• Monday, July 22, 2024
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BusinessDay

Rivers Crisis: Council tenure expiration: Police officer, one other killed

Rivers crisis: Eight bullets at Sim Fubara?

… Fubara meets security chiefs

… Rejects suspected clampdown on his supporters

An emergency Security Council meeting was held in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, on Tuesday, over the escalating crisis in some local councils of the state.

This was as a police officer and one vigilance operative were confirmed killed in the ensuing crisis. The Rivers State police command confirmed the deaths but did not give details.

Some sources said the killing took place in Omuma LGA and that police from the Government House unit may have been involved in a fracas that resulted in the deaths.

Photos of injured persons have also emerged on social media but the Rivers APC boss, Tony Okocha, said the dogs have been let loose in the state, meaning that thugs, not youths, were the ones on rampage.

The summoning of the security council meeting by Governor Sim Fubara was said to be in response to the escalating political tension in the state following the expiration of the tenure of the local government chairmen.

The closed-door session was said to have focused on escalating tensions at local government secretariats and the overall security situation in the state.

Addressing reporters after the closed-door meeting, Fubara said the meeting was to devise effective strategies to prevent further invasions of local government offices.

The governor added that one of the agenda of the meeting was to ensure the stability and continuity of governmental functions across the state.

Fubara, therefore, warned the immediate past council chairmen against planning to unlawfully return to their previous positions.

He stated, “It is crucial that we respect the rule of law and the democratic transitions that uphold our governance structures.”

Fubara raised the alarm over an alleged plot by his political adversaries to target and arrest his supporters, promising to safeguard all residents of the state and their properties.

He added, “Anyone attempting to make such arrests will have to confront me directly.”

Violence erupted when most council chairmen locked up the secretariats in their decision not to leave office because of the alleged extension offered them by the Martins Amaewhule faction (defected) lawmakers.

Fubara sounded furious; saying whatever it took to preserve his supporters would be done. He said the law made it clear there was no extension of tenure, insisting that the tenure of the council chairmen has elapsed. “Whoever is assuring them of extension is lying. Whatever it takes to maintain peace I will do it. We do not know anybody in Abuja. We only know the media in Rivers State.”

There have been injured persons but APC sources said they were passers-by.

There is no evidence of resistance by the APC group so far. The police are said to occupy some secretariats such as Obio/Akpor where the head bust statue of former governor, Nyesom Wike, has been pulled down.

Other sources said matters may come to a head on June 20, when the Appeal Court in Port Harcourt is expected to a declaration on the pending case of the tenure extension of the outgoing council chairmen.

The oil-rich state was thrown into a crisis on Tuesday, with gunshots emanating from some council secretariats, following the expiration of the tenure of the chairmen of the 23 local government areas of the state, the majority of whom had vowed not to vacate their offices.

Allwell Ihunda, chairman of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON), River State chapter, who doubles as chairman of Port Harcourt City Local Government Area, was among those chased away by protesting youths who had gathered at the council secretariat to prevent the chairman from gaining access.

Ihunda was chased along Moscow Road in Port Harcourt, the state capital, as he tried making his way to the council secretariat with some aides and security details. Sensing danger, Ihunda made a quick retreat but was chased by the youths. His security aides, however, resisted the youths as they shot into the air to disperse them.

Earlier in the day, Governor Siminalayi Fubara, in a state-wide broadcast, directed heads of administration in the 23 LGAs to assume the councils’ leadership, as the tenure of chairmen expired at midnight on Monday. Fubara thanked the chairmen for their service to the state and wished them well in their future endeavours.

The state ALGON had vowed not to vacate office after the expiration of their tenure on June 17. The chairmen, elected under Nyesom Wike’s administration as governor, had cited the local government amendment law made by the Martin Amaewhule-led House of Assembly. The law extends their tenure by six months due to the failure of Governor Siminalayi Fubara to conduct local government elections.

The pro-Wike legislators had amended the local government law to extend the tenure of elected chairmen and councillors by six months if elections were not conducted before the end of their term.

But the state High Court later barred the assemblymen from parading themselves as members of Rivers State House of Assembly after they defected from the PDP to the APC.

The court also nullified laws passed by the Martin Amaewhule-led factional assembly and declared their seats vacant after they openly defected to the opposition APC in December.

Subsequently, the 27 lawmakers took the matter to the Court of Appeal which would decide the fate of the embattled legislators and LG chairmen on June 20.