Tension In Rivers: As Gov Fubara Directs Heads Of LG Administration To Take Charge Of Councils 

…Youths Besiege Councils Clash With Police, Vigilante

…Police Officer, Vigilante Confirmed Dead

Rivers State Governor Siminalayi Fubara has directed heads of local government administration to take charge of the 23 Local Government Councils of the state from the chairmen whose term in office ended on Monday, June 17, 2024.

This follows the expiration of the statutory three-year tenure of the elected chairmen, vice chairmen and councillors in Rivers State on Monday, June 17, 2024.

The directive was contained in a statewide broadcast by Governor Fubara Tuesday morning, June 18, 2024.

The governor said: “Heads of Local Government Administration (HLGAs) are hereby directed to immediately take charge of the councils with renewed vigour and readiness to serve and await further directives as we navigate towards even greater accomplishments together.

“As we move forward in making sure that the constitution is upheld, and that law and order are maintained as we continue to strive to provide leadership and direction for our people, I hereby direct heads HLGAs to continue to provide leadership in their respective local government areas.”

He thanked the elected chairmen and councilors for their service which, according to him, expired on Monday, June 17, 2024.

On Monday, Degema and Asari-Toru councils in Rivers State were enveloped by anxiety as youths took over the secretariats, following the expiration of the tenure of chairmen, councillors and other council officials.

Youths who blocked Degema council secretariat vowed to remain there till tomorrow as they burst into solidarity songs, demanding the exit of the Chairman, Michael John Williams.

According to the protesters, the three-year tenure of the chairman had expired on June 17.

At Asari-Toru Local Government Secretariat, youths barricaded the gate to stop their chairman and officials from gaining access to the premises.

Fears were rife that the mounting tension may degenerate into violence in the oil-rich state.

At the Port Harcourt City Council, four patrol vans of policemen were seen keeping vigil at the gate to prevent breakdown of law and order.

Police vowed to dislodge the troublemakers, saying that the court order on status quo should be obeyed by parties in the dispute.

The Rivers chairmen have insisted on remaining in office, citing the court ruling in the case involving the Martins Amaewhule-led House of Assembly and the House of Assembly led by Victor Oko-Jumbo.

However, Niger Delta activist Asari Dokubo asked the council chairmen to quit, saying that their tenures had expired.

Dokubo advised the chairmen to embrace the reality that their tenures had ended and desist from creating crisis.

Dokubo, who spoke during the Sallah solidarity visit by the Muslim community to Fubara, said tenure elongation was an aberration to the constitution.

He said: “Local Government tenure has expired today, 17th June 2024. They should quietly go home. If they want to seek re-election in accordance with the constitution, they should go and seek re-election.

“But there is no tenure elongation in the constitution. Their position is tenure bound, and that tenure has expired.

“Let them not cause unnecessary problem for the people of the state. And I want to advise young people, that look, don’t allow yourselves to be used.”

Dokubo said the youths should protect the state against self-seeking individuals, who thought it was their private estate.

He said: “The people are showing people’s power. The people have gone on their own to take over local government secretariat because it is about the people, and nobody can say that we voted for three years tenure for a chairman and the chairman should exceed one second of that tenure.”

Governor Siminalayi Fubara had maintained that the council chairmen should leave on June 17, saying that the tenure extension was unconstitutional.

However, the chairmen insisted that their tenures had been extended and vowed to continue in office after a High Court sitting in Port-Harcourt, the state capital, ruled that the 27 lawmakers have not defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC).

There was apprehension as armed youths, suspected to be surveillance workers, were seen in a viral video parading the creeks of riverine local councils.

Tension rose following hints that the governor has sent names of the seven-man caretaker committees for each council to Oko-Jumbo-led lawmakers for screening.

An unidentified leader of joint task force on anti-bunkering in the Southsouth was seen threatening fire and brimstone in another viral video.

He drew a battle line with the outgoing chairman of the Ikwerre Local Government Area, Samuel Nwanosike, who had earlier vowed not to vacate his office after June 17.

He said: “We are preparing and we are about to take over the 23 local government areas on Wednesday (today, June 19, 2024). We are taking over the 23 local government areas. Let them wait for us. We are coming.

“We will be escorting every local government caretaker. My business is to work for the government and relate with the government to fight crime. I work with the joint task force. I am in charge of anti-bunkering in the South/South.

“I am back home with half of my men. We are getting ready for Wednesday. Let all the caretaker get ready to host my boys too. The Chairman of Ikwerre should wait for me.

“I volunteer to come to Ikwerre, wait for us. If your head is hot, we will pour it cold water and it will be cool so that you learn how to respect elders and authority especially the number one citizen”.

The police asked the parties to obey the Court of Appeal order on status quo, vowing to secure lives and properties in the state.

The Rivers State Police Commissioner, Olatunji Disu, who sent officers and operatives to monitor the councils, assured residents of their safety following the agitations against the outgoing LG chairmen.

He urged parents to call their children to order, saying that anyone found breaking the law would face the punishment.

Disu said parents should warn their children against getting involved in the crisis to avoid being used as cannon fodders.

“We are aware of the crisis that has to do with the tenure of the local government chairmen and we have gotten one court order or the other, and the Court of Appeal has given an order for everybody to exercise restraints till the 20th of this month, just three days.

“So, we expect everybody to respect it and not take laws into their hands and allow peace to continue as it is.”

Disu maintained that the police will work round the clock to safeguard the lives and property of residents of the state.

He said: “Sincerely, you know our officers have been out for the past three days. I just finished addressing them, and I thank them for the good job they have done and because they have been out since 4a.m, and they just came back.

“We are not taking it lightly. We are ready to go. Our officers have been on a show of force and we have had additional men given to us from the headquarters, the equipment has been serviced and we are ready to go.

“This is just to assure members of the public that so far as we are concerned, we are ready to do our jobs of protecting lives and property.

“We have warned anybody who would want to take laws into their hands. I want to use this opportunity to talk to parents to call their children to order and talk to them so that their children will not be used as cannon folds in this crisis.

“Everything that has to do with government property and every human being in this community would be protected.”

Meanwhile, as staff of various councils across the State smarten up to resume work tomorrow, Wednesday, June 19, after a very long Sallah holiday, youths loyal to the incumbent State Governor, Siminalayi Fubara had taken over the council headquarters in their various local government areas to ensure that the immediate past Council Chairmen obey the governor’s marching orders as contained in his early morning broadcast, Tuesday.

There are however reports of some pockets of counter-attacks from the depleted supporters of the council chairmen. As at press time, a police officer and a vigilante had been confirmed dead by the police.

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