Fubara Signs N800bn Budget into Law

·      Five cabinet members resign, cite personal reasons

·      27 defector-lawmakers defy court order, hold plenary

·      APC: We’ll fight illegality in Rivers State

Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja and Blessing Ibunge in Port Harcourt

Blunt and quite unfazed by the political storm raging in his state, Governor Siminalayi Fubara signed the 2024 appropriation bill of N800 billion into law yesterday, less than 24 hours after he presented it before a four-member Rivers State House of Assembly.

The signing ceremony held at Government House, Port Harcourt, the same premises where the legislators sat, the day before, to receive and approve the budget estimate.

However, the political crisis in the state got messier yesterday, as the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Professor Zacchaeus Adangor, and four other commissioners resigned from the Fubara cabinet, citing personal reasons.

The resignations came as the 27 lawmakers, who recently defected to the All  Progressives Congress (APC), defied the order of a Rivers State High Court presided by Justice MW Danagogo, and held a parallel plenary.

At the same time, APC said it would fight illegality in Rivers State and resist any attempt to intimidate, harass, or hunt its members.

Fubara had while presenting the 2024 appropriation bill before the lawmakers less than 24 hours ago, said the proposal was anchored on the assumptions of crude oil price benchmark of $70 per barrel and 1.5 million barrels production per day, with an exchange rate of N750 to the dollar.

The governor said the budget would be funded from Internally Generated Revenue (IGR), Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) receipts, 13 per cent Oil Mineral Derivation Fund, Value Added Tax (VAT), Excess Crude, and grants from development agencies.

He assured that no efforts would be spared in implementing the quality projects and services itemised in the 2024 appropriation.

Fubara said the budget would be driven in a manner that would make a positive impact on the lives of all residents of the state.

But the political crisis besetting the state assumed an interesting twist yesterday, with the resignation of the attorney-general and four other commissioners.

Adangor and the four other commissioners, Chukwuemeka Woke (Special Duties), Alabo George-Kelly (Works), Isaac Kamalu (Finance), and Inime Chinwenwo Aguma (Social Welfare and Rehabilitation), left amid the uncertainties in the state.  

In a letter, titled, “Notice of Resignation as Honourable Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Rivers State,” and addressed to the governor, through the office of the Secretary to State Government, Adangor said the action was based on personal principle.

The Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), wrote, “I hereby give your Excellency notice of my resignation as the Honourable Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Rivers State, with effect from the date of this letter.

“For the avoidance of doubt, my resignation from the said office is based purely on personal principles.”

He thanked Fubara for giving him the opportunity and privilege to serve in his administration.

Adangor stated, “My family and I are indebted to Your Excellency in gratitude. I wish your Excellency a successful tenure. Please, accept the assurances of my highest regards always.”

Adangor published his resignation letter on his personal Facebook page yesterday morning.

Woke, who was Wike’s strong ally and served under him as Chief of Staff before he was returned as Commissioner for Special Duties in the Fubara government, was yet to make public the reason for his resignation yesterday.

But the Commissioner for Social Welfare and Rehabilitation, Mrs Aguma, who tendered her resignation letter yesterday, said, “My decision to resign is personal and based on other pressing commitments.”

Aguma, wife of the late Chime Aguma (SAN), a former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in the state, wished Fubara a successful tenure.

In his own resignation letter, dated December 14, 2023, George-Kelly said his decision to resign was based on his conscience, personal philosophy, and professional ethics. He added that the decision was taken after deep introspection.

The finance commissioner, Kamalu, thanked Fubara for the opportunity to serve in his administration, but did not state the reason for his resignation.

Relatedly, the 27 lawmakers, led by the speaker, Martins Amaewhule, were sitting yesterday, against a subsisting court order, at the Assembly Quarters, in Port Harcourt, the same time Fubara was signing into law the 2024 appropriation bill.

The budget signing ceremony was witnessed by lawmakers, led by court-ordered Speaker, Edison Ehie.

During the sitting led by Amaewhule, the Assembly passed the Rivers State House of Assembly Funds Management (Financial Autonomy) Bill, 2023, after debating the report of the House Committee on Public Accounts on the bill.

Commenting on the report presented by Chairman of the Committee, Major Jack, Amaewhule emphasised the importance of the passage of the bill, which he said would provide for the management of funds accruing to the Rivers State House of Assembly from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the State.

He added that the law would ensure accountability and efficient utilisation of funds.

Amaewhule stated that with the passage of the amendment bill, elected local government chairmen and councillors would be liberated from arbitrary removal and suspension.

The Assembly also condemned what it described as heartless and brazen demolition of the legislative complex by Fubara, without their approval and knowledge.

Amaewhule hinted that the Assembly would write to the United Nations and governments of other well-known democracies on the actions of the governor against the legislature.

He stressed that no amount of harassment, intimidation and mindless attacks against the legislature would turn them away from their constitutional duties.

Similarly, APC said it will fight illegality in Rivers State, and would not allow anybody to hunt, intimidate, harass, or threaten its members. Rivers State APC caretaker chairman, Tony Okocha, disclosed this while addressing a press conference in Abuja against the backdrop of the ongoing political crisis in the state.

He said APC will not allow illegality to fester in the state.

Okocha stated, “Yesterday (Wednesday),  Rivers State woke up to a surprise, a judge  of the state high court, Justice Anagogo, berated National Judicial Council (NJC’s) decision on the issue of issuance of frivolous ex parte orders.

“We, as a party, said clearly that rule will fight illegality. We will not allow illegality to fester in our political history. We will not allow anybody to hunt, intimidate, harass, threaten our members.

“You cannot place something on nothing and you expect it to stand. And illegality is illegality.”

Okocha stressed, “Let me also let you know that what makes an Assembly is not the structure, but the human beings in that assembly.

“So, an Assembly can be moved to anywhere provided the mace, which is the symbol of authority, is there. As at yesterday, about 27 members sat and took the far-reaching decision on state matters. You will see all of them sign underneath those decisions.”

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