• Sunday, July 14, 2024
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Tenure expiration: Crisis rocks Rivers as youths storm LGAs, chase chairmen out

Rivers: Putting the “Sim Card” in the phone’s emergency mode

…Police deploy armed operatives

…Fubara asks LG heads of admin to oversee councils

Rivers State was on Tuesday thrown into a crisis, 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.

Read also: Rivers: Amaechi’s APC faction fingers members who allegedly sold out in 2019

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 leadership of the councils, 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.

Recall that the state ALGON had vowed not to vacate office after the expiration of their tenure on June 17. The chairmen, who were elected under the administration of Nyesom Wike 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.

But standing with Fubara against the pro-Wike council chairmen, the protesting youths invaded Asari Toru, Akuku Toru, Degema and Andoni LGA offices, and locked the gates, insisting that the outgoing chairmen must vacate office.

In Degema, the protesters chanted war songs and appeared battle-ready to stop the chairman from remaining in office after his tenure.

Read also: The Ides of June: Last hope of Rivers LGA chairmen hangs on Supreme Court as Appeal Court in PH fails to stop Fubara

In Asri Toru LGA, hordes of youth took over the council’s headquarters, issuing threats against the chairman and challenging him to show up on Wednesday after the Eid-el Kabir holidays.

At Port Harcourt City and Obio/Akpor LGAs offices, heightened security presence deterred protesters with seven police patrol vans and armed personnel guarding the council offices to avert chaos.

Meanwhile, Olatunji Disu, the commissioner of police in Rivers, has assured that steps had been taken to prevent a breakdown of law and order. He said that the police were aware of an attempted invasion of the council offices and had deployed personnel to forestall any chaos.

“We are aware of the crises and court orders, but we urge restraint till June 20 (when the Appeal Court will deliver judgment on the LG tussle).

“We expect everyone to await the decision of the court. No one should take the laws into his or her hands. We have deployed operatives to various strategic locations to uphold order and ensure public safety. So, we are performing our duties,” emphasised. Disu warned against defying the law and advised parents to deter their children and wards from unlawful actions.