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APC queries manner of govt’s transition team

By Kamal Tayo-Oropo (Lagos) Adamu Abuh (Abuja) and Kelvin Ebiri (Port Harcourt)
08 May 2015   |   2:31 am
AS far as the All Progressives Congress (APC) is concerned, the transition committee set up by President Goodluck Jonathan is passive. In a statement issued in Abuja by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party was at a loss why Jonathan’s transition committee had been avoiding the Ahmed Joda-led committee constituted by the President-elect, Major-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd).
Governor  Chibuike Amaechi who was almost attacked by irate youths in Rivers state . Image source icampusng

Governor  Chibuike Amaechi who was almost attacked by irate youths in Rivers state . Image source icampusng

• Amaechi, Rivers gov-elect also bicker over handover
• ‘Any other state CJ can swear in Wike’ 

AS far as the All Progressives Congress (APC) is concerned, the transition committee set up by President Goodluck Jonathan is passive. In a statement issued in Abuja by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party was at a loss why Jonathan’s transition committee had been avoiding the Ahmed Joda-led committee constituted by the President-elect, Major-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd).

The statement also urged President Jonathan to call his aides to order to stop them from overheating the polity with their statements, especially relating to the transition of power.

In Rivers State, Governor Chibuike Amaechi and the Governor-elect, Nyesom Wike, have differed over the process for a smooth transfer by May 29, 2015.

While Amaechi said he was committed to a peaceful transfer of power, Wike has accused him of thwarting efforts to interface with the incoming administration with a view to ensuring a seamless and peaceful handover later this month.

And as the crisis rocking Rivers State judiciary lingers, a legal luminary, Teingo Inko-Tariah, has argued that a Chief Judge from another state can administer the oath of office on the newly elected state governor.

The APC statement on the transition committee noted: ‘’As a matter of fact, the Jonathan administration has said the handover notes will not be ready until the third week of May, meaning just a week before the handover.

What time then do we have to scrutinise the handover notes? How can we plan when we don’t even know which projects they have, which ones they have completed and which ones are outstanding? How can we plan when we don’t even know how many barrels of oil are sold per day?’’ It noted that the fact that the PDP may be deeply traumatised by its loss in the last general elections should not be a reason for it to disrupt the nation’s peace by displaying crab mentality.

It described as provocative and ill-intentioned the statement credited to the Special Adviser to the President on Political Affairs, Prof. Rufai Alkali, that the APC should talk less and plan more for the nation, and that the party (APC) is seeking to stampede the President out of office. ‘’Prof. Alkali doesn’t know what he is saying.

How does he expect us to plan when the PDP-led Federal Government has bluntly refused to cooperate with us in ensuring a successful transition? As we write, the Transition Committee of the Federal Government has yet to hold a single meeting with our own Transition Committee, neither have they given us a line of handover note.’’

The party said the fact that Alkali does not know the difference between Inauguration Committee and Transition Committee is a reflection of mediocrity that permeates the Jonathan administration and led to its downfall. According to the party: ‘’While their Inauguration Committee has been meeting with ours, their Transitional Committee has yet to even meet with ours.

How then can Prof. Alkali justify his statement that the Jonathan administration has been in a ‘transition mode’? ‘’Is it part of their transition mode that President Jonathan has been engaged in a rash of feverish last-minute appointments that, though may not have breached any known law, are patently in bad faith, morally repugnant and indecorous.

They say they are in office until May 29th, but pray, are appointments the only function of a government? Are there no problems crying for attention, such as the intractable fuel scarcity, the worsening power situation, the grounded economy and the missing Chibok girls? ‘’Is it part of their transition mode that Jonathan’s Minister of Power has virtually been reading the riot act to the incoming government, condescendingly warning it not to even consider reversing the power sector privatization because its gains are ‘’very obvious?’’.

Do they understand the implication of their gratuitous and unsolicited advice? If their power sector reforms have been so successful, would Nigeria’s power situation have hit perhaps its lowest point in a long long time as we have it now?’’ it queried.

The party reiterated its earlier advice to the PDP to shake off the trauma of defeat and gear up for the challenging task of being in opposition. ‘’They must however realise that being in opposition is not a walk in the park but like running a marathon in the desert where there are no oases or shades.

