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Protests, Gunshots in Rivers Over Council Tenureship Crisis; Policeman, Vigilante Killed

“If it’ll cost us our lives to stand on the part of truth, we’ll do that,” said Rivers Governor Fubara.

(L-R) Rivers State NSCDC Commandant, Mr Basil Igwebueze, State Commissioner of Police, Olatunji Disu, Commander, Nigerian Navy Ship Pathfinder, Desmond Igbo, Rivers State Governor, Siminalayi Fubara, State Director, DSS, Clara Olika, Commander, Commander, 6 Division Garrison and Commander, Sector 3, Joint Task Force (JTF), South-South Operation Delta Safe, Brig. Gen. Eddie Effiong and 115 Special Operations Group, NAF, Group Captain Ali H. Idris, shortly after the State Security Council Meeting in Government House, Port Harcourt, yesterday.

The crisis following the expiration of the tenures of Local Government Council Chairmen in Rivers State, has taken another dimension, as police, youths and other citizens occupied 21 council secretariat on Tuesday, resisting the outgoing chairmen and their supporters from gaining entrance to the offices.

This as the State Governor, Mr Siminalayi Fubara has assured that he will fearlessly lead the way to ensure that peace continued to prevail in the State, stressing that his government will resist arrest of any of his supporters.

Governor Fubara, in a statewide broadcast on Tuesday morning dissolved the council citing the Nigerian constitution on the tenure of local government administration and directed’ the Heads of Local Government Administration to immediately step in and take charge of the council affairs.

The insistence by some of the outgoing  chairmen to remain in office citing the law passed by the Martin Amaewhule-led Rivers State House of Assembly which extended their tenures by six months, allegedly incited the crisis Tuesday.

Recall that the outgoing Emohua council chairman, Chidi Lloyd had announced in a press statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Bright Jossy that the council will begin the distribution of cutlasses and hoes to farmers from Tuesday June 18 and it’s expected to last for one week.

While his Khana LGA counterpart, Bariere Thomas announced a one-week clean-up exercise in the council billed to commence from same Tuesday.

Also, the former Chairman of Ikwerre LGA, Nwanosike Samuel had announced a one-week cultural festival in the council begining Tuesday June 18, while the former Eleme council Chairman, Barilormate Ollor, warned youths and others to steer clear of the council secretariat if they do not want to meet their forefathers.

However as early as Tuesday, youths and other citizens of the state besieged the various councils, denying the outgoing leadership access to the various council secretariats. The resistance has also caused tension, as protestd spread across the 23 local government areas of the state following the expiration of the three years’ tenure of the elected Chairmen of LGAs and ward councillors.

At Omuma LGA, a policeman and a member of Omuma Security Planning and Advisory Committee (OSPAC) were reportedly killed by yet to be identified gunmen, following shootings that erupted in the area.

At Obio-Akpor Local Government secretariat Tuesday morning, scores of youths and women besieged the premises and pulled down an image of the Federal Capital Territory Minister, Nyesom Wike.

One of the youths who refused to mention his name told journalists that they besieged the secretariat to ensure that the former chairman and his allies don’t loot council properties.

He said, “We are here to make sure that the chairman and his people do not come in and loot council properties, we are here to make sure that they do not have access to this place again, their tenure have ended, let them go home.”

There was also heavy shooting at Port Harcourt City Local Government Area secretariat, after some youths blocked the outgoing mayor, Mr Allwell Ihunda from gaining access to the secretariat.

The gunshot sounds, coupled with shots of teargas canisters shots sent many scampering for safety.

In Eleme LGA, hundreds of youths stormed the council secretariat to chased away all agents that are opposed to the directive issued by the governor.

The youths moved round the council premises stating that they would not allow anyone take away what belonged to the council.

One of the youths who pleaded anonymity said they were at the council secretariat to ensure that the directive of the governor is obeyed.

He said: “All of them have disappeared, because we have come to take over. The governor is the power that we know. We have taken over Eleme. Total take over.

“The governor is the power we know, there is no other power. We have taken over Eleme. Eleme is taken. Their tenure has elapsed they should go home.”

Meanwhile, the state Police Command has confirmed that a policeman and a vigilante member were killed in Omuma. The spokesperson of the command, SP Grace Iringe-Koko also revealed that investigation has been deployed to unravel the cause of the killings. 

Reacting on the crisis, Governor Fubara said he will ensure that peace continued to prevail in the State while also protecting all patriotic supporters for their stand on the path of truth.

Governor Fubara gave the assurance, shortly after State Security Council meeting with heads of the security agencies, held at the Government House in Port Harcourt, yesterday.

Governor Fubara stated that there is no extension of tenure of elected local government chairmen, adding that the law is unambiguous on it, clarifying that the court has also affirmed the position of the law.

The Governor said: “Let me also say this: I am also aware that there is a grand plan to come and arrest some of our supporters. This time around, you have to pass through me to arrest them because I don’t think there is anything that any of those people following us has done. Rather, thy are standing on the side of truth. 

“If it will cost us our lives to stand on the part of truth, we will do that. And I will be the one that will lead the course,” he added.

Governor Fubara further said: “Let me assure everyone, more especially, the great and peace- loving people of Rivers State: the law is the law. The law has said that there is no extension of tenure.

“The court said so, and whoever that is assuring anybody anywhere of whatever, I advise them to desist from it because peace is what we need in this State. I assure everyone of you that whatever it takes to make sure that we maintain peace and order, we are not going back on that,” he emphasised.

Governor Fubara explained that the Security Council Meeting was called because of the recent threat to the peace of the State by the outgone chairmen of the Local Government Councils.

The Governor said: “It’s really unfortunate that we started hearing some disturbing news from some LGAs of invasion of council secretariats, and it is really unfortunate. So, we have called the Security Council Meeting so that the needful will be done.

“We are also aware that our enemy is also planning a lot of things. But we will not fall into that plot. We will not also allow him or them to destroy the peace that we are enjoying in the State,” he added.

He thanked the media and the people of Rivers State for their support, and urged everyone to continue to remain law-abiding for the unity and progress of the State.

Blessing Ibunge in Port Harcourt

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