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Rivers crisis: Ex-LG chairpersons flout police order, stage protests

Former council chairpersons from 21 of the 23 LGAs in Rivers have led protests in their respective council areas.

Last week, Siminalayi Fubara, governor of Rivers, asked the heads of local government administration to immediately assume control of the 23 council areas.

This followed the end of the three-year tenure of the council chairpersons.

Despite the governor’s directive, some of the former LGA chairpersons reportedly attempted to resume duties at the council secretariat, but were chased away by youths.

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The development heightened the political tension in Rivers as residents protested at some of the LGA secretariats.

Police officers fired multiple shots to disperse protesters at the various LGA headquarters.

The 23 LG secretariats have since been barricaded by the police.

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A STATE POLARISED

Rivers has been embroiled in political crisis since Fubara fell out with Nyesom Wike, his predecessor.

On Monday, Onengiyeofori George, a former chairman and his followers, marched through Buguma, the council headquarters of Asari-Toru LGA, gyrating to songs praising Wike, minister of the federal capital territory (FCT).

They held posters with inscriptions urging the police to continue occupying the council headquarters.

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Some of the inscriptions reads: ‘Sim Fubara Can’t Continue to Act As He Likes’ and ‘There’s No Vacancy in Asari-Toru Council’.

The protest by the pro-Wike former LGA bosses is coming despite an advisory against protests as issued by the Rivers police.

The Rivers police command had asked the Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) to shelve the protest.

On Saturday, Clifford Paul, president of NULGE in Rivers, had given Kayode Egbetokun, the inspector-general of police, a four-day ultimatum to order officers to vacate the 23 LG secretariats in the state.

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Paul had said the police siege at the LG headquarters has prevented NULGE members from accessing their offices.

In a statement issued on Sunday night, Grace Iringe-Koko, police spokesperson in Rivers, said the command received intelligence of a possible hijack of the protest.

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“The police command respects the right to lawful assembly but has received credible intelligence indicating potential infiltration of the planned protest on Monday,” the statement reads.

AMENDED LG BILL

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In April, the Rivers assembly passed the local government amendment bill into law despite Fubara’s refusal to give his assent.

The amendment empowers the lawmakers, via resolution, to extend the tenure of elected chairpersons of LGAs and councillors, where it is considered impracticable to hold elections before the expiration of their three-year term in office.

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The Rivers assembly said the amendment was to ensure that LGA elections were conducted before the expiration of the administration.

Fubara declined assent to the bill, but the assembly vetoed his decision.

However, a court judgment nullified the amendment to the local government law.

The verdict was appealed, and the appellate court is yet to deliver judgment on the matter.

The 27 house of assembly members had said they would resist attempts by Fubara to install caretaker chairpersons in the LGAs.

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