the tripod that stands the camera, used it freely on me, himself and Michael Okechukwu Chinda. They flogged me to their satisfaction, I didn’t just utter a word until Hon. Ihunwo graciously asked me to run for my dear life because they have brought people with guns and of course when I looked at the gallery they were shouting who is the Chidi Lloyd, who is the Chidi Lloyd.
“I’m sure somebody may have reached out to the governor of the state who came in with his own security because these other policemen were there standing helplessly, watching what was going on. So he came and rescued members out of the place. Then after a while we heard that they had sat, that they were meeting, they were trying to meet, they had procured a fake mace to the House, so we went back and I took the mace where they were sitting, then I sustained injury as a result of the violence by Michael Chinda and Evans Bipi,” Lloyd said.
He lamented further: “I’m so helpless. I don’t know who to run to. I can’t go to the Commissioner of Police because he is already on the other side. I’m appealing to well-meaning Nigerians to pray for me and my family. That is the last hope we have resorted to and also urge the National Assembly, the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Reps not to turn the other way on the events of Rivers State.
“This could lead to something that we cannot imagine. It had happened in Anambra State, people were laughing, today it is Rivers State, nobody knows the next state it would be. If we are practicing a democracy, let us please for crying out loud play by the rules. Nigerians should pray for me and come to our aid. The state is under siege. You can’t even vouch for the safety of the governor. The people are getting more dashed out on a daily basis.”
The presence of anti-riot police squad played down on the seriousness of the fight in the House, otherwise the state would have been counting on the number of casualties lost so far. But the presence of thugs brought into the Assembly complex by lawmakers from both camps brought back the unfortunate impression that the state is back to the dark days.
This fear indeed came to past the next day, Wednesday, when as early as 8 a.m. irate youths from both camps took to the streets in protest for and against their masters, whoever they are. Thousands of youths had barricaded the main entrance of the Government House protesting in support of Amaechi.
Receiving the irate youths on behalf of the governor, his deputy, Tele Ikuru thanked the youths and pleaded with politicians not to play games with issues of development that would be to betterment of the common people.
“What we will appeal is that every Rivers man and woman who loves this state should help the Rivers State Government put more projects on the ground and reduce the distraction,” adding that, “since we came on board, our interest has been projects, projects, projects. These are projects that touch on the lives of our people”.
Commending the “good” conduct of the youths, Amaechi noted that “one of the beautiful things we have done in this state in the last six years is to instill discipline in our youths and to make the youths of this state come to the government to lay their complaints when they are angry, instead of carrying guns or going into the creeks”.
On his part, the Speaker, Amachree admonished the youths to be law abiding, stating that the House of Assembly is in order, emphasising that five members cannot impeach the Speaker. He encouraged them to support Amaechi.
Earlier, some of the youths who spoke at the event noted that Amaechi has brought peace to the state, stating that they have come to show their unflinching support for the governor and to tell him to keep up the good work.
Meanwhile, just as the crisis among the youths was raging, the 27 pro-Amaechi lawmakers out of 32 in the State House of Assembly pledged total support and loyalty to Governor Amaechi and urged him to remain firm and not be distracted.
The 27 pro-Amaechi lawmakers reaffirmed their undivided support and loyalty to Amaechi during a breakfast meeting with the governor in Government House, Port Harcourt on Wednesday. Those unavoidably absent were Hon. Chidi Lloyd (House Leader) and Hon. Benibo Anabraba, both hospitalised for injuries sustained when the five anti-Amaechi lawmakers came with their thugs and disrupted the Assembly’s sitting on Tuesday, while Hon. Golden Chioma was away on official assignment.
All the 24 pro-Amaechi lawmakers present reaffirmed their support for him and lauded him for not being distracted. They described his achievements as unprecedented and rapped those fighting him for his fairness and uprightness. They also predicted his victory with God on his side. They again refuted the claim by the five anti-Amaechi lawmakers that the Speaker was impeached.
Amachree in his solidarity remarks reaffirmed the total loyalty and support to the governor and said the House leadership was intact.
