Politics

Fubara seeks alternatives as police bar Rivers caretaker chairmen from LG secretariats

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Siminalayi Fubara, Rivers State governor, says the 23 local government councils in the state will operate from alternative secretariats.

The announcement follows Tuesday’s sealing of the councils by the police.

Fubara who spoke after swearing in the 23 local government caretaker committee chairmen on Wednesday in Port Harcourt, the state capital, said they could operate from anywhere.

He said the police barred the newly inaugurated caretaker chairmen from from accessing their offices in all the 23 LG headquarters. The secretariats were barricaded with police patrol vans manned by armed policemen.

The state police command had on Tuesday announced that it had taken over all the LG council headquarters to forestall further bloodshed and to prevent a breakdown of law and order.”

A policeman and a member of a local security outfit were killed during a clash between supporters of the governor and his predecessor, the Federal Capital Territory Minister, Nyesom Wike at Eberi-Omuma in the Omuma Local Government Area of the state on Tuesday.

Fubara and Wike have been embroiled in a bitter disagreement since late last year.

The crisis worsened on Tuesday when youths loyal to the governor dislodged some chairmen loyal to Wike after the expiration of their tenure on Monday.

The chairmen had vowed to remain in office, citing the Local Government Amendment Law 2024 made by the Martin Amaewhule-led House of Assembly.

The law by the 27 lawmakers loyal Wike empowers them to remain in office for six months due to the failure of Fubara to conduct local government elections.

However, Fubara insisted that no law permits the tenure elongation for local government chairmen, and named caretaker chairmen.

The governor after swearing in the newly appointed caretaker committee chairmen in the Government House on Wednesday, charged them to eschew violence, maintain the peace, and be guided by the Constitution.

Fubara also directed the Auditor-General of Local Governments to commence an immediate audit of the accounts of the 23 councils, adding the new appointees could operate from anywhere

He said that the swearing-in of the chairmen would ensure seamless administration of local governments following the expiration of the tenure of elected chairmen and councillors in the state.

“Whatever happened yesterday, I know and the world knows that it is not from you people. Some people caused it. So, let us not allow them to continue to make our state look bad in the comity of states,” he said.

“So, when you go back, if there is any situation, you should be law-abiding. I don’t want any confrontation. You can operate from anywhere for now. But the most important thing is that you have the control of the local governments today.”

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Defending the appointment of the caretaker chairmen, Fubara argued that what he did was not new.

“What is happening here now is a defence of democracy. We will not allow the wrong precedent to be created in this country. It is not about Rivers State. It is not about Fubara. But if in any way this attempt at tenure elongation succeeds in Rivers State, it becomes a norm in Nigeria,” he said.

“So, we have taken it upon ourselves to say, not on our watch will it happen because it is completely alien to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

Fubara wondered why the tenure of elected officers would expire, and they would want to perpetuate themselves in office against their oath of office and the provisions of the Constitution of Nigeria.

The governor said such insistence to elongate the tenure of council chairmen would not happen in the state.

He pointed to the importance of knowing how the finances of the 23 Local Government Councils were managed in the last three years and directed the Auditor-General of Local Governments to begin auditing the accounts and make the report available within the next month.

He urged the new chairmen to ensure payment of the outstanding financial benefits and entitlements, including salaries of the immediate past chairmen, vice-chairmen and councillors.

He added, “I am not of the class to say that because something happened, you should maltreat them. No. Whatever is their entitlements, ensure that they get them.”

Fubara instructed the caretaker chairmen to work hard to ensure that there was no breakdown of law and order in their various council areas.

He added, “Please, I want to appeal to you that when you go back, I don’t want a crisis. Just manage the situation as much as you can. God does not start and end halfway. That is the truth. Since God has started with us, He will complete His work in our lives.

“I don’t want any fight. I don’t want any life to be lost because it does not earn me anything. We know that we can overcome, and we have been overcoming.”

Reiterating that the caretaker chairmen would soon leave office, he said, “Let me also sound very clear here that your tenures are not going to be too long because as a matter of fact before the end of today or tomorrow, there should be a process for the commencement of elective local government chairmen in our dear state.”

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