There is a blatant attack on Nigeria’s democracy demonstrated in the on-going saga in Rivers State that we, N-Katalyst, wish to draw attention to. N-Katalyst is a non-partisan, non-profit, non-governmental association of progressive Nigerians drawn from across different backgrounds, professions and persuasions, united in our vision of an undivided and indivisible Nigerian nation, and in our commitment to the pursuit of good governance, and social, economic and political justice in the Nigerian State, and the respect and advancement of the fundamental human rights of all Nigerian citizens.
The political conflict amongst members of the PDP in Rivers State degenerated yesterday into serious violence and mayhem inside the chambers of the Rivers State House of Assembly. The drums of discord took a dramatic turn when thirty-five governors, all members of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, ended up conducting an election in which 16 and 19 voters on the two sides both claimed that they had a majority. The brazen declaration of the camp with 16 votes that they were a majority over the camp with 19 votes was the signal that certain sinister forces were ready to fight a dirty war in which facts, the rule of law and basic decency would not count. That war is now spiralling into an ignoble inferno capable of consuming our democracy, if not our country.
It now seems quite clear that the allegation that Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State is nursing the idea of contesting the presidential election in 2015 is the root cause of the imbroglio. He was suspended from his party, the PDP, which set up a panel to investigate his alleged involvement in anti-party activities. The Rivers State House of Assembly has since been divided between the supporters of Amaechi and his opponents.
N-Katalyst is concerned at how our democracy is being threatened by reckless action in which Federal might is being used to make nonsense of our democracy. Yesterday, 9th July 2013, orchestrated violence broke out in the Rivers State House of Assembly. A group of FIVE anti-Amaechi legislators, three of whom were present, attempted to impeach the Speaker of the House which has thirty-two members, using thugs and physical violence. The majority of members resisted this attempt. This led to a fracas and a free-for-all fight. The mace of the House was used freely as a weapon. Policemen, in and out of uniform, assisted thugs to invade and attack perceived enemies. Blood, real human blood, flowed and many people were injured.
Today, during a meeting of the State Executive Council, a group of Governor Amaechi’s supporters visited the government on solidarity. The Police Commissioner had them tear-gassed. The Government House in Port Harcourt was besieged and the State Executive Council, presided over by Governor Amaechi, was trapped in tear gas smoke. It is intolerable that federal might is exercised by the Nigerian police to blatantly serve vested interests. The State Police Commissioner has, over the past two months, been brazen in his rudeness to the Governor and has acted openly in a partisan manner.
The Nigeria Police Force has shown no respect for the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which guarantees the freedom of association and assembly. The Police has repeatedly denied supporters of the Governor the right to demonstrate. Yesterday, it was the constitutional function of the State House of Assembly that was disrupted by persons whose violence took place under police protection. The House of Assembly’s sanctity has been desecrated. The defilement of the constitutional order in Rivers State portends ominous danger for the rest of the country. And if this is a prelude to 2015 elections, Nigeria is beginning to degenerate into anarchy. This is unacceptable. Any threat to the Rule of Law is an affront on the constitution and our claim to civility.
N-Katalyst recalls the orchestrated sacking of the then Governor of Chris Ngige of Anambra State and, how in some states, the Houses of Assembly members were coerced by EFCC to impeach governors. We cannot return to those murky days of illegalities and brigandage by the Federal Government. In the case of Rivers State, the clear partisan involvement of the State Commissioner of police and the active participation of his officers in beating up contenders is most deplorable and capable of further eroding public trust in security agencies.
N-Katalyst believes that there is sufficient evidence to show that Federal might is being deployed for partisan interest and that such action can compromise our democracy. It is in this regard that we salute the wise decision of the House of Representatives in taking over the functions of the Rivers State House of Assembly to ensure that illegal and unconstitutional acts do not occur again.
N-Katalyst therefore demands for the following immediate actions:
1) The Rivers State Police Commissioner should be immediately removed for blatant partisanship and activities designed to compromise the credibility of the Nigerian Police Force and of Nigerian democracy. We call on the Police Service Commission to investigate his conduct and if found guilty, and if found guilty he should be sanctioned for his anti-democratic engagement.
2) A new police commissioner should be deployed to Rivers State with a clear mandate to protect democratic institutions as well as the security of life and property. The Inspector General of Police must speak up and act in defence of the Constitution or he too should be investigated.
3) All culprits of the fracas at the State House of Assembly, irrespective of their status, should be held accountable and brought to justice.
4) The House of Representatives, which has taken over legislative functions in the State, should ensure that no persons be allowed to thwart the rule of law in the state for the sake of partisan interest.
5) Security agents should take immediate steps to ensure that respect for the office and person of the Governor of Rivers State and respect for the constituted authorities of the House of Assembly are upheld.
Dr Jibrin Ibrahim John St Claret Ezeani
Dr Otive Igbuzor Saudatu Mahdi
Nasir El-Rufai Hubert Shaiyen
Yusuf Baba-Ahmed Uyoyoghene Ugheru
Ayisha Osori Prof Ebere Onwudiwe
Yemi Candide-Johnson Ayo Obe
Saka Azimazi Maryam Uwais
Bashir Yusuf Ibrahim Chris Kwaja
Hassan Hussaini Liberty Oseni
Dr A. S. Mohammed Nsongurua Udombana
Asma’u Joda Nsirimovu Anyakwee
Dr Kabir az Zubair Martin Obono
Dr Hussaini Abdu Aisha Oyebode
Dr Arabo Ibrahim Bayo Dr Charmaine Pereira
Yusufu Pam Auwal Ibrahim Rafsanjani
Y. Z. Ya’u Ayangebee Doowuese
N-Katalyst is a non-partisan, non-profit, civic association of progressive Nigerians united in the vision of an undivided and indivisible Nigerian nation. It seeks to promote good governance, social, economic and political justice in the Nigerian State, as well as the advancement of the rights of all its citizens.