Assassination claims in Rivers State politics

Rotimi Amaechi

Rivers State wobbled on the brink of a full-scale political showdown between Governor Nyesom Wike and his predecessor, Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, penultimate weekend raising tempers almost to a boiling point.

For two and half years after the 2015 general elections, the political climate in Rivers State still remains edgy, even as the appellate court resumes hearing on the petition by sacked 23 elected local government area chairmen.

The simmering political strife between the state governor, Nyesom Wike and his former boss, Rotimi Amaechi, the Minister of Transportation, was almost stirred to its climax when security details attached to them clashed in Nwaja Junction along the busy Trans-Amadi Industrial Layout Road, Port Harcourt.

An eyewitness told The Guardian that Governor Wike was actually on inspection of a road project when the minister’s convoy ran into his, knocking down the governor’s escort rider.

Amid the pandemonium that ensued, several Federal Special Anti-robbery Squad (F-SARS) of the police and soldiers attached to the minister alighted and an altercation that lasted close to 30 minutes ensued between them and the Governor’s security officials.

Perceiving that the F-SARS personnel might have a sinister motive, a security detail attached to the governor, had to personally chase them away, accusing them of a ploy to kill the governor.

Wike, who has consistently accused the APC of wanting to cheat its way to power in the state come 2019, said the incident smacked of desperation by Amaechi for power at the state level.

Statement by media officers of both Governor Wike and Amaechi had respectively claimed assassination attempt by security personnel attached to both officials although there was no reported attack on either of them.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chairman in the State, Felix Obuah, has observed that the incident was a deliberate ploy by Amaechi to instigate crisis in the State. He contended that the untoward action was orchestrated to undermine the office of the Governor of Rivers State, using security agencies of the Federal Government, particularly, SARS and the military.

Obuah noted that for Wike’s display of maturity during the incident, the occasion would availed the APC-led Federal Government the opportunity to allege insecurity in the state and declare a state of emergency.

The PDP urged President Buhari and the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, to wade into the activities of their security personnel in Rivers State, particularly, the SARS Commander, Akin Fakorede, before it is too late.

Amaechi has meanwhile claimed that his vehicle was blocked by the security motorcycle outrider attached to Wike after two cars in his convoy had driven pass. He also alleged that he narrowly escaped being shot by security men attached to Governor Wike.

A pro-APC group, the Inter-ethnic Network for Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, INCRA, said if the only intent of the governor’s outrider was to stop Amaechi’s convoy to give the governor right of way, why didn’t he stop the first two vehicles in the convoy of the minister.

“It is easy for any rational mind to see that the sole intent of the governor’s outrider was to harm Amaechi, obviously, at the behest of his paymaster. If Amaechi had alighted from his vehicle and not driven off, the outrider would have had a perfect opportunity to pull the trigger and complete his mission, which is obvious to all. We commend the SARS operatives for their professional approach on the matter and prompt intervention that saved the life of Amaechi. Were it not for the gallantry of these brave men, we would have had an unimaginably sad situation in our hands,” said INCRA.

A political observer, Balafama George told The Guardian that the APC’s attempts to oust Wike from office has been increasingly been marred by controversy.

George said the politicisation of security agencies by the Federal Government is the reason why any official of the central government would always want to resort to terrorizing anyone in opposition.

“The governor has the right of way within his state. The use of F-SARS to cause chaos in Rivers State is regrettable. We honestly need to reform and de-politicise the police.

There is no doubt that politicisation of the police has contributed to the decline in efficiency of their services in this country. We need a law abiding people’s police,” he said.

Meanwhile, the political tension in the state has been further heightened recently between PDP and APC following the decision of the appellate court to hear an appeal filed by 22 sacked Local Government chairmen and councilors elected under the platform of the APC barely a week before Amaechi left office in May 2015.

A Federal High Court in Port Harcourt had sacked the 22 council chairmen following a suit filed by the state Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The PDP had claimed that the Rivers State Independent Commission (RSIEC) contravened relevant sections of the Electoral Act; as it failed to stipulate duration for preparation, conduct of primaries, submission of names of candidates, campaign of various political parties participating in the polls.

The PDP, which has lost two senatorial seats to the APC, recently has started to sense that its hold on power was been further threatened by the decision of the appellate court to entertain the appeal.

On the contrary, the APC said the PDP stance that the 23 illegally sacked Local Government Council Chairmen do not deserve legal restitution is the height of absurdity.

Governor Wike has claimed that the reason the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, set up the special panel to hear the case of the sacked chairmen, was for the purpose of dissolving Local Government Councils in Rivers State and enthroning APC members. He noted that a few judges in the appellate court have been used recently to carry out nullification all the National and State Assembly elections in Rivers State, despite the provisions of the law. He argued that of the 36 states, only Rivers State suffered that fate.

“We will not accept anything that is contrary to the law. We will put up a petition to the relevant authorities to protest the actions of the President of the Court of Appeal”, Governor Wike said.

The governor alleged that the Federal Government has alerted the security forces to assist the APC forcibly take over the local government council secretariats when the appellate court gives judgment in favour of the sacked council chairmen.

APC publicity secretary, Chris Finebone, said since the matter went to court in 2015, the Rivers State Government and the PDP have resorted to all
manner of frivolous actions just to ensure that the actual hearing of the matter is frustrated because the law will hand them the wrong end of the stick having acted illegally ab initio.

“The APC notes in particular, that we had (still have) the right to raise eyebrows when Governor Nyesom Wike as a party in the matter of the local government councils at the Court of Appeal proceeded with the renovation of the building housing the Court. As a party before the Court, which as a federal judicial institution serves at least two other States of the Federation, we could have been justified imputing motive for such action by the Governor and same would form valid grounds for challenging the independence of the Court to dispense justice in the matter where our interest lies”

Finbone has expressed optimism that the judges hearing tyje matter would neither trade their personal integrity and judicial oaths for perversion of justice nor compromise their capacity to dispense justice without fear by succumbing to blackmail and intimidation by the governor and the PDP.

“Just as we believe that the Judiciary is the last hope of the common man, we hereby appeal to all well-meaning Rivers people and friends of the State to not only watch the unfolding events in this case with greater interest but call the Governor and his party to order in the plot to always have it their way or blackmail institutions and tarnish the reputation of time-tested officials of government and their long-standing commendable career records” he said.

Meanwhile, a three-member panel of the Court of Appeal chaired by Justice Dongbam Mensen billed to hear the sacked 22 Local Government chairmen and councilors appeal in Rivers State, has a unanimously decided not to continue with the case because the matter was already pending at the Supreme Court.

Justice Mensen last week said having carefully considered the applications and submissions by
counsels on the matter that the case is currently pending at the apex court, the panel has declined to hear the matter pending the determination of the matter at the Supreme Court.

“We, hereby, decline hearing on the matter.  The case is adjourned until the determination of the appeal at the Supreme Court,” he said.

The simmering political tension remains precarious as the 2019 elections draws near and State awaits the outcome of the pending determination of the case of the sacked APC council chairmen and councilors.



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