Rivers LGs crisis turns bloody

• Cop, vigilante killed
• Gov Fubara talks tough, vows to stand on part of truth at all cost
• Angry youths dare police, take over council hqtrs, destroy Wike’s statue


From Tony John, Port Harcourt

A police personnel and an operative of OSPAC, a local vigilance group  member were killed in Omuma Local Government Area of Rivers State yesterday as the crisis over tenure elongation for the local government council chairmen heightened.

Across the 23 local government areas, violence erupted as youths belonging to the camps of Siminalayi Fubara and Nyesom Wike, governor and former governor, respectively, engaged in supremacy battle.

The three years’ tenure of the elected chairmen of local government and councillors expired on June 17 as provided by the constitution. But the council executives have insisted that they would not vacate office following a purported amendment on the Local Government Administration Law of the State by the Martin Amaewhule-led state Assembly.

The state ALGON Chairman, Allwell Ihunda, has consistently insisted that he and his colleagues would not vacate their positions, and dared Governor Fubara to evict them, boasting that any attempt to remove them from office would be resisted.

The pro-Wike legislators had amended the Local Government Law to extend the tenure of elected chairmen and councillors by six months, if elections were not conducted before the end of their term.

But, the state High Court later barred the lawmakers from parading themselves as members of state House of Assembly after they defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC).

The court also nullified the laws passed by the Martin Amaewhule-led factional assembly and declared their seats vacant after they openly defected to the opposition APC in December. The 27 lawmakers took the matter to the Court of Appeal, which would decide their fate and LGAs chairmen on June 20.

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Although the state police command has not reacted to the report of death of its personnel and the OSPAC operative, it was gathered that they died following bullet wounds they sustained when confrontation erupted between pro and anti-Fubara groups at Omuma council headquarter.

Community sources claimed that the pro-Fubara youths defied the presence of security agencies, who were at the council to ensure there was no breakdown of law and order, to stop former council chairman from entering the council.

Similar violence erupted in several other local government councils as protesting youths said they wanted to ensure the eviction of the council chairmen, whose tenure expired on Monday, June 17. There were also heavy gunshots in Port Harcourt City and Obio/Akpor Local Government Areas of Rivers State, yesterday. It could not be ascertained if the shootings were between security men and armed youths, or pro and anti-governor’s supporters, who stormed the council headquarters.

It was reported that at the Obio/Akpor council headquarters, the surging hoodlums attacked the chairman, George Ariolu, and smashed the windscreen of his Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV).

A viral video captured supporters of Governor Fubara uprooting the statue of the former governor, Nyesom Wike, at his Local Government Council, Obio Akpor.

The video which was circulated on X by the Port Harcourt People, @AskPHPeople, had the caption, “Pro-Gov Sim Fubara’s supporters destroy Status of Minister of FCT, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, at the Obio/Akpor Local Government Council.”

As seen in the viral video, after uprooting Wike’s statue, pro-Fubara were seen jubilating.

There were shootings at the premises of the local government council, following a move by the former chairman of the council, Allwell Ihundah, to access the office.

Rivers LGs crisis turns bloody
• Angry youths dare police, take over council hqtrs, destroy Wike’s statue

The police have taken over the Obio/Akpor council headquarters to forestall further breakdown of law and order in the area.

At the premises of Port Harcourt City Local Government Area (PHLGA), there was heavy shooting following a move by the chairman,  Ihundah, to access his office. The development sparked tension as businesses in the area were temporarily shut down.

Viral videos showed youths jubilating that they were able to stop Ihundah from accessing his office. He was seen fleeing as the angry mob loyal to Governor Fubara surged towards him. It was reported that Ihundah had arrived at the council secretariat with his security personnel to access his office, but was halted by the youths, who resumed occupation of the premises on Monday.

It was learnt that in a bid to escape from the angry mob, police attached to him started shooting in the air.

The State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Grace Iringe-Koko, denied the involvement of policemen in the shooting.

The rampaging youths also invaded Asari Toru, Akuku Toru, Degema and Andoni LGA offices, and locked the gates, insisting that the outgoing chairmen must vacate their offices.

In Degema, the angry mob chanted war songs and appeared battle ready to stop the chairman from remaining in office after his tenure had expired.

Similarly, protesting youths of Eleme Local Government Area also occupied their council secretariat, stating that the governor was the only authority they knew.

