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Rivers Crisis : Heads May Roll As PDP, LP Move To Unseat 27 APC Defected Lawmakers



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From Joshua Chibuzo Andrew

The Peoples Democratic Party and the Labour Party on Monday, said it would write the Independent National Election today (Tuesday) to demand fresh elections to replace its 27 members in the Rivers State House of Assembly who defected to the All Progressives Congress.

A total of 27 members of the House elected on the PDP platform on Monday, defected to the APC and threatened to reject the requests of the state Governor, Siminalayi Fubara, for approval.

The reason adduced for their defection, according to the letters written to the Speaker, Martin Amaewhule, and read on the floor of the House, was predicated on the division in the party as regards the tussle for the position of the National Secretary of the PDP, which had made communications channels difficult.

Prior to the 2023 governorship election in the state, Nyesom Wike, then governor of the state had reportedly bought forms for dozens of PDP stalwarts including Fubara as governorship aspirants.

But Wike was reported to have picked Fubara, who was then Accountant General of the state, a situation which created ripples among party leaders who said Fubara was not a politician and was not part of the struggle.

But Fubara and his predecessor fell apart a few months ago when lawmakers loyal to Wike moved to impeach the incumbent governor. Amidst the crisis, a section of the state House of Assembly was gutted by fire.

The moves to impeach the governor led to a division in the House, with Speaker, Amaewhule leading the majority while House Leader, Edison Ehie, led another faction.

Reacting to the defection of the lawmakers, the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, in an interview with newsmen on Monday, revealed that the party would explore all options to reclaim its seats in the state House of Assembly.

Ologunagba, who described the PDP as a law-abiding party, said, “We will write to INEC tomorrow (Tuesday) to make our position known.”

When asked what the party would do if INEC failed to grant its request, the PDP publicity secretary replied, “You cannot pre-empt our steps and our party. We know the law and we understand it. We will take a state at a time. What I can assure you is that the PDP will explore all options.”

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Earlier in a statement, Ologunagba declared that by defecting from the PDP, the seats of the respective 27 lawmakers had become vacant by virtue of the provision of Section 109 (1) (g) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.

“For the avoidance of doubt, Section 109 (1) of the 1999 Constitution provides that “a member of a House of Assembly shall vacate his seat in the House if … (g) being a person whose election to the House of Assembly was sponsored by a political Party, he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which that House was elected, the party added.’’

Ologunagba added that in the interpretation by the Supreme Court, the 27 defected members had vacated and lost their seats, rights, privileges, recognition, and obligations accruable to members of the Rivers State House of Assembly.

But the governor kept mum as the lawmakers defected to the APC.

The governor who presided over a state executive council meeting on Monday, where the N800bn budget estimate for 2024 was approved, did not say anything about the defection of the lawmakers from his party.

It was observed that during Monday’s plenary when the state legislators took the decision to defect, the session was held under heavy security provided by the police at about 8am.

Also during the sitting, the House gave a Second Reading to the Rivers State Local Government Law (Amendment) Bill, 2023, which was sponsored by the Leader of the House and Member representing Akuku Toru Constituency, Majority Jack.

Debating on the bill, members were in one accord that some sections of the principal law that were repugnant to democratic ethos should be amended to ensure that elected Local Government officials were not at the mercy or whims and caprices of any single individual.

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The Speaker committed the bill to the House Committee on Local Government to conduct a public hearing and make further legislative inputs within two weeks.

Also, the House adopted a motion sponsored by 26 members and moved by the member representing Omuma constituency in the House, Sylvanus Nwankwo, to condemn the refusal of the state governor to hand over suspects that set fire on the hallowed Chamber of the Assembly to security agencies, and the seizure of funds for the management of the Assembly.

Adopting the prayers of the motion, the House in strong terms condemned the unlawful attack on members and the Rivers State Assembly as an institution.

They called on the state governor to without further delay hand over the factional Speaker, Edison Ehie, Chijioke Ihunwo, and others they termed suspects associated with the explosion at the Assembly.

While calling on the governor to immediately release funds meant for the management of the Assembly for the month of November 2023, they stressed that henceforth the House would decline requests from Fubara for approval, since his actions were no longer in tandem with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution as amended, and other extant laws of the state.

Reacting to the defection, the spokesman for the dissolved APC Executive Council in Rivers State, Darlington Nwauju, said the party had been vindicated by the defection of the PDP lawmakers.

Nwauju, while speaking to Newsmen on Monday, said the action of five executive members of the APC who went to court to suspend the now dissolved APC led by Emeka Beke and the party’s legal adviser, was done to frustrate the party and hand it over to Wike.

He said, “Now when we also said that everything that was happening was illegal and was orchestrated just to balkanize the APC in Rivers State and finally hand it over to the FCT Minister, people said it was a lie.’’

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