Scores of concerned groups in Rivers State on Friday gathered in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, in a solidarity rally for Governor Siminalayi Fubara over the political crisis in the state.
The groups condemned and rejected the presidential resolution on the face-off between Governor Fubara and the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike, which has created tension in the state.
The placards-carrying groups stormed the Government House along Azikiwe Street, Port Harcourt, as early as 7 am and erected a stage and canopies at the entrance of the state seat of power, chorusing solidarity songs and dancing.
The groups included the National Youth Council of Nigeria, Greater Wakirike Movement, National Union of Rivers State Students, Worldwide; National Association of Nigeria Students, South-South Zone B; the ljaw Youth Council, Eastern, Zone; Rivers Youth Federation, ljaw Young Professionals Association, Past NURSS Leaders Forum, and the Andoni Youth Federation.
Others were the Ogoni Youth Federation, Niger Delta Activist Forum, United Community Development Committee, Christian Association of Nigeria, Rivers State Chapter; Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, Rivers State Chapter; Rivers State Traditional Rulers Council, the Muslim Community in Rivers State, Elder Statesmen, Women Groups, Concerned Lawyers, Concerned Doctors, Concerned Engineers, and the Keke Drivers Union.
Some of the inscriptions on the placards read, “Rivers State cannot be an individual’s estate,” “Seats of defected lawmakers remain vacant,” “Niger Delta youths should not be taken for granted,” and “Femi Gbajabiamila should hands off Rivers affairs,” among others.
Addressing journalists in front of the Government House on behalf of the protesters, a lawyer, David Uduru, called the people of Rivers State and the entire Niger Delta region, to be prepared to occupy Rivers State in a series of non-violent protests, as a way to vehemently reject and oppose the purported resolutions reached at the meeting held on Monday, December 18, 2023, at the Aso Rock Villa between President Bola Tinubu, Governor Fubara, Wike and others.
He said, “Therefore, we urge all indigenes and residents in Rivers State to be ready for long-drawn, non-violent protest rallies in the state beginning from January 1, 2024. May we announce to Governor Siminialayi Fubara that Rivers State people massively voted him into office and therefore cannot allow him to bring the people into disrepute by signing such an infamous agreement, that is akin to selling our collective hegemony to one individual, Nyesome Wike, who enjoys the support of the Chief of Staff to the President, Femi Gbajabiamila, and the President himself, Bola Tinubu.
“We herein inform the executive governor not to attempt under any guise of persuasive truce, adherence to any part of that unconstitutional agreement as that is tantamount to compromising the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“To think that the meeting was convened at the instance of Mr President, Bola Tinubu, but does not have the signature of Mr President, casts doubt as to the authenticity of the said resolutions.
“It is worthy of mention that the following persons did not also append their signatures: the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the Chief of Staff to Mr President, the Attorney General of the Federation and the Chief Justice of the Federation.”
“In fact, that no spokesperson of Mr President addressed the press on the purported resolutions, leaves Nigerians with more questions than answers.
“Sadly, since President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has chosen to forget that Rivers State is one of the critical economic hubs in Nigeria, and chosen Nyesome Wike over the peace and development of Rivers State, we the people of Rivers State have chosen ourselves and will therefore take the destiny of our State in our hands.
“We refuse to be cowed just to satisfy one man. The date to occupy Rivers State begins January 1 to January 30, 2024, at the first instance.”
The groups also said the state would stay occupied until “Mr President sees reasons with Nigerians and Rivers people, and sack the FCT Minister, Nyesome Wike,” as “Rivers state is not and cannot be Nyesome Wike’s estate”.
Also speaking, the state Chairman of the NYCN, Chijioke Ihunwo, said, “We call on the governor not to return any commissioner. (If there is) any attempt to return any commissioner that resigned from his cabinet, we shall occupy the Government House.”
We’ll do more for workers beyond promotion, gov says
Meanwhile, the Rivers State Governor, Siminalayi Fubara, has said his administration is committed to doing more for workers beyond implementing promotions and providing Christmas bonuses.
Fubara stated this when he received a crowd of jubilant civil servants who thronged the Government House gate in Port Harcourt with some members of the organised labour on a thank-you and solidarity march on Friday.
The governor who was represented by the State Head of Service, Dr George Nwaeke, said the sum of N100,000 given as a Christmas bonus to each civil servant was unprecedented and far exceeded the monthly salary of some workers.
He stated, “Within the few months of the governor being in office, promotion has been made and reflected in salary, rehabilitation work has been done at the state secretariat complex to provide a good working environment for workers. All these are possible because the leadership of labour in Rivers State is friendly.”
Earlier, while reading a statement jointly signed by the Rivers State chairman of the Joint Negotiation Council, Chuku Emecheta; State Chairperson of Trade Union Congress, Ikechukwu Onyefuru, the state Chairperson of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Alex Agwanwor, said the current political crisis posed potential threats to stability, and good governance as being provided by Governor Fubara.
“The Congress unanimously pledged to accord all the necessary support to the government of Siminalayi Fubara, the executive Governor of Rivers State, to deliver the dividends of democracy for the prosperity of our members and good people of Rivers State,” he added.
PDP joins suit, wants 25 lawmakers’ seats declared vacant
Meanwhile, in a bold move, the Peoples Democratic Party has officially joined the suit seeking to declare the seats of the 25 lawmakers who defected from the PDP to the All Progressives Congress vacant.
The party vowed to vigorously pursue the case despite President Bola Tinubu’s peace meeting with Rivers State political stakeholders, insisting that the votes belonged to the PDP.
The crisis rocking the Rivers State House of Assembly took a new turn on December 11, 2023, with 27 members defecting from the ruling PDP in the state to the APC.
A few days after their defection, two of the lawmakers quietly returned to the PDP.
However, the PDP’s Legal Adviser, Adeyemi Ajibade, in an interview with Saturday PUNCH, confirmed that the party had joined the suit.
Ajibade said, “It will amount to an abuse of the court process to file a fresh suit when the matter is already before the court. What we did was join a suit seeking the declaration of 25 lawmakers’ seats vacant and demanding that INEC conduct a fresh election.
“The lawmakers that defected took our state chapter to court and we joined the suit; we have also written a letter to the Independent National Electoral Commission requesting that they should commence the process for a fresh election”
Also speaking, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Debo Ologunagba, who confirmed that the matter was already in court, added, “The party is not part of the villa meeting. The issue of concern is not what anybody can negotiate; it is a constitutional matter and we are already in court.”