It is not yet uhuru in Rivers State as the political waters keep ruffling daily. There’s hue and cry against the 8-point communique for peace between Governor Siminalayi Funbara and his predecessor Chief Nyesom Wike, Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, as brokered by President Bola Tinubu. Since the governor’s return from Abuja, there has
It is not yet uhuru in Rivers State as the political waters keep ruffling daily. There’s hue and cry against the 8-point communique for peace between Governor Siminalayi Funbara and his predecessor Chief Nyesom Wike, Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, as brokered by President Bola Tinubu.
Since the governor’s return from Abuja, there has been one form of protest or another showing resistance and objection to the agreement reached by the people of the state. The agreement is widely believed to be tilted against the incumbent Governor Fubara. The matter was accentuated by an interview granted by a former Commissioner, David Briggs, who described what transpired at the meeting and revealed how the so-called agreement was “a presidential proclamation” more or less forced on the attendees including Gov Fubara and Wike. But a proclamation is a formal public statement. It doesn’t mean it’s a law.
In the agreement, many things were forced down the throat of Governor Sim Fubara. He signed to continue working with hostile 8 Commissioners who openly disgraced and embarrassed him saying it’s against ‘their personal principles’ to continue working with the Governor. He signed to return parliamentarians who defected from the PDP to the APC and had their seats consequently declared vacant. A lot of constitutional lawyers argue that that is beyond a presidential proclamation. They submit it is for the judiciary to make a pronouncement.
Since the agreement was made public, there has been a plethora of reactions, meetings and protests showing the disenchantment of the people. The biggest statement was a massive protest blocking the entrances to the Government House in Port Harcourt on Friday (22/12), where speakers told the governor their resentment to the agreement and demonstrated their support and loyalty to him.
Workers in the state said they trooped out in solidarity with the governor and to show appreciation to him for his love demonstrated to them to facilitate an enjoyable Christmas. Governor Sim Fubara had a few days earlier approved a N100,000.00 bonus for all workers in the state and the money was credited to their accounts prompt.
There are already instituted legal suits challenging some contents of the agreement. These actions are not necessarily from the Governor’s camp as he has publicly told Riverians that he signed those agreements and didn’t sign under duress. He said there is no sacrifice too much to engender peace in the state. A group known as Rivers Elders and Political leaders in a statement said that the “directives in the agreement contravene the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which Mr. President swore to uphold at all times. The directives unilaterally suspended the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria” by virtue of an attempt to reverse a court order recognizing Rt. Honourable Edison Ehie as the speaker of the House of Assembly.
“Finally, the Forum condemns in its entirety, the directives for the resolution of the political crisis in Rivers State. 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”. The communique was read by former Rivers State Governor, His Excellency, Chief Rufus Ada George
While the Wike camp has started deconstructing what they did to unruffle the governor, there has not been a corresponding response from the Sim Fubara camp despite not repudiating the agreement. The 27 Assembly members have halted their impeachment notice and have gone to court to withdraw their suit. The Martin Amaewhule and his 25 friends through their Counsel, Chief Ferdinand Orbih SAN, informed the Rivers State High Court in Isiokpo that they are withdrawing their case in response to the suit filed by Governor Siminalayi Fubara.
But D. O Okoro SAN, who is the Counsel of the petitioner (Governor Siminalayi Fubara) informed the court that his client (Fubara) did not instruct him to withdraw the suit he filed against Martins Amaehwule and his friends to bar them from proceeding with any impeachment proceedings.
Rivers Elders Drag Tinubu, Fubara, INEC, Others to Court
It does not appear that all frayed nerves are calming down yet. A group of six Rivers state elders has proceeded to court to seek order for fresh poll to replace G27 lawmakers while asking the Court to declare the peace agreement as unconstitutional. The Plaintiffs, led by a member of the Rivers State House of Assembly representing Bonny State Constituency, Hon. Victor Okon Jumbo, are; Senator Bennett Birabi, Senator Andrew Uchendu, Rear Admiral O.P. Fingesi, Ann Kio Briggs and Emmanuel Deinma.
They want the court to among other things, determine whether President Tinubu, governor Fubara and the Rivers State Assembly, have the rights and are entitled to enter into any agreement that has the effect of nullifying or undermining the constitutional/legal potency of the provisions of Section 109 (I) (g) and (2) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
They contended that neither President Tinubu nor governor Fubara has the statutory powers to stop the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, from conducting fresh election to replace the 27 Rivers State lawmakers that defected from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to the All Progressives Congress, APC.
Amongst their affidavits, they submit: “That only five (5) Honourable members of the Rivers State House of Assembly remained with the PDP, as they did not defect/decamp to the APC but remained as members of the PDP and as valid members of the Rivers State House of Assembly.
“While the whole issues/disputes were on going, sometime in December, 2023, the Executive Governor of Rivers (Mr. Sim Fubara) presented the 2024 Appropriation Bill to the five (5) member House of Assembly headed by the said Mr. Edison Ehie.
“That on the 18th of December, 2023, while the whole crisis was still ongoing, the 1st Defendant (Tinubu) invited all the warring parties (which includes the 3rd Defendant (Fubara), the former Governor (Wike) and some other persons) so as to settle the brewing issues between the disputing parties.
The Plaintiffs maintained that a member of the House of Assembly who has relinquished membership of a political party which sponsored him during the term for which he was elected, is mandated by law to vacate his seat in the House.
“That the 27 members of the Rivers State House of Assembly having relinquished their membership of PDP and joined the APC are legally mandated by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) to vacate their seats as members of the House of Assembly.
“That the Agreement between the 1st and 3 rd Defendant is unconstitutional and a usurpation, nullification and undermining of the extant/binding relevant provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as Amended).
Apart from seeking the declaration of seats of the 27 lawmakers vacant, the Plaintiffs, in the suit they filed through their team of lawyers led by Dr. Olukayode Ajulo, SAN, want INEC to pursuant to the provisions of section 116 (I) and (2) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, conduct an election to fill up the seats.
They further want: “An order of perpetual injunction restraining the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Defendants from ever interfering with the affairs of the Rivers State House of Assembly presided over by the 4th Defendant and thereby allow the 4th Defendant to superintend over and fully take charge of the affairs of the Rivers State House of Assembly pursuant to the superior and extant provisions of sections 92, 93, 94 and 109 (I) and (2) Of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as Amended).”
The Fears Real and Unreal
Again, the people are asking: What is the power tussle all about? Because the governor has not committed any offence known to the law and visible to the eyes. Is it about the people of Rivers state and the development of their state? The answer that seens to be resonating is that former governor Wike still wants to be in control of state resources and its administration through what he called his political structures. What is President Tinubu’s interest in all of these and why proclaim a one-sided agreement in favour of Wike at the expense of the constitution? The answer is two-fold: the politics of 2027 and one good turn deserves another. A repayment of 2023 elections favour done Tinubu by Wike.
It is believed that Governor Fubara is being intimidated from Abuja using two subtle threats namely: Capacity to intervene in the Election Petition case pending at the Supreme Court and how the Tinubu government could turn the tide against him and the Rivers people the second is the capacity of the Wike camp to organize counter protests thereby leading to clashes and a breakdown of law and order which could trigger a declaration of state of emergency. Whichever way it goes, there will be consequences, the dimension of which is unpredictable.