Rivers crisis: Mass protest looms •N’Assembly to reject emergency rule

Pro and anti-Amaechi supporters in Port Harcourt... on Wednesday

Pro and anti-Amaechi supporters in Port Harcourt… on Wednesday

Organised labour and civil society groups are planning a showdown with the Federal Government should the crisis in Rivers State remain intractable.

The groups told Punch correspondents on Saturday that the mass action had become necessary because of the breakdown of law and order in the state which was threatening the nation’s democracy.

Even though the Presidency has washed its hands off the crisis in the state, there have been reports that President Goodluck Jonathan, his wife, Patience, and their loyalists are behind the crisis rocking the Rivers State House of Assembly.

A civil rights group, Anti-Corruption Network, on Saturday threatened that the Presidency should prepare for the “Egyptian treatment.”


The organisation also gave the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar, one week ultimatum to remove the Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Joseph Mbu, over his alleged role in the face-off between the Presidency and Governor Rotimi Amaechi, failing which it would mobilise the masses and occupy the Force Headquarters.

The Executive Secretary of the organisation and former member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Dino Melaye, said this in a statement titled; “Touch Amaechi, touch Nigeria” obtained by our correspondent in Abuja.

He said, “What is going on in Rivers State is African magic. We leave Amaechi’s life in the hands of Mr. President and his wife. We give the IGP one week to remove the Commissioner of Police in Rivers State; failure to do so, we shall mobilise Nigerians like never before to occupy the Force Headquarters in Abuja. The President should get ready for the Egyptian treatment.

“Touch Amechi and touch Nigeria. The abuse of law and order by both the anti-Amaechi legislators and the Nigerian Police is not only disgraceful but will not be tolerated by the mass of the people in this country. The Presidency cannot absolve itself from this satanic manifestation. Who ordered the military withdrawal from Rivers State Government House?”

Melaye said since the pressure group did not have another country to call its own, “it will do everything within the confines of the law to protect Nigeria’s fragile democracy which the President and his wife do not know how we got it.”

He said, “Usurps will not kill democracy. The battle to safeguard our democracy is a battle of no retreat, no surrender. President Jonathan is behaving as if he has no legacy intentions. Try us and see. I dare the Presidency. Enough is Enough.”

Labour unions in the state also told SUNDAY PUNCH an indefinite strike by workers might be the solution to the crisis.

The unions are insisting that apart from the Federal Government and the state government finding a solution to the impasse in the state assembly, the police must also vacate the Obio/Akpor Local Government Secretariat.

Already, they have met with the Senate Committee on Local Government and notified it on the need for the crisis to be resolved in order to forestall mass protests.

The state Nigeria Labour Congress Cairman, Mr. Chris Oruge, told SUNDAY PUNCH that the NLC leadership was in support of an indefinite strike action.

“The ultimatums we gave in the state have expired. Among other things, the police are still occupying the secretariat and we are saying no to that. We are communicating with the NLC leadership at the national level on our next line of action and we have their support,” he added.

Similarly, the state Chairman of the Trade Union Congress, Mr. Chika Onuegbu, said the TUC was ready to join the NLC on an indefinite strike.

Onuegbu called on Nigerians, including civil societies to join labour in its effort to resolve the crisis in Rivers, stating that it was “wrong for politicians to allow their antics to negatively affect the lives of Nigerians that voted them into power.”

Reacting to the calls for mass action, the Deputy Force Public Relations Officer of the Nigeria Police, Mr. Frank Mba, told one of our correspondents on Saturday that Nigerians were free to protest if it was done legally.

“We are in a democratic society and people are free to hold protests. However, it must be done within the confines of the law. Law and order must not be broken down. Anyone that breaches the law won’t be allowed to go,” he said.

Meanwhile, any attempt by President Goodluck Jonathan to declare a state of emergency in the state is likely to hit a brick wall in the National Assembly, SUNDAY PUNCH has learnt.

Senators and members of the House of Representatives who spoke to our correspondents over the weekend declared they would not approve a request for emergency rule should the President forward one.

Eleven opposition governors, who are members of the Action Congress of Nigeria, All Nigeria Peoples Party, Congress for Progressive Change and All Progressives Grand Alliance, in a statement on Thursday had said there was an “ill-disguised attempt to create a state of emergency in Rivers State by plunging the state into a needless and avoidable crisis.”

The Governor of Niger State, Babangida Aliyu, had further alleged that the Commissioner of Police in the state had become the “governor of the state.”

However, the Presidency through the Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Ahmed Gulak, had denied the plan to declare a state of emergency in the state.

But speculation has persisted that a state of emergency will soon be declared in Rivers.

Speaking on Friday, the Senate Minority Whip, Senator Ganiyu Solomon, said the Senate was neither contemplating nor planning to suggest the declaration of a state of emergency in the state.

Solomon said, “The President cannot declare a state of emergency on his own without the support of the National Assembly.

“We are not contemplating a state of emergency in Rivers; this is without prejudice to the expected report of the Senate committee tasked to investigate the crisis in that state.”

Also in Abuja, the Leader of the Senate, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, told one of our correspondents that no one had approached the upper legislature with a request for a state of emergency to be declared in the troubled state.

Ndoma-Egba said, “We sent our committee on a fact-finding mission. That is all we know at the moment. We are not aware of any plans to declare a state of emergency in Rivers State.

“We have taken a position and we have to await the report of the committee that we have assigned to investigate the matter.”

On its part, the House of Representatives was categorical that it would not support any move to declare a state of emergency in the state.

Deputy Majority Leader of the House, Mr. Leo Ogor, told one of our correspondents, “The situation in Rivers State does not call for a state of emergency. We have not reached there yet and there are no signs that we will reach there.”

He argued that a disagreement between two factions of a state legislature was not enough to warrant a state of emergency.

The House leader noted that the conditions for a state of emergency were clearly defined under Section 305 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

The Senate Committee on States and Local Government, which was mandated to investigate the crisis in Rivers State, has since commenced work.

Information available to SUNDAY PUNCH indicated that the committee met with Amaechi on Thursday and had slated other meetings with other parties in the dispute within the next three days.

Baring last minute changes, it is expected to present its report and make recommendations next week.

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