Special Take on the Events in Rivers State – Conscience Reports
It all started with attempts by 5 lawmakers out of 32 elected lawmakers in the Rivers State House of Assembly to convene illegally without forming a quorum and impeach the elected Speaker; a move many see as a precursor to removing the State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi who purportedly has been having the battle of his life with the President, Goodluck Jonathan. The resistance by the majority lawmakers to such illegality resulted in a free for all, despite the heavy presence of the Police, the State Security Service (SSS), and the Military who had been invited beforehand by the substantive Speaker of the House to provide security for the convening of the Honourable Members, following a tip-off on plans to disrupt the sitting and unleash mayhem. Strangely enough, the Police, the SSS and the Military refused to act, and stood idly by while the fight lasted. It took the intervention of the State Governor who came to the premises of the State House of Assembly with his security detail to stop the mayhem, but not without casualties from the exercise. Less than 72 hours later, the Police tear-gassed the Government House in Portharcourt, the Rivers State Capital, ostensibly to disperse protesters, and shortly after, the security details of the Governor and the Military men on guard at the Government House were withdrawn, leaving the Governor and the Government House unprotected. The Police Hierarchy has reportedly set up an Investigative Panel to deal with the Governor’s security details; if this is true, then it would be wise if the Police extend the same treatment to the larger security apparatus that stood on the sidelines.
All of these actions and inactions seem to be connected with the supposed disagreement between the Governor and the President. It is believed by many that the Governor is being crucified over his alleged refusal to succumb to the wishes of the President on key national issues and on the Chairmanship of the Nigerian Governors Forum which the Governor holds. Since the crisis in the Rivers State House of Assembly, some have blamed the President as the one behind the actions of the five lawmakers who attempted to remove the substantive Speaker, as a prelude to removing the Governor from office; that may not be true, but it is curious that Evans Bipi, the lawmaker who evidently led the other 4 lawmakers on the impeachment bid is a close kinsman of the President’s wife. The President and his allies on the other hand has refuted the allegations, and issued Statements distancing himself from the political situation in the State; he insist that the Governor is responsible for the crisis in the State House of Assembly and that the problem in Rivers State is the internal wrangling of the Administration of the Governor. Still others have placed the blame squarely on the Governor’s shoulders, saying that he must respect the President and be loyal to his party; which both men belongs to, or defect to another party. But is respect and loyalty synonymous with sycophancy? And should disagreements necessarily lead to defections? There are equally others who have attempted to trace the genesis of the crisis in Rivers State to the Governor’s alleged alienation of party members, harassment of political opponents, the outcomes of the Justice Eso’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, disrespecting party orders, alliance with the opposition and orchestration of irregularities in the 2011 general elections. There appears to be no shortage of blame games on either side.
Amidst these claims and blame games which are all subject to debate, we must move beyond mere rhetoric, cut through the noise and address the more important need to safeguard this democracy which we suffered for, and some died for; it is not enough to say that such had happened before since return to democracy fourteen years ago, and the heavens did not fall, for every period of history differs in its nuances and glory. And the rational way to find a meaningful solution to the crisis and safeguard this democracy is to initially adopt the view that there is actually no problem between President Jonathan and Governor Amaechi, and then evaluate the issues on their inherent values based on relevant and appropriate frameworks.
In the light of this premise, we are going to place the issues where they are and force everybody to see where the problem lies.
Section 130; subsection 2 of the Nigerian Constitution states that the President is the Head of State, Chief Executive and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation. It therefore follows that by virtue of these constitutional provisions, the President is the Chief Security Officer of the Federation, and hence his number one priority is to keep the Nigerian people safe. So, wherever there is insecurity and threat to life in any part of the Federation, the President must act, especially when called upon by the authorities in that part to intervene. This is why section 14; subsection 2b of the Constitution emphasized that the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.
Similarly, section 176; subsection 2 of the Constitution states that the Governor of a State shall be the Chief Executive of that State. As a result of this constitutional provision, the Governor of a State by implication is the Chief Security Officer of that State, and as such, he is responsible for the security and safety of lives and property in his State. To further buttress the fact the President is the Chief Security Officer of the Federation, and a Governor is the Chief Security Officer of his State, the Constitution in sections 215 through 220, places the Nigerian Police and the Inspector General of Police as well as the Armed Forces of the Federation and the entire security network of the nation under the command of the President and Commander-in-Chief. It also places minimally, any contingents of the Nigerian Police Force stationed in a State, and it’s Commissioner of Police in that State under the command of the Governor of the State. The downside however, is that such command of the Governor is subject to the Inspector General of Police and by extension, the President and Commander-in-Chief. Thus, by the constitutional provision in this section, the directives of a Governor of a State to the Commissioner of Police of that State may be referred by the said Commissioner to the President or such Minister of the Government of the Federation as may be authorised by the President. And so even though, the Governor of a State is the Chief Security Officer of his State, he really does not have any control over the security network stationed in the State.
Against this backdrop, Governor Amaechi as the Chief Security Officer of Rivers State had acted in order when he took the responsibility of restoring order and ensuring security in the State House of Assembly; but he acted unwisely by going down there in person; he ought not to have done that. He could have asked his security details to do that without his physical presence there; perhaps, the frenzies of the moment, the reported threats of shooting him and the refusal of the Commissioner of Police in that State in collusion with the SSS and the Military, to obey his orders and provide the required security made him to act that way, but when it matters most, that may not be an excuse. Besides, there is also the overriding question of whether he would have acted that way, if other citizens or residents of that State other than the lawmakers were in danger.
