Escalation of  Wike, Fubara’s  Power Tussle in LG Councils

The power tussle between the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike, and Governor Siminalaye Fubara of Rivers State was escalated in the 23 local government councils in the state last week, following the expiration of the tenure of the local government chairmen. What the current situation looks like, is that the minister may have lost his much-cherished political structure in the state, Ejiofor Alike reports

With the expiration of the three-year tenure of the chairmen of the 23 local government areas in Rivers State on Tuesday, June 18, 2024, the immediate-past governor of the state and Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mr. Nyesom Wike, and Governor Siminalayi Fubara have shifted their power tussle to the local government councils.

In a strategic move to stop Fubara from replacing the elected local government chairmen who were Wike’s loyalists, with caretaker committees comprising his own loyalists after the chairmen’s three-year tenure, the members of the sacked Martins Amaewhule-led state House of Assembly, who were also Wike’s loyalists had enacted the Rivers State Local Government Law No. 2 of 2024, which extended the tenure of the chairmen by six months.

But in a counter move, Fubara’s loyalists challenged the lawmakers’ decision in court and Justice D.G. Kio of a Rivers State High Court in Port Harcourt declared the six-month tenure extension as null, void, unconstitutional, and of no effect, on the grounds that it was inconsistent with the 1999 Constitution and Section 9 (1) of Rivers State Law No. 5 of 2018, which fixed a three-year tenure for the chairmen and councillors.

However, despite the court judgment affirming the three-year tenure as stipulated by the 2018 law, the elected chairmen had vowed that they would not vacate offices when their tenure expired on June 18, 2024.

Indications of a potential breakdown of law and order emerged when the outgone Chairman of Ikwerre LGA, Samuel Nwanosike, in a now-viral video, threatened anyone to dare remove him on the said date, insisting that he would remain in office in accordance with the law enacted by Amaewhule-led House of Assembly. 

He blamed what he described as Fubara’s failure to conduct local government elections for the tenure extension.

The state chapter of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) led by the then Chairman of Port Harcourt City Local Government Area, Allwell Ihunda, had also at a press conference in Port Harcourt, insisted that the state lawmakers had extended their tenure because the governor failed to conduct LG elections.

The audacity of the now-former chairmen to challenge the authority of the governor and resist the state high court judgment had led to a build-up of tension in the state.

The perceived act of insubordination by the former chairmen also earned public sympathy for the governor as many people argued that the state was the only state in Nigeria where serving lawmakers and local government chairmen could abuse their governor publicly.

It was not surprising that armed youths who were engaged in the protection of oil and gas facilities in the Niger Delta trooped out from the creeks in their large numbers to force the chairmen and their supporters out of their offices when their tenure expired on Tuesday.

In a viral video where armed youths belonging to one of the groups were trooping out of the creeks, their leader who later identified himself as ‘General Gab Asabuja’, the Ogidigbo of the Niger Delta, was heard saying that they were back from the river ahead of June 18, to deal with council chairmen that would refuse to vacate their offices.

“We are back to take over all the 23 local government councils. So, the council chairmen should wait for us. We are coming,” he said.

He said it was his hobby and business to work with the government to fight crime.

“I work with the Joint Task Force (JTF); I am in charge of anti-bunkering in South-south. I have come back home. Half of my men are back. We are taking over all the local government areas,” he added.

He specifically called on the then Chairman of Ikwerre,  Nwanosike, to prepare and wait for his group, vowing that he would be present at the council secretariat.

But the chairmen also announced measures to consolidate their hold on power beyond the stipulated time.

In Emohua, the former chairman, Chidi Lloyd, rather stepping down peacefully, announced that the council would begin distribution of cutlasses and hoes to farmers for one week from June 18.

The outgone Chairman of Khana LGA, Thomas Bariere, also announced a one-week clean-up exercise in the council, while in Ikwerre, Nwanosike announced a one-week cultural festival in the council area.

The Chairman of Eleme, Barilormate Ollor, was seen in a video warning people not to come to the council or they would be made to meet their forefathers earlier than expected.

However, the chairmen of Opobo/Nkoro and Bonny LGAs, who were not part of the anti-Fubara chairmen, had earlier celebrated their end-of-tenure thanksgiving at the weekend.

As youths moved to sack the councils’ chairmen on Tuesday, there were pockets of violence in some of the 23 council secretariats, leading to what the state police command announced as the temporary takeover of all the 23 councils’ secretariats, and critical government infrastructure by the police.

The police also confirmed the death of one officer, Inspector David Mgbada, and a local security guard, Samuel Nwigwe, in  Eberi-Omuma, Omuma LGA.

At the Obio-Akpor LGA secretariat, where Wike hails from, scores of youths and women besieged the premises and pulled down an image of the FCT minister, who is also ex-chairman of the council.

In Ikwerre, Nwanosike who had threatened Fubara, was nowhere to be found when ‘General Asabuja’ and his boys went to the LG secretariat to sack him.

However, there was heavy shooting at Port Harcourt City LGA secretariat as the youths chased away the outgone chairman, Ihunda, and his security details when they wanted to gain access to the secretariat.

In his intervention, a former leader of Niger Delta agitators, Asari Dokubo, had advised the chairmen to quietly leave office as their three-year tenure had expired.

On his part, Fubara, in a state-wide broadcast on Tuesday morning, dissolved the councils, citing the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution on the tenure of local government administration.

He directed the heads of administration in the councils to immediately take charge of the councils’ affairs.

The governor, who also ordered for the audit of the councils, has since appointed caretaker committees who are operating outside the councils’ secretariats due to their takeover by the police.

However, the Inspector General of Police (IG), Kayode Egbetokun, had on Thursday announced that the police would not vacate the secretariats until the courts give final judgment on the tenure of the chairmen.

For now, many people in the state are waiting for the next move of Wike and his loyalists who have been sacked in both the state House of Assembly and the local government councils.

Related Articles