Chief Edwin Clark, PDP and others faults Presidency intervention on Rivers state crisis

The Peoples Democratic Party and an elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark, on Tuesday  faulted Presidency’s intervention on the crisis in Rivers state and the peace deal between the Rivers State Governor, Siminalayi Fubara, and the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesome Wike.

Tinubu brokered a truce between the FCT minister and his political godson at a meeting in Abuja on Monday night. The meeting was attended by the President, Wike, Fubara, and his deputy, Mrs Ngozi Odu; a former governor of Rivers State, Peter Odili; and other stakeholders.

Reacting to PDP’s statement, the All Progressives Congress said the opposition party lacked shame for faulting the peace deal.

At the meeting, Wike and Fubara signed an eight-point agreement to end the political crisis in the state.

The crisis Fubara and his predecessor came to the fore on October 29 when a section of the state House of Assembly was gutted by fire after the lawmakers began moves to impeach the governor.

Events in the state assumed another dimension on December 11 when 27 out of 32 members of the state House of Assembly defected from the Peoples Democratic Party to the APC. The defectors are Wike’s loyalists.

The Assembly was subsequently factionalised with a group led by a pro-Wike Speaker, Martin Amaewhule, and another by  Edison Ehie, loyal to Fubara.

The House of Assembly complex in the state was pulled down on December 13 by the state government, which insisted that the building was not good for human habitation.

Tinubu intervened in the crisis on Monday night by brokering a peace deal.

Among others, it was agreed that the governor should withdraw court cases concerning the crisis and that he should represent the 2024 budget to the Amaewhule-led Assembly which was recognised as the Speaker.

It was also agreed that the defectors should return to the Assembly and that the nine commissioners who resigned should be reappointed by the governor.

But on Tuesday, the PDP National Working Committee rejected the intervention of the President and told the defectors that they could only return to the Assembly through fresh elections.

Addressing a press conference after the PDP emergency NWC meeting on Tuesday, the party’s acting National Chairman, Umar Damagum, advised

the lawmakers, who defected to APC not to be deceived by anybody giving assurances in Abuja that they could return to the House of Assembly without fresh elections.

Damagum said there was no respite for the defectors, who by virtue of Section 109 (1)(g) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended, vacated their seats because of defection from the PDP.

Quoting Section 109(1)(g), he states, “A member of a House of Assembly shall vacate his seat in the House if: 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:

“Provided that his membership of the latter political party is not as a result of a division in the political party of which he was previously a member or of a merger of two or more political parties or factions by one of which he was previously sponsored; or

“(h) the Speaker of the House of Assembly receives a certificate under the hand of the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission stating that the provisions of section 110 of this Constitution have been complied with in respect of the recall of the member.”

The PDP chairman insisted that having vacated their seats, the only option available for the lawmakers, if they wished to return was to seek fresh nomination and re-election on the platform of any political party of their choice.

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He said the factional Speaker, Edison, had officially declared the seats of the defectors vacant in line with Section 109 (1)(g) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

“Our party therefore counsels the former members of the Rivers State House of Assembly not to be deceived by anybody giving them the false hope and impracticable assurances in Abuja that they can return to the Rivers State House of Assembly without a fresh election or that the Independent National Electoral Commission can be stopped from conducting fresh election into the 25 Rivers State constituencies where vacancies have occurred because of their defection,” he added.

He said INEC should, in line with Section 109 (1) (g) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and Section 84 (15) of the Electoral Act, 2022, fix a date for the conduct of a fresh election into the 25 state constituencies in the state.

APC slams PDP

But APC knocked the opposition PDP, saying it (PDP) had no business calling for a fresh election to replace the defectors.

In a telephone interview with one of our correspondents, the APC National Director of Publicity, Bala Ibrahim, said, “The PDP has no business in the affairs of these 27 members of Rivers House of Assembly. Already, the lawmakers said they are not members of the PDP because they have left the party. And once you leave the party, the organs of the political platform have no business with you. They cannot dictate to them what to do with their own political lives.

“If they have decided to leave the party, it is their choice. It is not for the PDP to now tell them what to do with their own political trajectory. The PDP should bury its head in shame and lick its wounds. This is because people are gradually losing faith in them and no longer see them as the emancipators they claimed to be.”

When asked if the Rivers State governor would not be pressured into pulling out of the truce reached on Monday night, the APC spokesman dismissed the notion, saying the relevant parties involved in the agreement took the decision in the interest of the people.

“This is a meeting that took place between people who are holding the highest responsibilities in their domains. Tinubu as President and Commander-in-Chief of the country has spoken with the interest of the country at heart.

“Fubara has also spoken in his capacity as the Governor and the chief security officer of Rivers State. It would be unfair for anybody to read their intentions negatively. They won’t speak with the intention of deceiving the country or going against the oath of office they took. I am sure they took the decision in the interest of the people who voted them into power,” he stated.

Also, the Presidency has explained that Tinubu’s intervention in the crisis is not political.

It argued that Tinubu did so in his capacity as Nigeria’s leader and “father of the nation”.

“The motive of the President is clearly, in this case, not a political one. He is the father of the nation; he is the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; he is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces,” the President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale, said when he appeared on TVC Monday night.

Ngelale, who argued that the President only wanted to ensure stability in the country, said, “It is the primary responsibility of his to ensure that there is peace and stability and security in all parts of the country.

“If he sees any sign that peace is breaking down in any part of the country, this is a President that will take action.”

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He said citizens should expect a hands-on conflict resolution approach in the Tinubu years.

