What is happening in Rivers State in recent times is ominous and deserves some attention of major stakeholders. A few days ago, the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state directed the Martin Amaewhule-led members of the House of Assembly to immediately commence impeachment proceedings against the state Governor, Siminalayi Fubara. These 27 lawmakers, who defected to the APC from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) last December, are loyal to the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and immediate past governor of the state, Nyesom Wike.

A day after the APC directive, one of the four lawmakers loyal to Fubara, Hon. Victor Oko-Jumbo, who represents Bonny Constituency, emerged as the factional Speaker of the Assembly. Oko-Jumbo said his faction of the Assembly was the constitutionally recognized one by virtue of the defection of the other faction to the APC.

Former factional Speaker of the Assembly, Mr. Edison Ehie, had declared the seats of the 27 lawmakers vacant following their defection in December 2023. He said he based his action on Section 109 sub-section 1(g) of the 1999 Constitution. He later vacated his seat when he was appointed the Chief of Staff to the governor. The two factions have been making incendiary statements. The governor himself has also been talking tough.

Last week, Fubara said the 27 legislators would cease to exist as lawmakers, if he so decided. According to him, they were existing because he recognised them on account of the peace accord initiated by President Bola Tinubu. The governor made the assertion when a delegation of political and traditional leaders from Bayelsa State, led by former governor of Bayelsa State, Seriake Dickson, paid him a visit. He said he had been the one showing restraint since the escalation of the crisis in the state.

Apparently riled by the governor’s statement, the chairman of the caretaker committee of the APC in the state, Mr. Tony Okocha, said no section of the Constitution empowered the governor to declare Assembly members non-existent. He described the government of Fubara as the worst thing that had happened in Rivers’ political history.

It is pertinent to note that the current problems in Rivers State started a few months after Fubara was sworn in as governor. The crisis led to some attempts to impeach the governor late October 2023. This snowballed into setting the Assembly complex in Port Harcourt on fire by suspected hoodlums. The fire was put out by the Federal Fire Service and security agencies. Last December, the governor ordered the demolition of the assembly complex, attributing his action to structural defects arising from the fire outbreak.

President Tinubu had to intervene at some point, bringing some semblance of peace to the state. But from the recent happenings, it is apparent that no party in the crisis wants to sheathe their sword. Hence, the recent threat to remove the governor.

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Obviously, the removal of a governor from office is a serious matter. Chapter 6, Part 2, Section 188 of the 1999 Constitution stipulates the steps to be taken to effect the removal of a governor or deputy governor from office. Essentially, the removal of a holder of such office could occur if the person is guilty of gross misconduct in the performance of the functions of his office. Interpretation of this gross misconduct depends largely on members of the House of Assembly.

In March this year, the Amaewhule-led Assembly accused the governor of dishonesty, constant breach of the Constitution, and refusal to uphold the presidential peace accord, which he signed without coercion. They said Rivers State remained the only state without an appropriation law and that the governor “recklessly abandons laws of the state.”

Disturbed by this turn of events, elder statesman and South-South leader, Chief Edwin Clarke, warned against anarchy in Rivers State. He urged the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Kayode Egbetokun, to wade in and stop the Amaewhule-led Assembly members from parading themselves as lawmakers. He said their recent announcement might cause a breakdown of law and order in Rivers State and would lead to disastrous consequences for the state, Niger Delta and Nigeria at large.

Other elders and stakeholders in Rivers should wade in as well. President Tinubu should revisit the situation and call the warring parties to order. Political elders should stand up to be counted. They should not take sides. Nigeria cannot afford anything that will bring down this democracy. Crisis in Rivers State is a pain in the thumb that must be stopped. The voice of reason must prevail.

Both parties should exercise caution and sheathe their swords. They should be mindful of their statements and actions to avoid stoking already inflamed passions. Elections are over. Good governance is what the people need this time. Impeachment will not bode well for the state.

We advise that peace should reign in Rivers State. The governor should allow the House to operate while the House should give the governor the respect and honour he deserves. Whatever the issues are, the peace of Rivers State supersedes. We need the three arms of government to function effectively. None should encroach on the functions of the other. If anarchy sets in, it won’t augur well for the combatants and for our democracy.