The Rivers State political crisis deepened further on Thursday as six commissioners loyal to ex-governor Nyesom Wike resigned from the cabinet of Governor Siminalayi Fubara.
This was as the two factions of the split state House of Assembly held separate sittings on Thursday.
The commissioners, who tendered their resignation were the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Prof. Zacchaeus Adangor (SAN); Commissioner for Works, Dr Des George-Kelly; Commissioner for Special Duties, Emeka Woke; Commissioner for Social Welfare and Rehabilitation, Mrs Inime Aguma; the Commissioner for Finance, Isaac Kamalu; and the Commissioner for Education, Prof. Chinedu Mmom.
Of the six commissioners, five served under Wike’s administration in the same capacity, while Woke was Wike’s Chief of Staff for eight years.
All the five commissioners confirmed their resignation to The PUNCH on the telephone.
The Commissioner for Works, George-Kelly, said he resigned because “my conscience will not allow me to stay.”
The social welfare commissioner, Mrs Aguma, said, “I have other commitments.”
The AGF, Adangor, on his part, said the resignation was based on “personal principles.”
Woke and Kamalu simply asked our reporter to look out for their letters of resignation to see their reasons.
Meanwhile, the education commissioner, in his resignation letter dated December 14, 2023 addressed to the Governor through the Secretary to the State Government, said, “I hereby resign my appointment as the Honourable Commissioner for Education, Rivers State for personal reasons.
“I wish to express my sincere appreciation for the opportunity given to me to serve in your administration and wish you the best as you carry on with the governance of the state.”
Our correspondent learnt that six other commissioners had also tendered their resignations but could not confirm the claim.
Meanwhile, the two factions of the state House of Assembly held parallel sitting at different locations on Thursday.
The Speaker, Martin Amaewhule, who leads 27 pro-Wike lawmakers, sat at the Assembly quarters along Aba Road Port Harcourt.
On the other hand, the Edison Ehie-led faction, which is loyal to Fubara, reportedly held plenary at Government House, Port Harcourt.
The PUNCH reports that the state governor on Wednesday sent bulldozers to demolish the state Assembly complex, while the four pro-Fubara lawmakers declared the seats of the 27 pro-Wike lawmakers vacant following their defection to the All Progressives Congress.
Fubara, on Wednesday, presented the state’s 2024 budget to the Ehie faction.
He signed the N800bn budget into law on Thursday, pledging full implementation.
Fubara stated, “This budget shows that we have a plan for our dear state. One of the reasons why our budget is in the volume of N800bn is that we intend, not just by desiring, to ensure that one key request of our dear state is met. God being our helper, we will commence immediately, by next year, flagging off the actual and main Trans-Kalabari road project Phase 2.
“We have also, in our budget, provided to take care of the Elele-Omoku road project, a road that cuts through Ikwerre, Emohua and Ogba-Egbema-Ndoni Local Government Areas. We are also taking that project as one of our cardinal achievements of this administration. We are not going back on it.”
The governor said no efforts would be spared in implementing to the full the planned quality projects and services itemised in the 2024 budget.
“I want to assure you that this administration has the best interest of our people. It is an administration that wants everyone to have hope.
“We have keyed into the Renewed Hope Agenda of our dear President Bola Tinubu to continue to assure our people of hope. The best of us will be seen by everyone.
“We will continue to protect the interest of our people, do the best for everyone, not minding your position or class.
“Our government is a responsive and inclusive government. Our eyes and ears are open to the needs of our people. We will not disappoint you,” Fubara said.
In his speech, the factional Speaker, Ehie assured Fubara of the continued support of the lawmakers to ensure the success for the administration.
Meanwhile, the pro-Wike faction, during their sitting at the auditorium of the House of Assembly Quarters on Aba Road, Port Harcourt, “resolved to adopt and convert the Auditorium of the House of Assembly Quarters to its hallowed chamber.”
According to a statement they issued on Thursday, the lawmakers condemned “in unequivocal terms” what they described as “heartless and brazen demolition of the House of Assembly complex by Governor Siminialayi Fubara, without the approval and knowledge of the House.”
The House, in a motion sponsored by 26 members and moved by Ofiks Kabang, representing Andoni Constituency, drew the attention of the Federal Government, the Inspector-General of Police and the international community, to the constant attack by Fubara on the Rivers State legislature.
Also, the Chairman of the All Progressives Congress Caretaker Commitee in the state, Chief Tony Okocha, in an interview with journalists in Abuja on Thursday, said the demolition of the House of Assembly by Fubara would not stop pro-Wike lawmakers from sitting.
Okocha confirmed that the lawmakers who defected from the PDP to the APC on Tuesday, met on Thursday.
He said, “The House of Assembly can be moved to anywhere. It is not necessarily tied down to a building. Provided the mace is present there, members can sit anywhere. As of this morning, the 27 lawmakers met and even signed some resolutions.”
Meanwhile, the pro-Fubara Speaker, on Thursday wrote the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, informing the electoral body of the 25 vacancies in the Assembly following the defection of the pro-Wike lawmakers.
Also, some constituents from the four local government areas of Ogoni land in Ribers State said they had commenced a process to recall the four lawmakers representing the areas in the state Assembly.
They named the four lawmakers as those who joined their colleagues to sign the impeachment notice on Fubara.
The name the lawmakers as Deputy Speaker of the Assembly, Dumle Maol, Hon..Barile Nwakor, representing Khana Constituency 1, Hon. Aforji Igwe representing Eleme and Hon Bernard Ngba, representing Tai Constituency.
The Convener of Ogoni Development Drive, Solomon Lenu, said this while speaking to newsmen at the official opening of the recall register in Port Harcourt on Thursday.
Lenu said, “The errant lawmakers left the core responsibility for which they were elected to go on a political jamboree with the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike.
“We have equally obtained the comprehensive voters’ register of all voters in the four LGAs and constituencies.
“We have also created an electronic capture form to make the petition process easier for students at various campuses.”
The ODD convener stated that the commencement of the recall process began after the expiration of the seven-day ultimatum given to the four lawmakers from Ogoni to apologise to Fubara and the Ogoni people who voted for them.
“We will follow the process of their recall to its logical conclusion no matter how long the process may take.
While insisting they will go ahead with the recall process, he added, “We don’t want to be caught in the political snare.
“We are continuing with the recall process until the highest court has declared their seat vacant that is when we will stop.”