“Nigerians are going to see that the difference between what we have seen from this President as against previous presidents of the past 24 years is that when something is wrong—whether it involves a political party or not in any part of the country—as the father of the nation, he is going to call everybody to the table and he is going to get everybody to a common resolution in the interest of the Nigerian people,” Ngelale added.

He further explained that “the resolution of the Rivers crisis is one that results from a series of interventions that he (Tinubu) has made over the course of the last few months on this issue.

“Mr. President was fully ready and equipped to take a very hard action if this resolution had not been reached.”

He described the resolutions from Monday’s meeting as products of compromise from all parties to bring relief to the people of Rivers.

“There was a compromise involved. All sides of the political divide within that state have had to compromise to ensure that there is a fair resolution,” said the Presidential aide.

Fubara speaks

On his part, Fubara, on Tuesday said no amount was too big to pay for peace to reign in the state.

The governor said this at the third convocation and sixth Founders Day ceremonies of the PAMO University of Medical Sciences in Iriebe Town in the Obio-Akpor Local Government Area of the state.

Fubara, while addressing the graduands thanked Rivers people for the overwhelming love and support for him

The governor, who became emotional and fought back tears, stated, “I thank all of you for the love and support from Rivers people. And I want to say that no amount is too big for peace. I will continue to pay for it. ‘

The governor also said that the provision of a qualitative education system and affordable public healthcare services would remain two vital priorities of his administration.

He stated, “While some progress has been made, it is obvious that a lot still needs to be done to achieve our collective aspirations for universal access to quality education and healthcare for our people.

“I need not say that no society can progress without educated and healthy people.”

But the Convener of the Pan Niger Delta Forum,  Clark, faulted the meeting convened by Tinubu to address tension between Fubara and Wike.

At a press briefing in Abuja on Tuesday, Clark condemned the agreement, describing it as appalling and unacceptable to the people.

The elder statesman also alleged that Fubara had been “ambushed and intimidated” into signing the agreement, adding that Tinubu’s intervention was a desecration of the constitution.

“It is obvious that Governor Siminialayi Fubara was ambushed and intimidated into submission. President Tinubu should know that with all the powers he possesses, he cannot override the Constitution.

“From all that transpired at the meeting, the laws of the land have not been obeyed. President Tinubu simply sat over a meeting where the constitution, which is the fulcrum of his office as President and which he swore to uphold and abide by, was truncated and desecrated.

“The eight resolutions reached, are the most unconstitutional, absurd, and obnoxious resolutions at settling feuding parties that I have ever witnessed in my life. As a matter of fact, some media captured it very well when they described it as directives,” he said.

Clark also alleged that the resolutions showed that Tinubu was trying to compensate Wike for winning the presidential election in Rivers for the APC, adding that people “will resist such draconian, arbitrary and unconstitutional action by Mr President and his customer, Nyesom Wike”.

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“We will go to court to challenge this so-called one-sided and oppressive action of Mr. President”, he added.

Also, the President of the Ijaw National Congress, Prof. Benjamin Okaba, on Tuesday, said the defectors must not be allowed to return to their former party.

He said the nine commissioners who resigned from Fubara’s cabinet should be immediately replaced by the governor.

Okaba rejected the agreement allegedly reached with Rivers State stakeholders on the crisis in the state, saying Tinubu ought not to have meddled in issues of the constitution.

He spoke to one of our correspondents on Tuesday against the backdrop of the Abuja agreement, describing the document as lopsided, pointing out that Tinubu must not encourage lawlessness.

The INC president said, “First is to appreciate the President for the initiative to ensure that peace returns to Rivers State. But as for the document that is making the rounds, we are still having doubts as to whether it was the product of a dialogue or some document that was preconceived and read to some persons.

“But if we are to go by the items so published I think that apart from item one which talks about stopping every process of impeachment, all the seven other items are not acceptable. They are heavily condemnable, they are lopsided and one-sided.”

Falana explains

A human Rights Lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN, said while the President might intervene in the crisis, his intervention must always be grounded in the provisions of the Constitution.

The Senior Advocate made this known in a statement made available to our correspondent in Abuja.

He stated “I agree with former Governor Tunde Fashola SAN, who has said that President Tinubu has no constitutional role to resolve the political crisis in Ondo and Rivers states. Therefore, the intervention of the President in both cases is purely advisory,” Falana said in the statement.

Speaking further, the lawyer noted that with respect, the presidential reinstatement of the defectors to the Rivers State House of Assembly by the Presidency, “is alien to the Constitution in every material particular.

“The seats of the defected members have been declared vacant by the Speaker known to law. To that extent, the Independent National Electoral Commission is mandatorily required to conduct the by-election once the ex parte order issued by the Federal High Court last Friday is quashed.”

Falana noted that the lawmakers, who defected from the PDP to the APC had lost their seats, “because the PDP that sponsored them is not fictionalised or divided as stipulated by the Constitution.

“Even if all the cases in the Rivers State High Court and the Federal High Court are withdrawn in line with the advice of the President , it is submitted that all actions taken by the Speaker recognised by the Rivers State High Court, remain valid, including his pronouncement on the vacant seats of the 27 cross carpeting members of the House. In other words, only a court of law is constitutionally competent to set aside the pronouncement of the Speaker which is anchored on section 109 of the Constitution. Furthermore, as the Speaker has not been removed by the required number of legislators, a presidential directive cannot remove him.

“In view of the foregoing, the President and all the parties involved in finding political solutions to the crisis in Rivers State are advised to turn to the Constitution for guidance without any further delay

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