- Reps: grounding of aircraft is dictatorship
- Senator flays lawmakers’ suspension
A grand plot in which five lawmakers will impeach Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi, provoke anarchy and pave the way for emergency rule has been uncovered, Assembly Speaker Otelemaba Amachree said yesterday. There are 32 members in the House.
Amachree accused the Felix Obuah –led faction of the local Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of plotting to plunge the state into confusion.
According to Amachree, a fake mace has been smuggled into the state for an emergency session by anti-Amaechi lawmakers.
The House adjourned sine die on April 23.
“The statement reads: “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 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.
“Furthermore, there are strong indications that some persons have been detailed exclusively to create systemic collapse of security in the state, putting lives and property in danger.
“This is undemocratic , unacceptable and a complete violation of the mandate that the good people of Rivers State have vested on us.
“We call on the good people of Rivers State to remain calm, watchful and law-abiding as the scenario unfolds. “
Also yesterday, the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, yesterday in Port Harcourt, disclosed that the jet grounded by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) had been flying since October 2012. It was bought by the government and registered as a US aircraft.
The representative of the Rivers Southeast Senatorial District in the National Assembly, Senator Magnus Ngei Abe, a lawyer and an ally of Amaechi, who wants to succeed him in 2015, described Monday’s suspension of 27 of the 32 members of Rivers House of Assembly loyal to the governor, by the Obuah-led PDP executive as “ridiculous”.
It should be ignored. Nobody could intimidate the legislature”, Abe said.
A close associate of Amaechi, Prince Tonye Princewill, who is also interested in the governorship race, said “for now”, the Rivers chairman of the PDP is Obuah and would remain so, until there is another court judgment, especially that of the Court of Appeal.
Mrs Semenitari, responding to inquiries on the state of the Bombardier BD 700 Global Express jet, said: “The Rivers State government has noticed with dismay, a series of statements attributed to officials of different agencies in the aviation sector on the status of the aircraft belonging to the Rivers State government.
“It is pertinent to note that all of the information and queries about this aircraft have only been through the mass media. The Rivers State government has not received any communication from the Ministry of Aviation or any of its agencies, querying the status of its aircraft, even up till this moment.
“The Rivers State government is surprised to read about matters of administrative procedure and allegations of illegality and abuse of process in the media.
“The Rivers State government wishes to note that the news conference and the various issues raised arose only after the embarrassing incident of a delay of the aircraft and its passengers at Akure on Friday, April 26, 2013.
“The Rivers State government wishes to note also that the issues raised during the news conference will be the third reason adduced for the delay of the Rivers State government’s aircraft in Akure.
“However, for purposes of clarification and in keeping with its policy of rendering ‘transparent and accountable stewardship’ to Rivers people, we would wish to state the following: for the avoidance of doubt: Aircraft N 566 RS arrived Nigeria and has been operating since October 2012. It was bought by Rivers State government and registered as a US aircraft in the first instance, to preserve value and provide ease of operation and sourcing of available pilots.
“To qualify for N registration, operator must be a US citizen, hence, Rivers State government entered into a trust with Bank of Utah Inc, a bank that specialises in aircraft trust. The relationship between the Rivers State government and Bank of Utah is that of a trustor and trustee. All N registered aircraft enjoy the privileges of a US citizen,
“Trust agreement for the purpose of N registration is common in the aviation industry. It is important to state that there are other aircraft owners in Nigeria with N registered aircraft. This practice is because of the ease of movement that N registered aircraft are privileged to enjoy. We do not therefore understand why Rivers State government has been singled out.
“The clearance referred to was Port Harcourt-Accra-Port Harcourt and not Accra-Port Harcourt-Accra, as stated. Aircraft was being operated through a local operator, Caverton Helicopters, pending approval of importation licence by the Minister of Aviation.
“Request for this licence was filed by the operator, on behalf of the Rivers State government and this was expressly stated in the request filed on August 27, 2012 and received in the minister’s (aviation) office on September 4, 2012.
“The Rivers State government is a responsible sub-national and guardian of the resources of its people. It will at all times and in all circumstances act within the confines of the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Princewill, who was the governorship candidate of the then Action Congress (AC) in Rivers State in 2007, now a PDP chieftain and the son of the immediate Chairman of Rivers Council of Traditional Rulers, King Theophilus Princewill, at a crowded news conference in his old Government Reservation Area (GRA) residence, urged politicians to give peace a chance.
Abe expressed displeasure over the suspension of the 27 legislators by the Obuah-led executive .
The senator, who was Secretary to the Rivers State Government (SSG) until 2011, said: “It is ridiculous and it is clear that the so-called PDP exco that has been foisted on the state is there only to try to destroy the party, because anybody who is a legislator will tell you that nobody, by the laws of this country, is supposed to try to intimidate the legislature in the execution of their constitutional duties.
“So, what this amounts to is a clear effort by somebody to undermine the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It has never happened anywhere.
“Even in the House of Representatives, when the party came to prevail on the PDP members in the National Assembly to elect somebody as speaker and they elected somebody else, nobody suspended all the PDP members of the House of Representatives, because everybody understands that a lawmaker is supposed to vote his conscience at critical times.
“That is the foundation of our presidential system of government. We are not in a parliamentary democracy, where the party can order you to vote one way or the other.
“So, it is a ridiculous action and I want to urge Rivers people to ignore it and urge the House of Assembly to ignore it and go about their constitutional responsibilities. Nobody can intimidate the legislature in this country.
“My message to Rivers people is to remain calm. They should not allow themselves to be provoked, because what is going on is that people want to create crisis in Rivers State by all means.
“We know where it is coming from and we know what it is targeted at. This state has witnessed unprecedented peace and development over the last few years and we should be careful that we are not in any way deceived to throw all that overboard.”
The senator, who once served as an Information Commissioner, also assured that by the grace of God, the intervention of higher courts and well-meaning Nigerians, justice would be ensured. He stressed that the crude oil and gas-rich state was too precious to be destroyed on the altar of personal ambition of anybody, no matter how highly placed.
Abe was apparently referring to Wike, a former Chief of Staff, Government House, Port Harcourt, who doubled as the Director-General of Amaechi Campaign Organisation in 2011. Wike is to succeed Amaechi in 2015. He is believed to enjoy backing of President Goodluck Jonathan. The governor and the minister are both Ikwerre.
As Obuah was suspending the 27 members on Monday, a Port Harcourt High Court, presided over by Justice Henry Aprioku, was granting an order of interim injunction, restraining the PDP from suspending the pro-Amaechi lawmakers.
The court directed that the order should stand, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice. It also granted an interim injunction, restraining the party from declaring the legislators’ seats vacant and applying to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct elections to replace them.
Counsel to the legislators, Emenike Ebete, filed the motion. The leader of the House of Assembly, Chidi Llyod, swore to the affidavit on April 26, with the case adjourned till May 6 for hearing and determination of the motion on notice.