Eyes on INEC as anarchy looms in Rivers

The political crisis in Rivers State may gradually gallop into a state of anarchy. In less than one year, the administration of Governor Siminalayi Fubara since its inauguration last year May 29, 2023, has produced three Speakers, a clear indication that all is not well in the state.

What began like a mere misunderstanding between a political godfather, Nyesom Wike and his godson, Governor Fubara, is merely a few steps away from snowballing into a catastrophic dimension that may result in the declaration of a state of emergency in Rivers.

With the emergence of a new Speaker, Rt Hon Victor Oko Jumbo from Bonny state constituency among a 3-member Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, lawmakers, and political watchers are on feverish edge waiting for what will happen next. Credible sources volunteered that the immediate assignment of the new Speaker will be, among other things, the swearing-in of caretaker committee chairmen for the twenty-three local government areas of the state.

Recall that the tenure of the present council chairmen expires next month. It presupposes that either an election is conducted or caretaker chairmen are appointed to fill up those positions across the state. Of course, for obvious reasons, the Governor will not dare to conduct any election under the present circumstances because he does not have any solid structure to carry out such a sensitive political exercise, at least for now.

In the recent past, the House of Assembly led by Martins Amaewhule as Speaker had passed a law extending the tenure of the council chairmen by six months. This legislative scheme was carried out at the same time the Rivers state chapter of the All Progressives Congress, APC, was mounting pressure on the Governor to conduct a local government election in the state. The party frowned at any attempt by the Governor to appoint caretaker chairmen into those councils.

But with the emergence of Rt Hon Jumbo as the new Speaker of the divided Assembly, all is now set for caretaker chairmen to be sworn in to replace the outgoing chairmen whose tenure elapses next month. When this is successfully done, Governor Fubara may now have some respite knowing that only those loyal to him would be appointed as caretaker chairmen into the twenty-three LGAs.

However, the lingering crisis in Rivers State has been attributed to the deliberate refusal or otherwise of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to conduct elections to fill the vacant positions of the 27 lawmakers who defected from the PDP to APC.

The then factional speaker of the House, Edison Ehie had declared the seats of the 27 lawmakers vacant. This was immediately followed by the decision of the High Court in Port Harcourt which barred the Amaewhule-led lawmakers from gaining access to the Assembly complex under any guise or form.

Concerned stakeholders in the state including the PDP had informed INEC, as a matter of constitutional necessity, to conduct an election to fill up the vacant positions of the defected lawmakers, but to no avail. The electoral body has yet to make any public statement about the matter since the political crisis broke out in the state in October last year.INEC

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