The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Rivers State yesterday said it had uncovered plans by the state government, through the office of the Chief of Staff and the Special Adviser on Students Affairs to the governor, to sponsor members of the National Union of Rivers State Students (NURSS) to protest against the National Judicial Council’s (NJC) decision regarding the appointment of Chief Judge of the state.
But the state government has denied the allegations, stating that it would not use funds meant for the development of the state for frivolous activities.
The PDP, in a statement issued by Mr. Jerry Needam, the Special Adviser on Media to the state party Chairman, Mr. Felix Obuah, alleged that the state government had offered N200 million as inducement to the students.
The statement said: “The PDP is sufficiently aware of the governor’s contact with the students, offering them N200 million as financial inducement for the NURSS members to embark on the ill-conceived protest.
“The PDP appeals to the students to remain resolute and to prove to the governor and his agents that they cannot be bribed to allow themselves to be used against their conscience or be partakers in the obstruction of administration of justice and deliberate destruction of Rivers State Judiciary, which is the hope of the common man.”
It described the development as “unfortunate, unhealthy and aimed at corrupting the minds of the students”, adding that it was “an exposition of the state of frustration the Governor and the APC leadership have attained.”
The statement said the PDP wondered why innocent students would be pressured to be involved in purely judicial issue which needed not to be politicised by the governor and the APC, saying rather than forcing and deceiving the students into protesting ignorantly and under intimidation, the Rivers State Government ought to educate the students on the true situation of the current development in the state.
It called security agencies and the international community to hold Governor Chibuike Amaechi and the All Progressive Congress (APC) leadership culpable for any breakdown of law and order in the state, as the series of their actions portend great danger in the state.
But reacting to the allegations, Special Adviser to the Governor on Student Affairs, Mr. Tamuno Osika, said: “It is totally untrue, baseless and unfounded that Amaechi planned to induce students with N200 million to protest against NJC.
He accused the PDP of diverting attention from real issues involved the crisis in the state judiciary.
He said: “The perpetrators of such malicious rumour are doing so to divert attention on the contending issues surrounding the unconstitutional process of appointing an acting or administrative chief judge by NJC.
“Rivers State Government will not misuse funds meant for development projects to service frivolous activities or to jeopardise the welfare and academic pursuit of students in the state.
“Government wishes to cal Amaechi.
The NBA, Port Harcourt branch had in a press release noted that all branches of the highest body for legal practitioners in the state condemned the amendment, vowing to challenge same in the law court.
But in a rejoinder jointly signed by Collins Obulor, chairman, Ahoada branch; Promise Iwezor, chairman, Isiokpo branch; Joe Berebon, chairman, Bori branch and Obaye Ekine, chairman, Degema branch, the four other branches of the association distanced themselves from the Dennis Okwakpan-led Port Harcourt NBA.
“We, the chairmen of Ahoada, Isiokpo, Bori and Degema branches of the Nigerian Bar Association, on behalf of ourselves and our branches, hereby dissociate ourselves from that press release and decision as we did not meet and resolve to take such decision collectively.
“We advice the general public and our teeming members to disregard the said press release as we have already embarked on a comprehensive peace move to amicably resolve the vexed issue plaguing the judiciary in Rivers State, especially the appointment of a Chief Judge”, the statement reads in part.
The quartet noted that there was a peace committee on ground which comprises the chairman and secretaries of the five branches of NBA in Rivers State headed by Senator Cyrus Nunieh, the oldest practicing lawyer in the state and that consultation with stakeholders is ongoing with the aim to finding a solution to the issue.
The lawyers therefore advised its members and the public to exercise patience and await the outcome of the peace committee, adding that “we further enjoin our members to desist forthwith from acts capable of jeopardising the efforts made by the committee so far in achieving meaningful result.”