WE MUST DEFEND OUR DEMOCRACY
BEING TEXT OF A PRESS CONFERENCE BY THE ASSOCIATION OF LOCAL GOVERNMENTS IN NIGERIA (ALGON) RIVERS STATE ON THURSDAY, THIS 11TH DAY OF JUNE 2015 IN PORT HARCOURT
Gentlemen of the Press,
We have called this august body of members of the highly revered Fourth Estate of the Realm today to intimate you of some contemporary developments in the polity of our dear Rivers State in the sure hope that first, as critical Stakeholders in the nation’s democratic project, you deserve to know what danger looms in the horizon for our prized democracy. Secondly, that by your role as watchdogs of society, the world out there will be well informed about the issues and facts surrounding the sinister plot by the Government of Rivers State under Chief (Barrister) Nyesom Ezebunwo Wike to plunge Rivers State into another round of avoidable crises after the most mindless bloodletting this State had ever known in her 48-year history in the name of struggle to wrest transient political power.
You will recall, gentlemen, that the board of the Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission (RSIEC) under the Chairmanship of Professor Emeritus Augustine Ahiauzu was sacked by the Governor on Monday, June 8, 2015 after a rather hasty inquisition by the Rivers State House of Assembly adjudged the Commission leadership guilty of “official misconduct” on the same day. Recall also that the invitation to Golgotha for Prof. Ahiauzu’s board also resulted on the self same day in the decapitation of the State Judicial Service Commission.
While we are yet to come to terms with this legislative/executive adjudication of “official misconduct” against these two executive bodies established under Section 197 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as Amended), it is the position of ALGON Rivers State (comprising of 23 duly elected Chairmen and 319 Councilors of the local government councils) that these dissolutions were POLITICALLY MOTIVATED and done in utmost bad faith. These boards were sacked on the altar of expediency to serve narrow and pedestrian partisan interests and not any higher ideals for the good of the larger Rivers State.
Coming on the heels of the directive by this Government to banks and other financial institutions not to deal with the newly-inaugurated local government councils, the dissolution of these boards is target-specific and a further step in the dress rehearsal to execute their avowed agenda to sack duly elected and constituted local government councils without recourse to the due process of law as provided under Section 64 of the Rivers State Local Government Law (No. 2) of 2012. The ultimate intention is to circumvent the provisions of Section 7 of the Constitution by replacing the democratically elected Councils in Rivers State with Caretaker Committees populated by cronies and lackeys of this government in the Peoples Democratic Party.
Gentlemen, we are aware that this plot of grave impunity and recklessness will be executed today, hence this press conference. Thus, in defence of democracy and the Constitution, as public officials duly elected by Rivers people and the section of the electorate who live and do business in Rivers State, ALGON Rivers State hereby warns of very dire consequences in the event that the Nyesom Wike administration (and this includes his hand-picked members of the Rivers State House of Assembly and the Judiciary now under the terribly politically-biased Justice Daisy Okocha) over-reaches itself by making pronouncements howsoever to terminate our three-year tenures prior to expiration as provided under Section 9 of the Rivers State Local Government Law (No. 2) of 2012.
Rivers ALGON is not being alarmist. We are putting Rivers people and the nation on RED ALERT that the plot to undermine democratically elected Councils in Rivers State by the Wike Administration EVEN THOUGH IN LINE WITH HIS CHARACTER will boomerang. Recall that Wike in his insatiable quest to become Governor whilst serving as a federal Minister undermined institutions and authorities without restraint by orchestrating a series of crises beginning with the hijack of the State PDP structures; the unconstitutional take-over of the Speakership of the State Assembly by his lackey Evans Bipi and co (which act led to Wike deploying Mbu Joseph Mbu as Police Commissioner to shut the Assembly Complex until it was opened at his pleasure); the subversion of the power of Governor Chibuike Amaechi to appoint the Chief Judge of Rivers State through the instrumentality of the National Judicial Council and the consequent shut down of the State Judiciary for nearly a year following a string of violent attacks and bombings of the courts in Rivers State. Today, after Wike emerged Governor the courts are open under Wike’s original choice as Acting CJ and no bomb has gone off thereafter.
Thus, emboldened by his sound propaganda machinery which succeeded in blackmailing Gov. Amaechi for all the constitutional atrocities in the State Assembly and the Judiciary; and apparent good luck to get away with virtually every untoward act or behavior, Wike has proceeded to sack the board of the RSIEC on the resolution of his House of Assembly without regard to the Constitutional doctrine of separation of powers, since matters questioning the propriety of the conduct of elections into local government councils by the Commission are subjudice. It is equally important that the world is told in no uncertain terms that the Plateau State Independent Electoral Commission conducted local government elections in Plateau State on the same May 23rd 2015 under former Governor Jonah Jang of the PDP and Governor Lalong of the APC who was sworn-into office on the same May 29, 2015 as Nyesom Wike has not threatened to dissolve or howsoever tamper with the tenure of the elected local government councils. Recall also that President Muhammadu Buhari has not tampered with the appointments made by former President Goodluck Jonathan even though some of these appointments were made at the twilight of the outgone administration.
It is apt to now state that as a law-abiding body of public office holders, we have taken practical steps to prevent this evil day and thus deny this PDP Government their intentions to turn our dear Rivers State into someone’s personal estate. One of these steps is the proceeding before the Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt in Suit No.: FHC/PH/CS/134/2015 seeking orders to restrain the Rivers State Governor and his hatchet men from tampering with the tenure of local government councils without recourse to legal provisions. Instead of the deliberate plot to throw our dear State into another round of unnecessary turmoil so soon after the holocaust and killings of members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) prior to, during and after the March 28 and April 11, 2015 general elections, it is only reasonable that the PDP Administration in Rivers State led by a Lawyer appreciates why the courts must be allowed to administer justice on his grouse(s) with the local councils as presently constituted unfettered. After all, assuming without conceding that the present Rivers State Government has bones to pick with the elections that brought us to office (after they and their PDP voluntarily withdrew from participating therein following their failure to use the instrumentality of the Judiciary to halt RSIEC), the same Governor and members of the Rivers State House of Assembly too have their own elections being questioned at the Elections Petitions Tribunal as prescribed by law without any person or authority at the level of the federal government ordering or manipulating the National Assembly to either “dissolve” the board of the Independent National Electoral Commission or pronto terminate the tenure of both Governor Wike and the State legislators. Why the attempt to subvert the due process of the law in the case of local government councils in Rivers State?
Gentlemen of the press, because Rivers State as an oil and gas industry hub is far too important to the Nigerian State and her economy to be engulfed in ceaseless crises and civil upheavals, we hereby call on the President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; the leadership of the National Assembly, revered royal fathers, religious leaders, security agencies, corporate executives in the organized private sector, the media, labour unions and other civil society organizations as well as well-meaning people in Rivers State to prevail upon Chief Nyesom Wike and his cronies to desist from this evil plot to destabilize the existing local government administrations. However, let us warn that where this Government, which has continued to demonstrate grave contempt for the law and the Constitution resorts to self-help, standing shoulder-to-shoulder, the Rivers ALGON shall resist any unconstitutional termination of Councils’ tenure. The consequences of such event occurring at this point in the history of our dear Rivers State are better imagined.
We thank you for your patience.