The Senate passed a resolution on Thursday empowering it and the House of Representatives to take over the legislative functions of the Rivers State House of Assembly.
In the resolution which concurs with that of the House on July 10, the Senate also flayed the attempt by five anti-Rotimi Amaechi lawmakers to impeach the state Assembly Speaker, Otelemaba Amachree.
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Information and Media, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, said after the decision that a meeting between the President of the Senate, David Mark, and the Speaker of the House, Aminu Tambuwal, would be held to draw up modalities for the running of the assembly.
Abaribe, in an interview with a reporter in Abuja, explained that with the concurrence which is in line with Section 11(4) of the 1999 Constitution, the activities of the state legislature stood suspended.
He said, “As it stands now, the Rivers State House of Assembly has been suspended by virtue of the fact that it can no longer carry out its legislative functions.
“The principal officers of both chambers of the National Assembly will meet to discuss and agree on the procedures for running the assembly.
“From there, we will await subsequent instructions from the Chairman of the National Assembly.”
Section 11(4) of the 1999 Constitution states, “At any time when any House of Assembly of a state is unable to perform its functions by reason of the situation prevailing in that state, the National Assembly may make such laws for the peace, order and good government of that state with respect to matters on which a House of Assembly may make laws as may appear to the National Assembly to be necessary or expedient until such time as the House of Assembly is able to resume its functions; and any such laws enacted by the National Assembly pursuant to this section shall have effect as if they were laws enacted by the House of Assembly of the state: Provided that nothing in this section shall be construed as conferring on the National Assembly power to remove the governor or the deputy governor of the state from office.”
The Senate Committee on State and Local Governments which investigated the crisis in the assembly had presented its report during plenary in Abuja. It recommended that the assembly be taken over and fingered President Goodluck Jonathan, his wife, Patience, and the national leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party for being behind it.
The committee recommended, “That the National Assembly should, as a matter of urgency, take over the functions and duties of the Rivers State House of Assembly, pursuant to Section 11(4) of the 1999 Constitution(as amended) pending the resolution of the crisis and restoration of peace in Rivers State.”
Senators, in a voice vote, passed the resolution without any dissenting voice.
The same was the case for the two other prayers which are:
* “That the Inspector-General of Police should as a matter of urgency, redeploy the state’s Commissioner of Police, Mr. Joseph Mbu, since his relationship with Governor Amaechi had broken down irretrievably and;
*“That the Senate President should intervene and mediate in the Rivers State political crisis and see to its amicable resolution.”
Although the recommendations were 17, the committee had to reduce them to three after meeting behind closed doors for about five hours.
The recommendation not taken was the prayer that the Director-General of the Department of Security Service should “investigate and cause the prosecution of Chidi Lloyd (Majority Leader of the state assembly) and all those found to be actively involved in attacking Michael Chinda and other members of the assembly.”
The panel also urged the DSS to investigate and recommend for necessary disciplinary action, the officers and men of the police and other security personnel that invaded the assembly’s chambers. Besides, it recommended that Evans Bipi, who led the anti-Amaechi legislators “ be investigated and if found culpable, prosecuted for bringing armed thugs into the chambers and for the assault on the Speaker and other members of the assembly which precipitated the crisis.”
The committee also called on the different stakeholders to take steps to restore peace to the state, especially as it affects the relationship between the Governor and the Police as well as between him (Amaechi) and other political stakeholders in the state.
In its findings, the committee observed that “The crisis in the assembly on July 9, 2013 was the expression of deep-rooted political crisis occasioned by the alleged highhandedness of Governor Amaechi and the perceived undue interference with the political and security structure of the state by the President, his wife and the national leadership of the PDP.”
The panel reported, “The purported impeachment of the Speaker by the five members led by Bipi was not in compliance with the provisions of Section 92(2)(c) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and also not in compliance with Orders 12 and 28 of the state assembly Standing Orders 1999.”
While presenting the report, Chairman of the Senate Committee, Senator Kabiru Gaya, said he was summarising the prayers to three as advised.
After concluding his presentation, he advised that the security operatives withdrawn from Amaechi be restored but senators did not make comments after the presentation.
President of the Senate, David Mark, in his remark, said the Senate was only committed to restoring peace to the state.
He said, “As our desire to ensure peace returns to Rivers State, let me add that the National Assembly will uphold, defend and protect the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as we have all individually sworn to do. And this we will do at all times and at all costs.
“Minority members of the Rivers State House of Assembly cannot remove and should not contemplate the removal of the Speaker or anyone else for that matter and should perish the thought if they ever haboured it.
“Our institutions of state should also uphold the constitution at all times and should not in any way encourage the impression that the impunities of the past are possible today. This National Assembly, for the avoidance of doubt, will resist impunity and unconstitutionality. This is the stand of the Senate.”
He said the committee had not indicted anyone and that the Senate remained neutral in its effort to find a lasting solution to the problem.