Akwa Ibom Assembly in throes of Partisan kerfuffle
• Shock As Police Commissioner Is Removed For Quelling Uprising
Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly had been rated as one of the peaceful legislative houses since the return of democratic rule in 1999, but in the last one week, the assembly has witnessed turmoil. It all started when the Speaker on Monday November 19, attempted to carry out a court order that declared the seat of member representing Itu state constituency, Mr. Idongesit Ituen vacant for defecting to All Progressives Congress.
The House is made up of 26 members. Before the wind of defections blew in the state, all the 26 members were of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). After the defections, five members moved to the APC. By enforcing what the Speaker said was in obedience of the 1999 Constitution that a member of the House of Assembly shall vacate his seat the Speaker declared the seats of the four members vacant.
Those members affected in this exercise were, Idongesit Ituen Itu, Gabriel Toby Etim Ekpo/Ika, Victor Udofia Ikono, Otobong Ndem Mkpat Enin and Nse Ntuen Essien Udim. These five lawmakers allegedly appointed Mr. Nse Ntuen Speaker and decided to resume sitting of the House on November 20 against the House adjournment of sitting to November 27 by the Onofiok Luke leadership.
With this the Assembly otherwise known as ‘Peoples Assembly’ has not seen peace as security personnel have taken over the Assembly. They were mobilized on Wednesday to prevent thugs from taking over. The thugs were allegedly brought by aggrieved members to cause mayhem. But they were prevented as all entry routes to the Assembly were barricaded.
This development has raised questions on the legality of security operatives taking over the Assembly.Another source of worry for the people is that the immediate past Commissioner of Police, Mr. John Abang, who was commended for promptly reacting to the situation and bringing it under control was the following day redeployed from the state. To many in the state, the development many not be unconnected with allegation by the national chairman of the APC, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, calling for the removal of the one month old CP in the state, for not allowing the rampaging youths gain entry into the Assembly complex on the fateful day.
While both APC and PDP are trading blame, observers say these developments might not be too far from recent allegations that the APC plans to use intimidation to claim Akwa Ibom from the PDP come 2019. However, the APC says the action of Mr. Speaker was the height of legislative rascality.
Again, the House through its Spokesperson, Mr. Ime Okon, member representing Ibiono Ibom state constituency said the member representing Itu state constituency, Mr. Idongesit Ituen, was the one that took the House to court, that if his request to stop Mr. Speaker from declaring his seat vacant did not sail through, he should have resorted to legal means instead of taking laws into his hands.
“His claim failed in court but the counter claim of the Speaker succeeded and the court ordered the Speaker to declare his seat vacant. As a lawyer, a lawmaker and a law-abiding citizen, Mr. Speaker accordingly gave effect to the court order. It is therefore preposterous that the same person who took out an action in court could resort to self-help when the judgment of the court went against him.”
The All Progressives Congress described as untrue and ill conceived the allegations by the PDP that hoodlums that caused tension around Assembly were APC youths.
The party’s Publicity Secretary, Mr. Nkereuwem Enyongekere said they are watching the unfolding scenarios in the Assembly with great concern,“So we reject in totality, such unsubstantiated attribution which is typical of PDP culture: for it is well known for its antics of smuggling problem to where there was none, then shift the blame to innocent party just to garner cheap political sympathy to itself.”
Now that the court has reinstated the sacked member from Itu state constituency in a judgment delivered on Wednesday, November 21, by the Federal High court upholding the Stay of Execution application filed by Prince Ituen, it remains to be seen how peace will return to the state. 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 the Appeal Court Judgment in Calabar, the Cross River State capital.
Reacting, the APC state chairman, Mr. Ini Okopido insists: “The APC in Akwa Ibom State 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.”
This latest development followed a trend of events that have left the state wondering what next. Sometime in August, the EFCC froze the state accounts, while in September, members of the Divine Mandate, the political organization for the re-election of governor Udom Emmanuel, were invited by the Inspector General of Police to Abuja on allegation that they pulled down a billboard of the APC governorship candidate in the state, Obong Nsima Ekere.
However, in a press statement signed by the State Publicity Secretary Mr. Ini Ememobong, the PDP accused the APC of plans to use the new Commissioner of Police return the sacked lawmakers or shut it down.He said: “The attempt by the APC to use security forces to convert their political minuses to advantage is the surest means of instigating crises in Nigeria’s most peaceful state, Akwa Ibom. The new Commissioner of Police, we learnt is under strict instructions to aid the APC to either return the sacked law makers to the Assembly or shut down the Assembly and prevent it from holding sittings.”
Members of the public who spoke with The Guardian called for peace to return, as they appealed to Assembly members to respect court orders and returned to status-quo.