“I want to reaffirm our total loyalty to you, your Excellency as a House.”
“We also want to let you know that there was no impeachment yesterday (Tuesday). I still remain the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly and the other principal officers are still there,” he said.
Also speaking, the Deputy Speaker and member representing Khana 2 State Constituency, Hon Kwanee Leyii reassured that they would continue to back Amaechi, also noting that there was no change in the House leadership.
“The leadership of the current 7th Assembly is totally intact and there is no change. We came to further reassure you (Amaechi) that the 7th Assembly is solidly behind you and together we will push in ensuring that our people receive the best in terms of democratic dividends. We are very proud of you in the manner in which you have conducted yourself so far even in the face of all the provocation.”
Former Speaker and member representing Degema Constituency, Hon. Tonye Harry in his remarks restated that the Assembly would not desert Amaechi and disproved the impeachment claim by the dissident lawmakers.
“Rivers State House of Assembly is still one under the leadership of Rt. Hon. Otelemaba Dan Amaechree. I want to assure you (Amaechi) that all of us (27 pro-Amaechi lawmakers out of 32) will continue to support you till the end of your second tenure,” he said.
For the female member representing Port Harcourt Constituency I, Hon. Victoria Nyeche, Amaechi had shown respect for rule of law and maturity in dealing with the crisis in the state.
“I want to join my colleagues to commend His Excellency for his maturity and for specially showing that he has respect for the rule of law, that’s why he brought that small amendment to the House yesterday (Tuesday) for us to do the virement. As a House, we are together; we have just one Speaker and he is Rt. Hon. Otelemaba Dan Amachree.
“As the representative of Port Harcourt Constituency I, we say that we are proud of the Government of Rivers State led by His Excellency, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi. We will continue to support him in our prayers and in our actions. We will continue to work with him to give Rivers people the dividends of democracy which they desire and deserve.”
Hon. Wanjoku Chikere Azubike of Ikwerre Constituency and his counterpart from Ahoada West, Hon. Chigbo Eligwe expressed the commitment of the Assembly to the Amaechi administration and described the impeachment claim as false.
Azubike said: “We stand solidly behind the Speaker, Rivers State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Otelemaba Dan Amachreee. We will stand behind the Amaechi government. We will represent the Rivers people. We will stand for democracy.”
“The leadership of the House is very intact, we are loyal to Rt. Hon. Otelemaba Dan Amachree, by extension we are completely loyal to His Excellency, the Governor of Rivers State. I want to remind all of us that this is the first administration where you can see the presence of projects in almost all the nooks and crannies of the state,” Eligwe said.
In his remarks, Chief G. U. Ake commended Amaechi for his distinct leadership style and unparalleled achievements and commended the legislators for faithfully supporting the governor despite alleged plans by the opposition to buy over their loyalty for the governor.
Amaechi used the occasion to stress the need for good working relationship between the executive and the legislature. On the crisis rocking the state, he said there was no need for placing the state under the current siege.
“I thank you for joining me to have this breakfast. It is becoming slightly difficult for members to legislate for the state because of the fact that the police is not able to protect you and because of the fact that the police appear to be on one side and if I did not come with my security yesterday (Tuesday), only God knows what would have happened, but please it’s important that as a House and as a state, that we work together and ensure that we don’t allow anybody distract us because at the end of the day the assessment will not be based on who fought us and what was the reason for fighting us, it’s what did we deliver to our people. I say to you that there’s the need for you to continue to remain together.
“I’ve advised the Commissioner for Health to ensure that all those who are hospitalised are taken care of, even it there is a need to fly them out of the country we would fly them out of the country, but we hope that the Federal Government would know that there is no need for the siege on the Rivers people because of political interest.”
Indeed, the National Assembly might have taken over the functions of the Rivers State House of Assembly to avoid further breakdown of law and order. But the question is, will that solve the problem in the state? Will the Obio/Akpor local government council premises sealed for almost three months now be reopened and the sackeed elected officers returned?