National Assembly moves motion to take over Rivers State’s legislature

by Rachel Ogbu

Pro and anti-Amaechi supporters in Port Harcourt... on Wednesday (Photo: NAN)
Pro and anti-Amaechi supporters in Port Harcourt… on Wednesday (Photo: NAN)

Following the political showdown in the Rivers State House of Assembly that has left the nation speechless, the House of Representatives on Wednesday supported a motion  to take over the functions of Rivers State’s legislature.

Albert Sam-Tsokwa (Taraba State) moved the motion at the National Assembly quoting Section 11 (4) of the 1999 Constitution which reads:

“At any time when any House of Assembly of a state is unable to perform its functions by reason of  the situation prevailing in the state, the National Assembly may make such laws for the peace, order and good government of that state with respect to matters on which a House of Assembly may make laws as may appear to the National Assembly to be necessary or expedient until such time as the House of Assembly is able to resume its functions; and any such laws enacted by the National Assembly pursuant to this section shall have effect as if they were laws enacted by the House of Assembly of the state.”

According to reports, the meeting was presided over by Deputy Speaker Emeka Ihedioha, and members agreed  that  the crisis in the  Assembly had led to a breakdown of law and order, making it impossible for the Assembly  to perform its legislative duties.

[READ: Rivers impeachment crisis: Jonathan is too big to fight Amaechi – Presidency ]

The Punch reports:

However, the resolution requires the concurrence of the Senate to have the force of law.

Sam-Tsokwa’s original motion sought to “condemn” the crisis and the alleged backing of the State Police Command.

Sam-Sokwa called on the IG, to beef up security  in  the Assembly to enable the lawmakers  to carry out their  constitutional duties.

But, members amended the motion by seeking to invoke Section 11(4) of the Constitution and directing the IG to redeploy Mbu.

The amendments proposed by a member from Benue State, Mr. Emmanuel Jime, were approved in a majority voice vote at the session.

•  Rivers lawmakers shouted down

However, rowdiness preceded the House’ decision when a member from Rivers State, Mr. Kingsley Chinda, sought to stop it.

Chinda had moved to halt Sam-Tsokwa’s motion midway by advising the House not to take “rash decisions” on the matter.

He recalled that a committee of the House set up to investigate the crisis was already working and that there was no need to jump the gun.

But, he was cut short with shouts of “no”, “no”, “no”; “sit down”, “shut up.”

Chinda’s point of order was overruled by Ihedioha, as angry members pointed fingers at him.

In all, 18 members spoke in support of the motion, especially Jime’s amendments.

Only two members, Chinda, and a former Attorney-General of Rivers State, Mr. Ken Chikere, opposed the motion.

A member from Kano State, Mr. Aminu Suleiman, described the Rivers’ CP as “a threat to democracy.”

•  Senate divided on solution, CP’s fate

In the  Senate, members were in agreement in condemning the fracas that occurred at the Assembly on Tuesday but there was  intense  disagreement  on actions to be taken against the state Commissioner of Police, Joseph Mbu.

The Senate had scheduled to resume the debate on the report of the Review of the 1999 Constitution which began on Tuesday, but went into a closed door session early on Wednesday where the Rivers crisis was the only agenda.

After one and half hours of deliberations, it resumed plenary, with Senator Magnus Abe from Rivers South-East, briefing his colleagues  on  the happenings in the state. He  came  under Order 43 on Matters of Personal Explanation to do so.

The Senate then proposed five resolutions depicting its stand on the crisis, which is to condemn the crisis; send its committee to investigate the matter and report back; urge the warring parties to maintain  the peace; restate  its commitment to the Constitution; and urge the Inspector- General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar,  to address the sour relationship between   Governor Rotimi Amaechi  and  Mba.

President of the Senate, David Mark,  said, “Clearly what is happening in Rivers State is an embarrassment to legislators in  this country.  It is in the interest of state Houses of  Assembly not to do anything that will portray legislators as irresponsible because that is not what we are.

“Clearly  what is happening is totally unacceptable and must be condemned in   strongest possible terms and in its entirety irrespective of who is directly involved or who is behind it.”

Mark also said that it was proper that the Senate took  steps to ensure that  the Assembly was restored to normalcy  so that it could continue  its legislative activities.

He noted that the Senate would send its committee on States and Local Governments to investigate the matter and bring back the facts so that the Senate would  operate on facts and not hearsay.

Mark observed that the relationship between Amaechi and Mba  was not good and called on the IG  to do something about it.

