Court stops suspension of 27 Rivers PDP lawmakers



THE internal crisis in the Rivers State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party festered on Tuesday with the suspended 27 lawmakers in the state House of Assembly obtaining a court injunction against the party.

Also, the Speaker of the Rivers House of Assembly, Otelemaba Amachree, on Tuesday raised the alarm that the state PDP exco under Felix Obuah was plotting to cause breakdown of law and order in the state by coercing five members of the Assembly into impeaching Governor Rotimi Amaechi.

The Rivers Asssembly is made up of 32 lawmakers, out of which the 27 said to be loyal to Amaechi were on Monday suspended by the Obuah-led PDP exco. The 27 received the hammer for their alleged failure to reverse the suspension of the chairman, vice-chairman and 17 councilors of Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of the state.

Amachree, in a statement in Port Harcourt, alleged that a fake mace had been smuggled into the state to facilitate the sitting of the five lawmakers.

He further alleged that some persons had been detailed to create systemic collapse of security in the state and put the lives and property of the people in danger.

The Speaker’s statement read, “The Leadership and members of the Rivers State House of Assembly wish to bring to the notice of the people of Rivers State and Nigerians some of the dangerous moves by the Felix Obuah -led PDP to cause general chaos and confusion in Rivers State.

“We have been reliably informed that a fake mace has been smuggled into the state to enable five members of the house to hold an emergency session even when the house adjourned sine die on Tuesday, April 23, 2013.

“The Abuja plan on ground is to falsely impeach the Rt. Hon. Speaker and the Executive Governor of Rivers State, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, and create confusion through varied responses, which they hope will make the state ungovernable and provide them with some kind of warped basis to introduce Emergency Rule in Rivers State.”

Obuah has however denied involvement in any move to impeach Amaechi, saying he had no such power to supervise the impeachment of the governor.

“By virtue of my position as the state PDP chairman, I have no power to impeach the governor. I know the powers of my office as a party chairman. I only told him (Amaechi) to explain the ownership of the plane. The party has no constitutional right to impeach the governor,” Obuah said.

The Obuah-led exco had on Monday queried Amaechi, asking the governor to within 48 hours explain the circumstances surrounding the grounding of a plane belonging to the state government over non-registration questions.

But Amaechi on Tuesday dismissed the PDP query which he described as “sad and laughable.”

The court order obtained by the lawmakers restrained the State Executive Council of the PDP, led by Obuah, from executing its suspension of the legislators from the party.

The Majority Leader in the Rivers Assembly and one of the lawmakers affected by the party’s suspension order, Chidi Lloyd, had on Friday, April 26, 2013, asked a High Court in Port Harcourt to stop the state PDP from suspending himself and his colleagues from the party.

Lloyd’s action came on the heels of an earlier threat by the Obuah-led PDP executive to suspend some members of the House if they refused to rescind their decision on the suspension of Obio-Akpor Council Chairman, Mr. Timothy Nsirim.

Justice Henry Aprioku, while granting the prayer of the lawmakers, restrained Obuah and his secretary, Mr. Ibibia Walters, from declaring the affected Assembly members’ seats vacant.

Aprioku also restrained the leadership of the party from applying to the Independent National Electoral Commission to conduct elections to replace them, pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit that would be heard on May 6, 2013.

In the Suit No. PHC/901/2013, Justice Aprioku granted leave to the affected lawmakers to serve the 1st defendant, PDP, at Wadata Plaza, Plot 1970, Wuse, Zone 5, Abuja, “outside the jurisdiction of the court” or by substituted means by pasting the writ of summons or other processes at the PDP National Headquarters at Wadata Plaza, in Abuja.

He also granted the prayers of the 27 lawmakers to serve Obuah and Opuene, 2nd and 3rd defendants, by substituted means by pasting the writ of summons at the PDP state secretariat located at No. 23, Aba Road, Port Harcourt.

Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, said Obuah had no locus standi to query the state governor on the purchase of the aircraft.

Semenitari, who spoke in an interview with The PUNCH on Tuesday, said Obuah’s position as the chairman of the PDP was still in contention in the court, noting that a court in Okehi, Etche Local Government Area, had recognised the Chief Godspower Ake-led executive as the authentic leader of the ruling party in the state.

The commissioner argued that since there were two different rulings from two courts on the same issue, it was necessary to wait for the verdict of the Court of Appeal.

She said, “He (Obuah) has no locus standi to seek explanation from the governor on the aircraft as the chairman of the party.

“As for his allegations against the governor, they (allegations) are laughable at best and sad at worst. Of course, he (Obuah) can get such explanation as a citizen of the state, but not as the chairman of any political party.

“At best, he (Obuah) can be called a factional chairman of the PDP because we have two rulings from two different courts. So, it is necessary to wait for the Appeal Court judgment. For now, he is not the chairman of the state PDP.”

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives on Tuesday asked its Joint Committee on Aviation and Justice to investigate the grounding of a Rivers State Government jet by the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency.

The House asked to know what led to the agency’s action and for its committee to submit a comprehensive report within two weeks.

The grounding of the Bombardier B700 by NAMA has generated controversies in the country, with many reading politics into the matter.

The House decision followed a motion on matters of urgent public importance moved by a lawmaker from Plateau State, Mr. Ahmed Idris.

Idris told his colleagues that NAMA’s action appeared to be a “witch-hunt” of persons “perceived to be political opponents” of the Federal Government.

He accused the executive arm of government of abuse of power, adding that it smacked of “dictatorship.”

The lawmaker noted, “The incident raises serious issues as to the abuse of power by the executive and the use of state machinery to victimise perceived political opponents.

“It is detrimental to any democracy and tends towards dictatorship and the draconian tendencies typical of the military era.

“It smacks of impunity, lawlessness and political vendetta.”

Members in a majority voice vote mandated the committee to “extensively investigate the justification and circumstances surrounding the grounding of the Rivers State Government aircraft and report back to the House within two weeks”.

Source: Punch



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