The youths in their hundreds moved round the council premises stating that they would not allow anyone take away what belonged to the council.

The police have beefed up security in the 23 LGAs, especially at the council headquarters and at the Government House. Over 15 police vehicles were sighted in front of the Government House, Port Harcourt

Meanwhile, Governor Siminalayi Fubara has assured that he would fearlessly lead the way to ensure that peace continued to prevail in the state, while also protecting all patriotic supporters for their stand on the path of truth.

He made the vow while addressing newsmen shortly after rising from a state security council meeting with heads of the security agencies at the Government House, Port Harcourt, yesterday.

Fubara emphasised that no grand plan to arrest such patriotic supporters on trumped-up charges would be tolerated.

He stated that there was no extension of tenure of elected local government chairmen, adding that the law is unambiguous on it, and clarifying that the court has also affirmed the position of the law.

“Let me also say this: I’m also aware that there is a grand plan to come and arrest some of our supporters. This time around, you have to pass through me to arrest them because I don’t think there is anything that any of those people following us has done. Rather, they are standing on the side of truth.

“If it will cost us our lives to stand on the path of truth, we will do that. And I will be the one to lead the cause.

“Let me assure everyone, more especially, the great and peace-loving people of Rivers State that law is law. The law has said that there is no extension of tenure.

“The court said so, and whoever that is assuring anybody anywhere of whatever, I advise them to desist from it because peace is what we need in this state. I assure everyone of you that whatever it takes to make sure that we maintain peace and order, we are not going back on that.”

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Governor Fubara explained that the security council meeting was called because of the recent threat to the peace of the state by the outgone chairmen of the local government councils.

“You are all aware that the tenure of the council chairmen ended yesterday, June 7, 2024, and today, we have ordered the Heads of Local Government Administration to be in charge while they await further directives.

“It’s really unfortunate that we started hearing some disturbing news from some LGAs of invasion of council secretariats, and it is really unfortunate. So, we have called the security council meeting so that the needful will be done.

“We are also aware that our enemy is also planning a lot of things. But, we will not fall into that plot. We will not also allow him or them to destroy the peace that we are enjoying in the state,” he added.

He thanked the media and the peace-loving people of the state for their support, and urged everyone to continue to remain law-abiding for the unity and progress of the state.

In a statewide broadcast, early yesterday, Governor Fubara had directed Heads of Administration in the 23 local government areas to assume leadership of the councils.

He said: “My fellow Rivers people, I come before you today with immense gratitude and heartfelt appreciation for your unwavering support to me and my administration.

“I urge us all to reflect on the shared sacrifice we have all made to have a peaceful and prosperous Rivers State, and indeed, Nigeria. It is my wish that we continue to live in peace and harmony as one.

“Together, we have achieved milestones in different sectors of our economy, which include infrastructure, health, education, workers’ welfare, improved service delivery, agriculture and social welfare that resonates deeply within our communities.

“Your dogged and committed support has been the bedrock of our progress, and for that, I extend my sincerest thanks.

“I also wish to acknowledge and commend the dedicated services of the outgoing elected local government chairmen, vice chairmen and councillors, who were elected and sworn in three years ago, and whose tenure expired yesterday, June 17, 2024, as provided for by the law.

“On behalf of the government and the people of Rivers State, I thank you all for your sacrifices, and commend your commitment to public service and our dear Rivers State.

“I congratulate you all for the successful completion of your tenure and wish you well in your future endeavours.

“As we move forward in making sure that the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is upheld, and that law and order is maintained as we continue to strive to provide leadership and direction for our people, I hereby direct Heads of Local Government Administration (HLGAs) to continue to provide leadership in their respective local government areas.

“HLGAs are hereby directed to immediately take charge of the Councils with renewed vigour and readiness to serve and await further directives as we navigate towards even greater accomplishments together.

“I assure you, my good people of Rivers State, that we shall continue to defend you, provide infrastructural development, sound healthcare delivery, quality education, and undiluted welfare service packages for all our people and workers.

“Once again, I thank you, my dear good people of Rivers State, for your steadfast support and dedication to our shared vision of unity, progress and prosperity. Together, we will continue to build a brighter and better future for all.”

Meanwhile, Mr Olatunji Disu, the Commissioner of Police in Rivers, has assured newsmen that steps had been taken to prevent breakdown of law and order.

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