Joe Effiong, Uyo

Suspected thugs, believed to be sympathetic to defected members of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, on Monday, invaded the Assembly complex with an intent to stop the House from convening and preventing the expected declaration of seats of the affected members vacant.

Apart from blocking the entrance to the Assembly,  the hoodlums, numbering more than 1, 000, made bonfires on the road leading  to the complex and were only initially restrained from entering the premises by a detachment of armed policemen who took sentry around the Assembly complex.

The thugs, however, could not stop members of the House, led by the Speaker,  Mr. Onofiok Luke, from forcing their ways into the complex  to hold a session, where they declared vacant the seats of Itu, Etim Ekpo/Ika, Ikono, Mkpat Enin, and Essien Udim state constituencies, in line with section 109 sub 1g of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.

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The erstwhile occupants of those seats, Idongesit Ituen,  Gabriel Toby, Victor Udofia, Otobong Ndem and Nse Ntuen, were alleged to have defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Ituen had even preempted the action of his colleagues by proceeding to court to stop his impending  sack but lost as the Federal High Court, in Uyo, not only declined his request,  but also compelled the Speaker to stop recognising him as member of the state’s House of Assembly.

Apart from declaring the seats of the defected lawmakers vacant, the House also passed a motion urging Governor Udom Emmanuel to name either the Akwa Ibom State University or the Ibom International Airport after former Governor Victor Attah in commemoration of his 80th birthday.

The plan by the hoodlums to invade the Assembly had leaked to the state chapter of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) which issued a statement  through  its Publicity Secretary,  Mr. Ini Ememobong earlier.

The PDP’s statement had read, “We are in receipt of credible intelligence highlighting plans by the opposition APC to use thugs to invade the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly and prevent the House from carrying out its legitimate business of lawmaking.

“The thugs, we have been reliably informed, are camped in Ikot Ekpene and will be conveyed in buses to Uyo.

“On arrival at Uyo, they will be dropped at different locations (Abak Road by Secretariat Junction, Itam Junction, Uyo Village Road by Ikpa Road) from where they are expected to board tricycles in pairs and head towards the Assembly.

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“Another set of thugs are expected to accompany the ousted lawmaker, Mr. Idongesit Ituen to attempt to force his way into the Assembly.

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“The motive of this  invasion is to prevent the Speaker from declaring vacant the seat of the sacked legislator.

“This invasion has as its adjunct function, the creation of tension as a feeder to the desired invitation of ‘Federal might’ to close the assembly.

“However, the fact of the matter is that by the judgement of the Federal High Court, Uyo, delivered in a suit filed by the self-embattled lawmaker( former Honourable Ituen), the court held, inter alia, that by his defection, he had lost his seat and ipso facto restrained the Speaker or any of the official of the Assembly from recognising or granting access to the said former legislator.

“The Speaker had upon receipt of the judgement issued a statement indicating his obedience of the court order.

“That having been done, the seat of the ousted assemblyman had become vacant by the operation of law.

“So, the intended invasion is unwarranted and in fact useless, as it’s aims are already defeated.

“The only available route for the former honourable member and his co-travellers is to obtain an order of a higher court vacating the judgement of the Federal High Court, Uyo which for all purposes is extant.

“We have alerted security agencies to prevent any attack on the symbol of democracy.

“The state’s Assembly must be protected and allowed to function properly without any distraction.”

Daily Sun learned that the thugs later invaded the Assembly building and damaged doors and other property after the house had adjourned.