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RIVERS CRISIS: Shootings as Fubara directs HLGA to take over 23 councils

Wike, Rivers

…Security operatives killed, Ijaw youths occupy PH LG complex

BY AGBU

The battle for supremacy over Rivers State between Governor Siminalayi Fubara of Rivers State and his predecessor, Barr. Nyesom Wike, has taken a more dangerous dimension as shootings took place in some Local Government Areas when some youths attempted to force council chairmen out of their offices following the expiration of their tenures.

The invasion of some of the Local Government Areas by youths believed to be of the Ijaw extraction came on the heels of Governor Fubara’s directive to Heads of the 23 Councils in the state to take over the administration of the Councils during his state wide broadcast on Thursday.

Fubara in the broadcast directed Heads of Local Government Administration to immediately take charge of the 23 council areas of the State following the expiration of the statutory three-year tenure of the elected local government chairmen, vice chairmen and councillors on Monday, June 17, 2024.

Fubara announced: “My fellow Rivers people, I come before you today with immense gratitude and heartfelt appreciation for your unwavering support to me and my administration.

“I urge us all to reflect on the shared sacrifice we have all made to have a peaceful and prosperous Rivers State, and indeed, Nigeria. It is my wish that we continue to live in peace and harmony as one.

“Together, we have achieved milestones in different sectors of our economy which includes infrastructure, health, education, workers welfare, improved service delivery, agriculture and social welfare that resonates deeply within our communities.

“Your dogged and committed support has been the bedrock of our progress, and for that, I extend my sincerest thanks,” he said.

Going forward, Fubara added: “I also wish to acknowledge and commend the dedicated services of the outgoing elected Local Government Chairmen, Vice Chairmen and Councilors who were elected and sworn in three years ago, and whose tenure expired yesterday the 17th of June, 2024, as provided for by the Law.

“On behalf of the Government and the people of Rives State, I thank you all for your sacrifices, and commend your commitment to public service and our dear Rivers State.

“I congratulate you all for the successful completion of your tenure and wish you well in your future endeavours.

“As we move forward in making sure that the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is upheld, and that law and order is maintained as we continue to strive to provide leadership and direction for our people, I hereby direct Heads of Local Government Administration (HLGAs) to continue to provide leadership in their respective Local Government Areas.

“Heads of Local Government Administration (HLGAs) are hereby directed to immediately take charge of the Councils with renewed vigor and readiness to serve and await further directives as we navigate towards even greater accomplishments together,” he explained.

Governor Fubara further stressed that: “I assure you, my good people of Rivers State, that we shall continue to defend you, provide infrastructural development, sound healthcare delivery, quality education and undiluted welfare service packages for all our people and workers.

“Once again, I thank you my dear good people of Rivers State, for your steadfast support and dedication to our shared vision of unity, progress and prosperity.”

The Governor noted that, “Together, we will continue to build a brighter and better future for all,” and wished all Rivers people, especially the Muslim faithful a happy Sallah Holiday.

At the Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor local Councils in Port Harcourt some of the protesting youths who spoke anonymously to the press pointed accusing fingers at the state police who they claimed rushed to the area to disperse the protesting youths, shooting sporadically.

At the Port Harcourt LGA, one of the protesters, claimed that they came in peace to protest against the local government council chairmen, Allwell Ihunda, who they claimed had vowed not to vacate office despite the expiration of his tenure on June 17, “but policemen from the State Police Command started shooting in their direction.”

He said, “We are Ijaw youths and are here on a peaceful demonstration against those whose tenure has expired but refused to vacate their office. We are not here to make trouble. We were just on a peaceful demonstration, but surprisingly the police started shooting at us.”

He continued: “We are Ijaw youths and are here on a peaceful demonstration against those whose tenure has expired but refused to vacate their offices.

“We are not here to make trouble. We were just on a peaceful demonstration, but surprisingly the police started shooting at us,” he claimed.

However, the Police Public Relations Officer of the Command, SP Grace Iringe-Koko, said the Command was aware of the shootings but claimed they were not from the police.

Iringe-Koko said, “It is not the police that are shooting. Our men have been deployed already to identify and apprehend those disturbing the peace.

“As I speak to you now, the Commissioner of Police and the Deputy Commissioner of Police are on patrol. Policemen that have been deployed there and they are visible.

“We will ensure nobody takes the laws into their hands under our watch. The CP on Monday said the police is ready to do its job, and that is what we are doing,” Iringe-Koko stated.

Meanwhile, following the Local Government (LG) crisis rocking Rivers State in the oil-rich South-South geopolitical zone of Nigeria, two security operatives have lost their lives in the line of duty.

Though the details are a bit unclear, it was gathered however that the sad deaths which occurred in Omuma Local Government Area on Tuesday, might not be unconnected with the invasion of the council headquarters at Eberi-Omuma.

Confirming the incident, the spokesperson for the Rivers State Police Command, Grace Iringe-Koko, said two deaths were recorded.

She said a policeman and a vigilante operative lost their lives in the crisis.

In a similar development, Rivers State Governor, Sir Siminalayi Fubara, has assured the people of the state that he would fearlessly lead the way to ensure that peace continued to prevail while also protecting all patriotic supporters for their stand on the path of truth.

Governor Fubara made the vow while addressing newsmen, shortly after rising from a State Security Council meeting with heads of the security agencies at Government House in Port Harcourt, Tuesday.

He emphasised that no grand plan to arrest such patriotic supporters on trumped-up charges would be tolerated.

Fubara stated that there was no extension of tenure of elected local government chairmen, adding that the law was unambiguous on it, clarifying that the court had also affirmed the position of the law.

Fubara said: “Let me also say this: I’m also aware that there is a grand plan to come and arrest some of our supporters. This time around, you have to pass through me to arrest them because I don’t think there is anything that any of those people following us has done. Rather, they are standing on the side of truth.

“If it will cost us our lives to stand on the part of truth, we will do that. And I will be the one that will lead the course,” he added.

Governor Fubara further said: “Let me assure everyone, more especially, the great and peace-loving people of Rivers State: the law is the law. The law has said that there is no extension of tenure.

“The court said so, and whoever that is assuring anybody anywhere of whatever, I advise them to desist from it because peace is what we need in this State.

“I assure every one of you that whatever it takes to make sure that we maintain peace and order, we are not going back on that,” he emphasised.

Fubara explained that the Security Council Meeting was called because of the recent threat to the peace of the State by the outgone chairmen of the Local Government Councils.

He said: “You are all aware that the tenure of the council chairmen ended yesterday, 17th June, 2024, and today, we have ordered the Heads of Local Government Administration to be in charge while they await further directives.

“It’s really unfortunate that we started hearing some disturbing news from some LGAs of invasion of council secretariats, and it is really unfortunate. So, we have called the Security Council Meeting so that the needful will be done.

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“We are also aware that our enemy is also planning a lot of things. But we will not fall into that plot. We will not also allow him or them to destroy the peace that we are enjoying in the State,” he added.

Fubara thanked the media and the peace-loving people of the State for their support, and urged everyone to continue to remain law-abiding for the unity and progress of the State.

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