Akwa Ibom boils as police take over Assembly
• Security agents seal complex as Senate probes ‘invasion’
• Court upholds stay of execution filed by ‘sacked’ lawmaker
• Reps query police commissioners’ deployments in Bayelsa
With general elections very near, the two major political parties might have unwittingly picked the Akwa Ibom House of Assembly for a preliminary test of strength.The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday alleged a plot by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to take over the house, aided by security operatives, and unleash an impeachment plot against the state governor, Emmanuel Udom.
The APC on its part claimed the Speaker, Mr. Onofiok Luke, breached the law by declaring vacant the seats of five PDP members who crossed to the ruling party.One of the defectors, Mr. Nse Ntuen, has since been ‘appointed’ Speaker by his co-defectors, a move the Assembly leadership dismissed as laughable.
It will be recalled that the Speaker once alleged he was offered N2billion by the presidency to decamp to the APC alongside PDP stalwart and former state governor, Chief Godswill Akpabio. Onofiok, who claimed he turned down the money, was quoted as saying: “To those who think they will come and take over Akwa Ibom State, we will resist them with the last drop of our blood, because this is our inheritance.” Akpabio, on the other hand, likened an oncoming takeover of the state to Adolf Hitler’s invasion of Poland.
Also yesterday, PDP chieftain, Reno Omokri, took to his Twitter handle, warning: “The governors of Benue and Akwa Ibom should brace up. I have it on good authority that the Buhari administration is determined to do all it can to impeach them. Akwa Ibom governor is first (to get funds for 2019), then Benue. Nigerians diligently protect your democracy #renosdarts.”
When The Guardian visited the legislative complex, more than 500 personnel drawn from the Department of State Services (DSS), the police, and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps ensured no one gained access to the premises.“Part of the plot is the forceful attempt to take over control of the Akwa Ibom State legislature, for which the presidency and the APC have been sponsoring the invasion of the House of Assembly complex and seeking ways to violently oust the duly elected leadership of the state assembly,” the PDP said in a statement by its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan.
“The people of Akwa Ibom will never allow anybody, no matter how highly placed, to overrun their state or in any way attempt to foist an undemocratic leadership over them and no amount of intimidation or force will make them change this resolve,” the party said.The party’s state publicity secretary, Mr. Ini Ememobong, also accused the APC of plotting to use the new commissioner of police posted to the state to return the sacked lawmakers or lock down the complex.
In a statement, he said: “The attempt by the APC to use security forces to convert their political minuses to an advantage is the surest means of instigating crises in Nigeria’s most peaceful state, Akwa Ibom. We hereby advise the new commissioner to note and understand that he is not and cannot become a court of law.”
But the APC insisted it stands by the decision of the five aggrieved lawmakers to elect Ntuen as Speaker. “The APC in Akwa Ibom cannot and will not accept the act of impunity and political rascality displayed by the former Speaker in declaring the five seats of our members in the Assembly vacant,” said state chairman, Mr. Ini Okopido.
According to him, “The APC stands with all its House members and assures them of our total support. We equally stand by the decision of the lawmakers to elect a new Speaker to lead the 6th Assembly and will support the new Speaker, Mr. Nse Ntuen, as is required of the APC in Akwa Ibom State.”
His comment came as the Federal High Court in Uyo upheld a stay of execution application filed by one of the sacked lawmakers, Prince Idongesit Ituen. The presiding judge, Justice Fatun Riman, while ruling on the matter, said Ituen is a bona fide member of the House, pending the determination of an Appeal Court judgment in Calabar, Cross River State.
The Senate meanwhile resolved to investigate the action of security agencies at the Assembly. It mandated its committee on police affairs yesterday to probe the deployment and report back to the chamber within 48 hours.
The resolution followed adopted Point of Order 42 and 52 moved by Senator Bassey Albert Akpan (PDP: Akwa Ibom), who told the chamber: “The Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly has been sealed off by over 1,500 policemen. I believe that a threat to democracy in Akwa Ibom State is a threat to democracy in Nigeria.”
In a related development, the House of Representatives also resolved to investigate the “worrisome”, “incessant” and “confused” deployment of police commissioners to Bayelsa State.
Prior to the resolution, Diri Douye (PDP, Bayelsa) had noted: “In the last three months, eight commissioners have passed through the state. This consistent erratic behavior should be checked.” According to him, the trend makes it difficult for the governor to develop lasting synergy crucial to peace in the state.