Rivers Elders, Leaders To Fubara: Don’t Tamper With Structures In Assembly Quarters

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Elders and leaders of Rivers across political party lines have called on the state Governor Siminalayi Fubara, to shelve any plan to tamper with structures at the House of Assembly quarters located along Aba Road in Port Harcourt.

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The elders comprising past and present members of the National Assembly, local government chairmen, and opinion leaders spoke on Sunday, May 12, when they paid a surprise visit to the quarters to assess the condition of the buildings.

Their intervention was following the recent visit of the governor to the facility and insinuations of a plan to renovate the estate, which currently houses the hallowed chamber of the Martins Amaewhule-led House of Assembly.

Accompanied by other stakeholders in the state, the leaders were received by Amaewhule and other lawmakers and were taken around the structures in the complex and the auditorium that currently serves as a chamber for the lawmakers.

Amaewhule told the leaders that there was a grand plot by the governor to bring down the structures the same way he ordered the demolition of the House of Assembly Complex located along Moacow Road to stop them from sitting.

He said the structures were in excellent condition, fully functional, and were currently occupied by the lawmakers and their family members.

He condemned the way and manner the governor stormed the quarters aided by thugs and armed policemen alleging that Fubara broke the gate and allowed others to scale the fence.

Amaewhule said the lawmakers never invited the governor to come to the quarters adding that the estate remained the property of the Rivers State House of Assembly.

Addressing the elders, Amaewhule said: “Your visit is unusual visit. It shows that the good people of the state are concerned about what is happening. This facility is the facility of the Rivers State House of Assembly.

“We have also brought in experts, engineers and there is nothing wrong with these structures. They are fully in use and fully functional. All the experts confirmed to us that this building is one of the best in the entire West Africa.

“This complex was constructed by the former Governor, Nyesom Wike and inaugurated in August 2022 by the current chief of staff to Mr. President, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila. We are happy with the building and everything is working well.

“We didn’t write to the governor and we didn’t invite him. We didn’t ask for his help because we don’t need it. We don’t need his intervention in any way. Any attempt to talk about reconstruction or demolition is clearly an assault on democracy and an assault on members resident in these buildings.

The Rivers State Government is not the office of the governor. It comprises the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary. The governor has no right to claim it as his personal property. It is the property of the Rivers State House of Assembly. So without an invitation to the governor, he has no right to break into our property”.

Amaewhule while showing the leaders the current legislative chamber at the complex insisted that the governor had no right to make any executive order directing lawmakers where to hold their sitting.

Citing the judgement of Omotosho, Amaewhule described governor’s actions as a flagrant violation of orders of the Federal High Court, none of which he said had been vacated.

He said: “All the orders of injunction by that court are still in place. None had been vacated. The law is on the side of members. The orders of the three high courts are still in place. The duty of ascertaining whether there is a problem is the duty of the assembly not the office of the governor.

“This facility belongs to the Rivers State House of Assembly and it remains so. We are not an appendage of the office of the governor. The judgement of Justice Omotosho bars him from interfering with our affairs. The judgement says don’t interfere with anything concerning us. It is in continuous disobedience to the order of the court that the governor broke into this place.

“The judgment also barred the other people from doing what they are currently doing. It is only the Rivers State House of Assembly Service Commission that can recruit, and discipline any staff member of the assembly. Those other people are Nollywood actors. The law is on our side. There is also a subsisting order of another court made by Justice Okoro”.

The Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Kingsley Chinda, while stating the purpose of their visit said they were worried about reports of another impending demolition of a democratic institution and decided to assess the condition of the premises.

Chinda said before their visit, they had already engaged experts to assess the integrity of the structures at the complex and their report showed that they would last for more than 25 years.

He observed that the Assembly built by Wike about two years ago and inaugurated by a former Speaker of the House of Representatives remained the best in Africa and was better than the National legislative quarters.

READ ALSO: I Made A Mistake With Fubara, Please Forgive Me – Wike Begs God, Rivers People

He said: “Let me salute the speaker and members of the House. The assembly complex that was brought down some leaders of the state went to the USA to get that design. When it was built, it was the best state assembly in this country. That structure is nowhere today.

“However, as members of the National Assembly from Rivers State, we have joined the leaders and elders of the state to discuss the issues happening in our state the latest being the threat to bring down the structures in this premises.

“We have commissioned engineers and experts to study and give us the report of the integrity of these structures. We have received the report. And the report says these structures have a lifespan of nothing less than 25 years.

“We have on our own come out to physically inspect the structures to crosscheck it with the report we received and these structures are still strong and healthy. Our apartments in the National Assembly are not better than what we have seen here.

“We should be proud that our state assembly occupies this quarters. It is easier to destroy than to build. The one we have destroyed have we made any move to rebuild it? Let us know that public officers should be living examples in society both in character and in conduct. Let us also caution that you must govern in line with the rule of law.

“We want to advise the governor to bridle a little bit at the exuberance that we had seen within this period. It doesn’t portend well to our state”.

Chinda said the National Assembly was observing and monitoring the situation in Rivers and would soon decide on the collective interest of the state.

He said: “We members of the National Assembly have not spoken. We have observed. But we cannot continue to fold our hands and watch our state fly. We are coming out and we will take a position without looking at anybody.

“It will be a position that will be in the interests of the state. No one individual is larger than Rivers State. We are members, leaders, and elders of Rivers, and this state we must protect”.

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In his remarks, Igo Aguma, a former member of the House of Representatives, said that Justice Omotosho’s judgment indicted the governor of willful destruction of the assembly complex, alleging that Fubara committed a criminal offence.

