Policemen preventing lawmakers from entering the house of assembly earlier today in Port Harcourt
By SaharaReporters, New York
The two factions of the Rivers State House of Assembly were for the second day in a row today prevented by regular and mobile policemen from entering the Assembly complex.
Neither the pro-Amaechi legislators, under the leadership of Deputy Speaker Leyii Kwanee, nor the opposition lawmakers led by Evans Bipi, were allowed access.
It was a very different scenario from what Bipi, who leads a five-man splinter group, envisaged 24 hours earlier when he returned from Abuja. He confidently told newsmen the House would reconvene under him as Speaker this morning following Monday’s judgment of the Federal High Court in Abuja.
“I have been talking with the law enforcement agents and will reconvene the House tomorrow morning by 10 a.m.,” he had declared. “We went to court and got the judgment so we will produce it to the appropriate authorities so that we can be allowed access to the House of Assembly”.
The police seemed to have had a different idea, cordoning off all access 30 metres to the complex as early as 7:30 a.m.
They were also present in far heavier numbers than the previous day, Police Area Commander Ahmed Garba informing the legislators firmly but politely that nobody would be allowed into the complex.
Just as they did on Thursday, the pro-Amaechi legislators then attempted to hold another mock session in front of the police cordon, but they were immediately warned off by a senior police officer who told them it was a security zone and that they could address the press somewhere else if they wanted.
Undeterred, the pro-Amaechi lawmakers opted to hold their mock legislative session sitting on the ground, encouraged by their supporters.
As some of the pro-Amaechi supporters moved closer to the lawmakers as they sat on the ground the police responded by firing tear gas canisters to disperse them.
Mr. Bipi, for his part, arrived at Azikiwe Road, some distance behind the police cordon, at about 11.15am, accompanied by his security aides. Bipi who refers to himself as the ‘Speaker’ of the Rivers State of Assembly, described his objective as being “to bring peace to the Rivers State House of Assembly”. None of the other opposition lawmakers was with him, and it is unclear how he intended to preside in the Assembly chamber.
“I belong to the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP,” he declared. “I don’t know where the pro-Amaechi lawmakers belong. If they declare for the All Progressives Congress, APC, I as the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly will declare [their] seats vacant.”
He noted that his party obtained the High Court judgment on Wednesday, and that the others can appeal if they are not happy with it.
“Next week, we would have gotten the True Certified Copy, CTC, of the judgment and we will then present it to the Commissioner of Police, Mbu Joseph Mbu, so that we can be officially allowed to enter the House of Assembly.”
Mr. Bipi said they would not witch hunt anyone, and that if the lawmakers “do the right thing” there would be no conflict or division amongst the ranks.
“The problem is that Governor Amaechi is pushing them to go against the party hierarchy. For us to work together, they have to discountenance Amaechi’s advice.”
About half an hour after Bipi’s arrival, Area Commander Garba, and eight senior officers, who were followed by armed paratroopers inspected sections of William Jumbo Street, dynamite residue the police said had been detonated during yesterday’s conflict between the police, the pro-Amaechi lawmakers and their supporters.
Garba expressed particular displeasure when, at William Jumbo Street, his team found underground plastic pipes that had been shattered, their ankle joints blown open.