The Senate yesterday backed the action of the House of Representatives by taking over the functions and duties of the crisis-ridden Rivers State House of Assembly.
The action of the Senate is in line with the provisions of Section 11 (4) of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution as amended.
The Senate also urged the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar, to transfer the Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Joseph Mbu, out of the state since his relationship with Governor Rotimi Amaechi had broken down irretrievably.
In addition, the three senators from Rivers State were tasked to use their positions to promote peace and prevent an escalation of the crisis in the state.
These were the resolutions reached by the upper chamber of the National Assembly following the debate and adoption of the report of its committee on states and local government administration which undertook a fact-finding tour of the state last week.
The three resolutions were compressed from 17 recommendations by the investigation committee, chaired by Senator Kabiru Gaya. The decision of the Senate on the Rivers State crisis was arrived at yesterday after a three-hour closed door session by the lawmakers.
In his remarks at the session, the Senate President, David Mark, explained that the action of the Senate was predicated on the first hand information it obtained through the fact-finding committee.
He appealed to all the stakeholders in the state to work together to ensure that peace returns to the state.
Mark said: “We spent several hours this morning discussing in great detail the situation in Rivers State. We devoted so many hours because we believe it is important that we look at it from the prism of our own committee that went there to find out exactly what happened. And we are happy we sent our own team to investigate and report back to us.
“Our final objective, and throughout our discussion, was to ensure that peace returns to Rivers State. That was the focus of the discussion this morning. Our appeal to all the principal actors involved is that unless there is peace in Rivers State they cannot ensure development in state. We want development across the length and breadth of this country. Therefore, we use the opportunity once more before we go to prayers to appeal that all those involved sheathe their swords so that peace can reign in Rivers State.
“The committee has not indicted any particular group of people. It has not indicted any section and I don’t think it has indicted any individual. The reason is because we want to ensure that there is peace. The Senate as a body wants to be an integral part of the solution to the problem in Rivers State. We remain neutral. We’ve not taken sides with any group and we are not going to take sides but we will stand on facts.
“When we eventually approve our prayers, those prayers will be based on the facts that are known to us and our neutral position. And we hope that all the parties involved would appreciate that what we want to ensure is peace in Rivers State.
“All we want is that peace to returns to Rivers State. Let me add that the National Assembly will uphold and defend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as we all individually swore to do. And this we will do at all times and at all cost. Let me leave no one in doubt that the impunities of the past remain in the past. And the past is gone for good. All that is left is for the proper lessons to be learnt from the past.
“Minority members of the Rivers State House of Assembly cannot remove, and should therefore, never contemplate the impeachment of the Speaker of the State House of Assembly or anyone else for that matter and should perish the thought if they ever harboured it.
“Our institutions of state must also uphold the constitution at all times and must not in any way encourage the impression that impunities of the past are possible today. This National Assembly, for the avoidance of doubt, would resist impunity and unconstitutionality.
This is the stand of the Senate. And once more, I must emphasise that we remain neutral and we want to see an end to the crisis in Rivers State.” Also, President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday assured that he would curb political excesses overheating the polity ahead of the 2015 general elections.
Responding to concerns expressed by a delegation of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, led by its President, Mr. Okey Wali (SAN), Jonathan said that the rising political tension in the country was uncalled for.
“The political tension in the country is mainly built around the 2015 elections which should not be the case. It is quite disturbing. The year 2015 is still far off. I expect politicians to focus on the business of governance now. We must do what we were elected to do first. We will do our best to curb the overheating of the polity,” President Jonathan told the delegation, which included three former presidents of the NBA.
The President also said that he had asked for a detailed brief on the security situation in Rivers State and assured the delegation that necessary action would be taken to ensure adherence to the rule of law in the state and the maintenance of law and order.
Addressing other issues raised by the delegation, Jonathan said that his administration was implementing the right policies, programmes and projects to accelerate economic development and boost employment in the country.
He called for patience from Nigerians, saying that the results of the present administration’s efforts in areas such as power supply would become even more apparent in due course.
Jonathan also assured the NBA that his administration would ensure positive reformation and strengthening of Nigeria’s judicial system, including the resolution of issues related to increased funding for the judiciary.
He reaffirmed his commitment to the progressive reformation of Nigeria’s electoral processes to guarantee that all votes cast in elections truly count and that elections in the country are accepted by all objective stakeholders as free, fair and credible.
Jonathan urged the NBA and other professional associations in the country to find ways of interacting with government on a regular basis, saying that the associations are established not to antagonise government, but to contribute to national growth and development.
He accepted the NBA’s invitation to open the association’s Annual General Conference at Tinapa, Cross River State, next month, promising to personally honour the invitation if his official schedule permits.
Earlier, Wali called on the President to wade into the political crisis in Rivers State. Speaking with State House correspondents after the meeting, Wali stated that it was necessary for Jonathan to intervene in the crisis and ensure that peace returns to the state and for law and order to prevail. “We talked about security.
We pointedly talked about Rivers State. We expressed our concern that we were very disturbed about what is coming out from Rivers State. We appealed to the President to do all that he can lawfully do to ensure that peace returns to Port Harcourt and law and order prevails. And at all times the principles of the rule of law must be adhered to.
We made that clear to the president,” Wali said. The NBA president noted that the association also discussed other issues bordering on security, economy, rule of law, funding and the independence of the judiciary. “We talked about the issue of the independence and funding for the judiciary. We talked about the rule of law because we believe that that is a strong issue in any civilised society and we talked about the economy. We appreciate the fact that the government is working. We have lots of reports.
“But our concern is also that the impact on the average Nigerian. It is good enough to have the statistics, but we will like it to be moved to the next level where the average Nigerian gets the impact of what the government is doing,” Wali added.
Meanwhile, the Rivers State Chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has called for investigations by security agents into the utterances of Governor RotimiAmaechi even as the Deputy Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon. LeyiiKwanee, has condemned what he described as selective form of investigations into the recent House of Assembly fracas, which resulted in various degrees of injuries to House members.
The party in a statement said several unguarded statements and threats by Amaechi should no longer be taken for granted. It reacted to what it termed uncomplimentary remarks and aspersions cast on the person of President Jonathan by the governor while fielding questions from a BBC correspondent in London.
In the interview, Amaechi had described President Jonathan as undemocratic and advised that he should change his leadership style or there will be problem in the country.
The statement issued and signed by Jerry Needam, Special Adviser on Media to the Rivers PDP Chairman, Felix Obuah, which was made available to National Mirror, stated that: “It’s becoming clearer by the day that Governor Amaechi is up to some mischief, which explains the reason why he is defying all wise counsel and proceeding with his acts of insubordination to constituted authorities, inciting and making unguarded utterances.
“He must be a man on a mission and the earlier he is exposed and stopped the better for the entire nation.”
In another development, Kwanee has condemned the summoning of some lawmakers by the Force Headquarters while other legislators who were involved in the brigandage are left to walk freely on the streets of Port Harcourt.
Speaking to newsmen in Port Harcourt yesterday, the Deputy Speaker stated that what could have been appropriate was for the police to invite all those involved in the fracas for questioning.
“If they want to do a thorough work they should carry out an unbiased investigation,” he said.