The embattled governor of Rivers state, Chibuike Amaechi, has secured a pledge of unyielding support from majority of his state lawmakers, at a secret meeting where he rallied them to face the prospect of an ever more hostile federal-backed clampdown aimed at his removal from office, PREMIUM TIMES has learnt.
Mr. Amaechi met with the state House of Assembly members in Lagos Thursday, seeking reassurances of support, amid reports the legislators, many of them his loyalists, had buckled in the face of intense federal lobby in the last one week.
The legislators are being stirred to move against the governor, and effect his ouster in a broad campaign bankrolled with at least N7 billion, PREMIUM TIMES can confirm.
The huge sum is currently being sourced by a co-governor from the region, while Mr. Amaechi’s former aide and current minister of state for Education, Nyesom Wike, is leading the operational arm of that effort, multiple sources said.
Under the plan, the funds will help woo the lawmakers to cook up impeachable offences against the governor and then move against him.
At the meeting, held in Lagos for security concerns, the lawmakers reportedly pledged loyalty to the embattled governor, our sources said, and denied working for Mr. Wike, the current minister of state for education, who is seen as the hatchet man for President Goodluck Jonathan’s in the president’s long-drawn war with Mr. Amaechi.
Only five lawmakers, out of the total 32, are said to be working in support of the president.
While Mr. Wike is reaching out to the state lawmakers, one of the governors in the south-south region, close to the president, is said to lead the effort to raise at least N7 billion to finance the impeachment onslaught.
PREMIUM TIMES could not confirm the details of how the huge cash would be deployed.
But the confirmation of the plot and the financing effort, have heightened concerns over the feud between the president and the governor, and trailed a series of fast-paced, but mainly, behind-the-scenes events.
On Monday, Mr. Amaechi was suspended from the ruling People’s Democratic Party after rebuffing a party directive that he relinquishes his post as chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, and turn in his support to Plateau state’s Jonah Jang.
Mr. Jang lost to the Rivers governor 16 to 19, but has since claimed to be the elected leader of the body in another bizarre round of the controversy.
While his security team, under federal control, remains in place, security details to some state officials have been withdrawn as legislators are drawn into an escalating pressure to move against Mr. Amaechi.
Many lawmakers fled the state amid concerns for their safety, and occasionally meet in Lagos, which they prefer to Abuja for similar reasons.
The situation is further compounded after the state police chief was recently withdrawn for an officer said to be a nominee of First Lady, Patience Jonathan.
The events have deepened the concerns of safety, despite the lawmakers’ assurances for a governor besieged by multiple threats against his mandate, and his chairmanship of the influential governors’ forum.
On Friday, Mr. Amaechi secured a relief from a Rivers state high court, which ordered the PDP to stay action on the suspension order.
Mr. Amaechi was the Speaker of the state House of Assembly for eight years under former governor Peter Odili, whose administration was rated amongst the nation’s most corrupt by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. Repeated attempts to try Mr. Odili have been frustrated by some bizarre legalese instruments.