The greater issue here however, is the disposition and acts of commission and omission of the President. It may be true that the President has no quarrel with the Governor, but his disposition or general attitude towards him and the affairs of Rivers State says otherwise. The President in his oath of office swore to defend the Constitution and uphold democratic principles. How then could he had undertaken such acts of commission as making himself to be seen as undermining democracy by aiding, abetting and validating a clear loser in the Nigerian Governors Forum Chairmanship elections? That singular action suggests that he has an axe to grind with Governor even if he claims otherwise. By the same token, the prevention of the Governor from exchanging pleasantries with the President, by aides of the President at a recent Presidential Dinner speaks volumes. Furthermore, the President’s acts of omission by refusing to direct the Inspector General of Police to resolve the issues between the Governor and the Commissioner of Police in Rivers State, Joseph Mbu or redeploy him from the State, despite several complaints by the Governor that he can no longer work with him, indicates that he has agenda that he is pursuing in Rivers State. And unverified reports from within the Police Command in Rivers State at our disposal actually suggests that contrary to the Commissioner of Police claims that the Governor has been giving him troubles, it is him indeed that has been giving the Governor’s nightmares. As we have said, we are yet to prove this, but here is the point: why not redeploy the Commissioner if there is a serious breakdown in communication, and if he can no longer work with the Governor of the State? In addition, the withdrawal of the Governor’s security details and the soldiers on guard at the Government House in Portharcourt, following the recent crisis, further reinforces the notion of a problem between the President and the Governor, as all of these cannot be done without the approval of the President.
So, the real issue is Presidential rashness and lack of tact in handling the Rivers State crisis, and managing the perceived crisis between the President and the Governor; the President need to get a good handle on these issues.
We therefore call on him as the Chief Executive and Chief Security Officer of this nation to steer the ship of State back on the right course and take steps to ensure that issues do not degenerate further. We call on him to take the lead and do the right thing in order to be on the right side of history; surely, this President cannot afford to toe the path of others before him in this nation. The President and his allies must pause and remember that no matter how long it takes, he too must relinquish power one day; at best, he can only have another term of four years after this term. And we ask Governor Amaechi and his supporters to equally bear in mind that the sword cannot devour forever; he too will soon leave office, and he can have no further term as Governor. What legacy is he going to leave behind? We also call on those fanning the embers of discord between these two leaders to stop and forge a common ground between them for the benefit of the good people of Rivers State and the Nigerian people in general, but more importantly, we call on our Niger Delta brothers who are fuelling the fires of strife and hatred between these two Niger Delta sons to desist from their disastrous course. Our Niger Delta brothers must honestly understand that a bitter struggle between these two men does the Niger Delta no good, and would only serve to embolden those whose sole purpose is to continue to divide and conquer the Niger Delta people. We must never forget that today’s powerful majority can become tomorrow’s persecuted minority; it is simply a fact of life and history.
In the final analysis, the Nigerian people must realise that at the heart of this crisis, is the struggle for who controls the Presidency by 2015; and so, we call on the 7th National Assembly to bend the arc of history towards the common good and the hope of a better day in the ongoing Constitutional Amendment exercise by pursuing the substance rather than chasing needless shadows. The Federal lawmakers should for the love of country, focus on two key Constitutional Amendments. First, amend the relevant constitutional provisions on the Revenue Allocation Formula. The Revenue Allocation Formula is so disjointed and tilted towards the Centre, that it breeds frustration and anger. Sections 80 through 89; 120 through 129; and 162 through 168; and the Third Schedule of the Constitution talks extensively about Public Revenue and the Revenue Sharing in general. This singular issue is what splits Nigerians along ethnic and divisive lines. And it is what is responsible for the agitation of the various geopolitical zones and ethnic nationalities to produce the President, because the Revenue Allocation Formula is subject to the whims and caprices of Presidential Fiats. At present, the Centre controls a whopping 52.68 percent of the total revenue accruing to the Federation. The thirty-six States share a paltry 26.72 percent and the 774 Local Government Areas share a miserable 20.60 percent. There is of course a 13 percent derivation to Oil Producing States, just as the Nigerian Customs Service receives 4 percent of the monies it collects as cost of collection, and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) receives 7 percent of the monies it collects as cost of collection, and 4 percent of the monies from Value Added Tax (VAT) collection. This distorted Revenue Sharing Formula is the sole issue dividing the nation and pitting one region against the other. There is absolutely no justification for the extant Revenue Allocation Formula and no equity in this lopsidedness at all. This craze for the Centre, and these unceasing cries of “It is our turn” would only come to an end when this provision is amended and the existing Revenue Allocation Formula is reverted to what it was at the nation’s Independence, which is: 50 percent to the Region of Production, 30 percent to the Common Pool of Regions, and 20 percent to the Centre. Second, amend the applicable constitutional provision that places the control of the nation’s Police force in the hands of the President. If we must have a genuine and viable fiscal Federalism, each must State must have its Police Force under the control of its Governor, subject of course to the oversight of the State House of Assembly, because a situation where the Governor of a State has no say in the contingent of the Police Force stationed in his State in a Federation as diverse as ours with over 398 ethnic nationalities, is not acceptable at all. If the National Assembly does not muster the political will to carry out these amendments, we will keep having these recurring nightmares.
With unyielding hope and determination,
For: Conscience Reports,
Editor in Chief & Chief Executive
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