27 Lawmakers Switch Sides in Rivers

27 Lawmakers Switch Sides in Rivers

Surprising Defection Announcement Shakes Assembly Complex

In a shocking turn of events, 27 members of the Rivers State House of Assembly, who were originally elected under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), switched their allegiance to the All Progressives Congress (APC) on Monday. Led by Speaker Martins Amaewhule, these lawmakers, who were known for their loyalty to FCT Minister Nyesom Wike, made their dramatic announcement at the Assembly Complex during an early morning session.

Legislative Activity Amidst the Defections

During the same session, the Rivers State Local Government Amendment Bill 2023 successfully passed its second reading, adding another layer of complexity to the unfolding political drama. At the same time, in Ahoada West, members of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and APC defected to the PDP, pledging their support for Governor Siminalayi Fubara.

Mixed Reactions and Calls for New Elections

The defection sparked mixed reactions, with the APC celebrating and the PDP, Labor Party (LP), and various groups protesting. Opponents urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to organize fresh elections in the 27 affected constituencies, arguing that the seats had become vacant.

An anonymous INEC official stated, “The issue in Rivers happened today (Monday), and I cannot comment on it. I am sure very soon, the commission will meet and make its position known to the public.”

APC Applauds Defectors as True Democrats

In a press conference in Port Harcourt, Tony Okocha, the Caretaker Chairman of the APC in Rivers State, praised the defectors as genuine democrats. He criticized the current state government, claiming that Rivers State lacked effective governance and called for checks and balances.

PDP and LP Demand Fresh Elections

Contrary to the APC’s celebration, the PDP and LP insisted that the defected lawmakers had forfeited their seats and demanded that INEC conduct new elections in the 27 constituencies. The PDP National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Debo Ologunagba, emphasized the constitutional provisions that require defectors to vacate their seats.

The LP, echoing similar sentiments, urged the Rivers State Speaker to declare the seats vacant, and Hilda Dokubo, Rivers State Chairman of the LP, referred to previous legal precedents supporting their stance.

NGOs and Elders Weigh In

A Non-Governmental Organization, the Centre for Reform and Public Advocacy (CFRPA), sent a letter to INEC’s National Chairman, demanding the declaration of vacancies and the organization of by-elections in Rivers State. The letter cited legal precedents to support their request.

Elder Statesman Edwin Clark appealed to President Bola Tinubu to intervene, highlighting the significance of Rivers State to the stability of the Niger Delta and the national economy. Clark expressed concerns about the escalating political tension and urged swift action to prevent anarchy.

INEC Directors’ Retirement

CSOs Call for Intervention to Prevent Anarchy

Human rights groups, Ogoni Development Drive (ODD), and a Coalition of Rivers Civil Society (CSOs) called on President Tinubu and the Inspector General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, to prevent Rivers State from descending into anarchy. Solomon Lenu, the convener of ODD, urged the Rivers State Commissioner of Police to remain neutral and uphold court orders, emphasizing the need for peace in the state.

The political situation in Rivers State remains highly charged, with stakeholders awaiting INEC’s response and potential legal actions in the days to come.

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