He said: “I want to remind the governor that the same Justice Omotosho judgment had found that he willfully brought down the institution of the Parliament in the Rivers State House of Assembly by demolishing it.

“He willfully did it in order to prevent them from sitting. That is malicious damage to public property. It is a criminal offence. The red biro will run dry one day and you will be made to answer. It has not been appealed against. I want to also let him know that Rivers people will muster all democratic institutions in the world to defend democracy in Rivers.

“We will not run away. We will fight him back. Democracy is the best form of government and we will have democracy in Rivers. He should take pity on the governed and remember that Rivers State House of Assembly has made itself financially autonomous.

“It is an act of the law. So if they have any issue that has to do with engineering and reconstruction, the law empowers them to do it by themselves. This is an edifice. It behooves on all Rivers people to defend this edifice”.

A former Speaker of the Rivers House of Assembly, Ikuinyi Ibani, said their assessment had shown that there was nothing wrong with the structures and called on the governor to jettison any plan to tamper with quarters.

He warned that the governor should desist from any action that could trigger violent reaction in the state saying Fubara must at all times promote law and order in the state

He said: “I am here with other leaders to show and prove to the world that democracy is the best form of government and that this is one institution that should be defended in any democratic setting.

“We have listened to the Speaker, Martins Amaewhule, who cited many rulings and judgments of courts in relation to what is happening in Rivers. For me as a former Speaker, I have a sense of disappointment at what is happening today.

“I can recall very vividly that in 2022 this project was inaugurated by Femi Gbajabiamila as the Speaker of the House of Reps. His comments were quite complementary and a useful tool for the development of Rivers. So, I am here with the other leaders to check whether there is anything wrong with the structure. There is nothing wrong with the structure.

READ ALSO: Rivers Crisis: Fubara Gazettes Order 001, Relocates Assembly Sitting To Government House

“You don’t need to be a civil engineer to know there is nothing wrong with the structure. Public money should be channeled into the development of the state and making the people be happy. The government should try to diversify the economy.

“It is old that action and reaction are equal and opposite, but I will say that action and reaction are opposite but they are not equal. When you engage in an action and the reaction comes, there is no way the reaction will be equal, as in the case of Hammas and Isreal. We will continue to support the speaker. Leaders who do not like democracy always attack democratic institutions first when they come to power”.

Also, Senator Olaka Nwogu told the governor that it was not the building that made the parliament but the people and the constitution.

He said if the governor continued to destroy hallowed chambers, the members would continue to create more in defence of democracy.

Nwogu recalled the destruction of the House of Assembly complex and described it as the greatest assault on democracy.

He said: “I have never seen a situation where those tasked with protecting public property will be those to destroy such property. When the Rivers State House of Assembly was brought down, it was like a movie to most Nigerians. That was the greatest assault on democracy.

“No matter the reason people try to put before things, I don’t think there is any Rivers son or daughter that will support that the assembly was brought down because some persons think it will help their self-preservation.

“Today, the Rivers State Assembly sits here and again they want to bring it down. Let me make it clear that it is not the building that makes the Parliament. It is the members themselves and the constitution. Even if you break down this place, the members can decide to sit in any place in their resolution favours. Parliament is self-regulatory. Nobody regulates them.

“You can break a thousand chambers and they will create more. It is about us, the people, the institutions, and their duty to provide checks and balances on our behalf within the tenets of democracy. We are a nation of laws. You cannot be protected by law when you become the chief lawbreaker.

“It is the duty of the chief executive of the state to do everything to ensure that there is law and order. What example do you put out when you become the chief lawbreaker, demolisher of the institution of the state, and a waste of its resources? This is unacceptable. Decent minds must condemn it. I urge those involved to have a rethink”.

He added: “These structures belong to the people. No court has said they are not members. So, they are. Let’s hope that the planned so-called renovation is quickly set aside. You cannot order the assembly to sit where the executive wants them to sit. That is not how the law is.

“You cannot take the assembly into government house against wishes of the assembly. This assembly premises is the best within the West African subregion. Show me any state that has something like this. When you take it down, you need Rivers money to build it again”.

The Rivers Caretaker Committee Chairman of the APC, Chief Tony Okocha, commended the leaders and elders across party lines for defending democracy saying it was a demonstration of the unity in the state.

Okocha said the 27 lawmakers remained members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) adding that the party would continue to protect them.

He said at every twist and turn the governor would always confess his support for President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, but he alleged that Fubara did not vote for the President in the last election.

He said: “This goes to show the world that Rivers people are united. We are one. The speaker had taken us round the premises and had given us the synopsis of what transpired when the governor in a Gestapo manner cane with thugs to harass the inhabitants here.

“27 lawmakers are members of our party and we owe them the responsibility to protect and defend them. At every twist and turn, the governor attempts to see how he can curry political patronage by claiming that he supports Mr. President. It is not true. It is a fluke.

“The world should know that they are not supporters of Mr. President. They want to lash it to see whether they can continue to engage in their illegality. As chairman of APC, Rivers State, I have taken a look at the details of voting in the past election and it is clear to me that the governor did not vote for Mr. President.”

Some of the leaders at the visit are Kingsly Chinda, representing Obio/Akpor at the House Representatives; Emmanuel Deeyah, former House of Rep member; Senator Olaka Nwogu,

Chief Tony Okocha, Igo Aguma; Desmond Akawor, former PDP Chairman, Rivers State; Fred Kpakol, former Finance Commissioner; Emeka Woke, MD/CEO, Ogun-Osun River Basin Authority; George Ariolu, LGA Chairman, Obio/Akpor; Erasmu Awoto, LGA chairman, Andoni; Samuel Nwanosike, LGA chairman Ikwerre among others.

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