Following the remarks by Mark, the Leader of the Senate, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, read out the Senate’s resolution on the matter.

The Senate then resolved to condemn in strong terms the crisis in the Assembly which it said portended danger to democracy. It also resolved to send its committee to investigate the matter and bring back a report in one week.

It  reechoed the opinion of Mark, that all parties to the crisis should maintain the peace until the Senate conclude its investigations, just as it vowed to uphold the provisions of the Constitution at all times.

But the fifth resolution, which urged Abubakar to take “immediate steps to address the broken relationship between the governor  and the Commissioner of Police ,” sparked discordant tunes.

Majority of the Senators were largely in favour of a resolution that would call for the removal or redeployment of Mbu, arguing that the resolution as put forth by the Leader of the Senate was  too weak.

The first voice vote showed a total rejection of the resolution; but Mark decided to put it again after trying to convince Senators that calling for the removal of the Police Commissioner was the duty of the President.

When the voice vote came the second time and it appeared that the “nays” had it but  Mark withheld ruling, a rowdy session ensued.  The proceedings were  consequently   held up for about 15 minutes.

When normalcy returned,Mark stressed that the Constitution had placed certain responsibility on the IG, which should not be usurped by the Senate.

On that note, he slightly amended the resolution and read it out himself for a final voice vote.

But the voice vote also suggested that the “nays” had it  but Mark ruled that the “yes” had it.

• Senator protests, weeps

When tension began to rise again,    Senator Babajide Omoworare   called for a division, relying on Order 73, which gives a senator the right to contest the ruling of the presiding officer during a voice vote.

Mark acceded   and after another voice vote was taken  he  ruled against the “nays”,  again. Omoworare challenged the ruling   and a division  was consequently called.

After the voting, Mark read out the result as   “nays”  47 and  “yeas” 50.”

Then there was sudden outburst of protest from senators, particularly from the opposition, alleging that the result was manipulated.

While the noise was going on, Omoworare  burst into tears. He removed his cap and wiped his tears with his palms as he protested the result of the division.

Mark, who was obviously disgusted by the protest, noted that senators should maintain decorum and allow the democratic process to prevail.

He said, “If you have any other result, that cannot be valid, this is the authentic result. You must keep to yourselves because we subjected ourselves to this one now. You cannot bring another figure here now, it is not valid. You can go to tribunal, and I am that tribunal.”

Abe  had informed the Senators that the  state  Assembly had not sat since  May 6  when the Rivers State Police Command withdrew its  men from the  Assembly.

Abe said, “However, about 63 days that the Assembly could not sit, its members  received a communication from the Governor that he wanted to come and make some amendments to the  2013  budget and the Assembly wrote to the Police and decided to reconvene after not sitting for 63 days.

“We all know that from our Constitution, two thirds of the members are required to impeach a Speaker or a governor. This incident as disturbing as it is, has ramifications beyond the House of Assembly.  As we speak, the incident has continued to generate tension  in the state.”

• Amachree, Bipi welcome Reps decision

Meanwhile, the Speaker of the Assembly, Otelemaba Amachree, and Leader of the anti-Ameachi lawmakers, Evans Bipi,   have described the  move by the   National Assembly to take over the affairs of the Assembly as a welcome development.

Amachree explained that  it  would pave the way for the lawmakers to stabilise democracy in the state.

“The move by the   the National Assembly to take over the House of Assembly is a welcome development. Every discerning mind will notice that the five lawmakers acted without considering the futility of their action.

“It (House of Representatives decision) is very well in order. Without security, the State House of Assembly will not be able to sit and it is good that they decided to get into the mix of the issue and help to stabilise it,” Amachree said.

Similarly, Bipi explained that the intervention of the National Assembly would help to strengthen democracy in the state.

He  however  said he would seek  advice from his lawyers to know the next line of action to take.

“I am not opposed to their (National Assembly) decision because it will help to strengthen democracy in the state. But I will consult my lawyers,” he added.

• Rivers PDP kicks

But the  Peoples Democratic Party in Rivers State has condemned the decision of  the House to take  over the affairs of the   Assembly.

The State Chairman of the PDP, Mr. Felix Obuah, said the  move  did not reflect the total view of the people of  the state.

It said, “Rivers PDP condemns the action of the House of Representatives in its totality. The Federal lawmakers should not take over the functions of the members of the Rivers House of Assembly.”

It said, “Rivers PDP condemns the action of the House of Representatives in its totality. The Federal lawmakers should not take over the functions of the members of the Rivers House of Assembly.”


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