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Akwa Ibom in the throes of violent takeover


Governor Udom Emmanuel, flanked by his cabinet members, addressing the press yesterday

Going by the calculations of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), whatever the party lost by the change of platform in some Middle Belt states, especially Benue and Kwara, it would regain in the oil-rich Akwa Ibom on the flank of South/South geo-political zone.

APC’s interest in taking over the state started shortly after power changed hands at the centre between APC and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), when the Department of State Security (DSS) invaded Akwa Ibom Government House in search of arms.

Although the effort yielded just $50, 000 cash, it was obvious that there was some fixation about the state. APC’s scout for electoral outpost in the South/South yielded fruit three years later, with the defection of the former governor and minority leader, Godswill Akpabio.

Akpabio comes out as a rambunctious politician imbued with the gift of the garb. Ever since he moved to APC, the former chairman of PDP Governor’s Forum has been boasting of his powers to effect political Tsunami in Akwa Ibom. Yesterday, what began as mere verbal warfare, including accusations and counter-accusations neared a violent overthrow of the democratic structures in the state. While APC alleged that PDP lawmakers began the ugly display of legislative rascality by suspending five lawmakers who defected to the party, PDP claimed that the court ruled that the price for the lawmakers’ defection midterm was loss of their respective seats.

It was therefore in a bid to turn the table that the five embattled legislators decided to take the matter to new heights by not only suspending some of their colleagues in PDP, but also set the stage for eventual removal of the governor. However, accounts of what really happened became the subject of hot exchanges between the government and opposition APC. The opposition accused Governor Udom Emmanuel of leading thugs, armed security details to invade the state House of Assembly, ostensibly to dislodge a faction of the legislators led by the member representing Essien Udim State Constituency, Mr. Nse Ntuen, who had earlier taken over the house, and prevented them from sitting.

Former federal lawmakers, Eseme Eyiboh had explained that Governor Emmanuel was doing all in his power to halt public aversion to his second term, stressing that the March 2 2019 governorship election would mark the governor’s last days in office. It was alleged that the governor arrived the Assembly a few minutes past 10 am, amidst sporadic gunfire by the security personnel that accompanied him to the assembly.

“He headed straight to the chambers of the Assembly, as the gun-firing officers manhandled members of the Nse Ntuen faction, with several of them receiving severe wounds,” APC narrated. The factional members of the assembly were said to have scaled the fence of the assembly to escape the governor’s thugs and security aides, who were there to forestall a possible impeachment notice on him from the largely APC lawmakers of the Ntuen faction, who had earlier in the sitting before the arrival of the governor, suspended eleven PDP members of the house.

The governor, accompanied by members of his executive council, ensured that the Hon. Onofiok Luke’s faction, made up of the remaining PDP members of the assembly, sat in plenary and later held closed door meeting with Luke.APC alleged that Udom moved to the Assembly after his Commissioner for Works, Mr. Ephraim Inyang-Eyen, failed to stop the factional legislators from sitting, as he and his team of policemen and soldiers were spurned by the factional Speaker and his members.

Meanwhile, the Ntuen faction had during their sitting, dissolved all the standing committees, having suspended eleven members of the house.The Assembly crises started on Monday, November 19, 2018, when the Speaker, Hon. Luke declared the seats of six PDP members of the Assembly, who had defected to APC, citing the provisions of Section 109 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.

The Speaker also explained that his action was backed by the decision of a Federal High Court sitting in Uyo, which empowered him to declare the seats of the member representing Itu State Constituency, Hon Idongesit Ituen, vacant. However, the sacked members contended that their cases were pending in various courts, adding that they obtained and served court injunctions on the Speaker pending the exchange of pleadings in their various applications.

But, not satisfied by the allusion to court processes, the Speaker went ahead to declare the seats vacant. Incensed by the development, the six embattled lawmakers, who defected from the PDP to APC later met in the legislative chambers and purportedly impeached Hon Onofiok Luke.

An APC stalwart in the state, Obong Michael Udo, said the governor’s visit to the Assembly was an unwarranted affront on the legislature and a breach of separation of power in a democracy. Udo maintained that Governor Udom was throwing the entire state into “needless chaos in his second term desperation,” adding “Udom Emmanuel should realise that we are in a democracy, where the rule of law is paramount.

“He should understand that what he embarked on today is capable of throwing the entire state into needless chaos and anarchy. The Federal Government should caution Emmanuel to allow the legislature settle its problems and not to become part of the problem.”But the state government, through the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Charles Udoh, decried the attempted invasion of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly by APC thugs dressed in military uniforms and under the protection of the police, on the orders of Akwa Ibom State Police Commissioner. 

The commissioner disclosed that normalcy was restored by the timely visit of the governor, stressing that the visit was clearly “in line with his position as the Chief Security Officer of the state.”Udoh added: “The governor has a moral and constitutional responsibility to legally protect lives and properties in the state. It is pertinent to note that prior to this, 13 APC thugs dressed in military uniforms and armed with AK-47 rifles were apprehended by law abiding citizens and handed over to the police.

“However, it defies logic that these hoodlums were set free without due process of investigations by the Officer in Charge of Quick Response Squad in Akwa Ibom State, Superintendent Abdulkareem Suleiman.”

Giving the name of the driver of the vehicle that conveyed the thugs dressed in military uniforms as Innocent Edet Udoh, the commissioner said the gang leader, Nsikak Monday Stephen, who is also the youth leader of Nung Udoe Itak, is still in custody. He explained that despite attempts by APC to change the narrative, the suspects have made useful confessional statements, remarking that the driver has confirmed to law enforcement agents that they were hired by Victor Udofia, the immediate past State House of Assembly member who represented Ikono State Constituency. 

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