The six members of the Rivers state House of Assembly opposed to Governor Rotimi Amaechi said Friday they would be willing to shelve the differences that plunged the state into turmoil for months, and work with Mr. Amaechi if he recognizes their leader, Evans Bipi, as speaker of the state assembly.
The leader of the group, Mr. Bipi, told PREMIUM TIMES his faction bears no further grudge against the governor beyond Mr. Amaechi’s refusal to recognize him as the “authentic speaker”.
He said regardless of the governor’s recent defection from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, they can still “work together” if their condition was met.
“He can be in his APC while I remain in my PDP,” Mr. Bipi said. “Once he recognises me as Rivers state authentic speaker, all will be well. Once that is done, even the President and his wife will be happy with him, and we can work together in the interest of our state. He must respect constituted authorities.”
Mr. Bipi’s claim to the office of the speaker began in July after his faction of six members, which enjoys the backing of President Goodluck Jonathan and wife, Patience, claimed to have overruled a majority of 27 to remove the elected speaker, Otelemaba Amachree.
Mr. Amachree’s majority faction has since rejected that claim, as has the state governor, Mr. Amaechi, whom they support.
According to the Nigerian Constitution, it is impossible for a group of six to remove a speaker of an Assembly backed by another 26 members. An Assembly needs two-third majority to remove its speaker.
The chaos that followed Mr. Amachree’s purported impeachment engulfed the assembly leading to its shutdown and subsequent takeover by the National Assembly in July 2013.
A federal high court ruled Wednesday quashing the decision of the National Assembly, paving the way for the local assembly to resume normal legislative functions. But the Rivers state government and the National Assembly have appealed the judgment and filed a motion for a stay of the execution of the judgment.
The two factions-lawmakers supporting the governor and those backing Mr. Bipi and, in extension, President Jonathan- were barred from resuming sitting by the police which claimed ignorance of the court’s decision.
But the police said late Friday it had received a copy of the court order, but it is not clear which of the two groups it would allow access to the Assembly complex.
There are speculations Mr. Bipi’s faction is scheming to illegally impeach Mr. Amaechi. Ordinarily, that is impossible given that under our law, an assembly needs two-third majority to impeach a governor or remove its speaker.
But speaking to PREMIUM TIMES by phone late Friday, Mr. Bipi, representing Ogu/Bolo constituency, denied there were plans to impeach the governor.
He said the faction was ready to shelve past differences and work with the governor if he was recognized as the “elected speaker” of the state assembly.
Mr. Bipi said the recognized speaker, Mr. Amachree, was “duly impeached” and he was in charge as speaker.
“He (Mr. Amachree) was properly impeached on the floor of the House and I’m now in charge,” he said. “And that’s why I have the keys to the House. By Monday or Tuesday, once the police confirms receipt of the court judgment, I will resume my constitutional duties as speaker and I invite Amaechi to work with me.”
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