The sooner they realize that the better for them,’’ it said. Secretary, Wike’s Transition Committee, Frank Owhor, told journalists during a press conference held at the office of the Deputy Governor, Tele Ikuru, that efforts by his team to interface with the Rivers State government has been thwarted by the latter. He explained that letters dispatched to Amaechi by personal delivery and DHL courier service were rejected and returned.

Owhor alleged that top ranking official of the state informed the Wike transition committee that staff of the Government House, Port Harcourt, are under instruction not to receive any correspondence from the transition committee.

According to him, even means dispatched to the governor by electronic mail and also delivered to the Secretary to the State Government were not acknowledged.

He described the lack of cooperation by the governor and officials of the Rivers State government as irresponsible and an embarrassment to the good people of the state.

He argued that the outgoing administration has a constitutional, legal, moral and social responsibility to ensure a smooth and orderly transition to the new government.

According to him, this is the way it is going in Peoples Democratic Party that are in the process of handing over to newly elected All Progressives Congress administrations in Benue, Niger and Kaduna states, for instance.

Owhor explained that in the current democratic dispensation, the Federal Government led by Jonathan has already set up a transition committee, just like Buhari, which incidentally has Amaechi, as a member.

He pointed out that in recognition of the importance of transition committees in the peaceful and seamless handover of the reins of government from one administration to another, the outgoing administration in Rivers State is expected to set up a transition committee made up of its officials to interface with members of the incoming administration’s committee.

“Unfortunately, the outgoing government of Rivers State led by Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi has refused, failed and neglected to set up a transition committee.

It is ironic, hypocritical and smacks of double standards that the outgoing Governor of Rivers State, Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, who is a prominent member of the transition committee of the President-elect has rejected all entreaties for a peaceful transition in the state,” said Owhor.

Amaechi has described as spurious the allegation that he has deliberately refused to set up a transition committee to interface with Wike’s team. Amaechi, who spoke through the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Ibim Semenitari, said the incumbent administration remains committed to a peaceful handover later this month.

“We are ready to handover much unlike the PDP at the centre that is busy making new appointments and sacking people. They have refused to brief the Buhari transition and the APC isn’t screaming blue murder. Rather, the APC at the centre is meeting and preparing for government.

On the crisis in Rivers Judiciary, Inko-Tariah observed that though a prominent lawyer and former President of the Nigerian Bar Association who hails from Rivers State, Onueze Okocha (SAN), had recently expressed concern about the current situation and observed that the state may be in for a constitutional crisis if Amaechi fails to appoint an Acting Chief Judge for the state that should perform the swearing in ceremony, the 1999 Constitution as amended empowers the Chief Judge of another state to administer oath of office to Wike.

She explained that by constitutional provisions, the persons entitled to swear-in a newly elected governor in a southern state are either the Chief Judge or President of The Customary Court of Appeal, neither of which the state has at present.

She noted that the appointment of a substantive Chief Judge by Amaechi in the person of Justice Peter Agumagu, who was President of the Customary Court of Appeal ended in his suspension by the National Judicial Council.

According to her, Justice Daisy Okocha, the most senior judge of the High Court of Rivers State was recommended by the NJC for the position of Chief Judge was not appointed by the governor and so cannot perform the functions of a Chief Judge.

Inko-Tariah argued that Section 185(2) of the 1999 Constitution provides a panacea to the crisis as it specifically stated that: “ the Oath of Allegiance and the Oath of Office shall be administered by the Chief Judge of the state or Grand Kadi of Sharia Court of Appeal of the state if any, or President of Customary Court of Appeal of the state, if any, or the person, for the time being, respectively appointed to exercise the functions of any of those offices in any state.”

She noted that from the above provisions, it is clear that a person appointed to perform the function of the offices listed above to wit: Chief Judge, President of Customary Court of Appeal or Grand Kadi of Sharia court of Appeal in any State is qualified to administer oath of allegiance or oath of office in another State.

According to her, a person who has been duly appointed to perform the functions of the above offices in any other state in Nigeria can administer the Oath of office for the newly elected Rivers State governor.

“The absence of a Chief Judge in Rivers State and the current imbroglio surrounding the Rivers State judiciary are now quite familiar to those who have been following the state of affairs in the state. Indeed, in view of the events in the state, there is reason to believe that the problems may not be overcome very easily.

Nevertheless, it has become necessary to highlight the fact that there is a constitutional remedy in Rivers State as far as the swearing in of the newly-elected governor is concerned,” she said.