July 18, 2024

Rivers: Rights group warns ex-council chairmen against anarchy

The Human Rights Advocacy Network (HRAN), a prominent international human rights organization, has issued a stern warning to the outgoing chairmen of various local government councils in Rivers State, urging them to abandon any plans that might lead to anarchy or crisis in the state.

The group also called on security agencies, including the Nigeria Police and the Department of State Services (DSS), to be proactive in preventing any action that could disrupt law and order.

The tenure of the local government council chairmen officially ended on June 17, 2024.

However, Chidi Lloyd, the Emohua Local Council Chairman, along with several others from the Ikwerre ethnic group, has refused to vacate their offices, citing a purported six-month tenure extension granted by the state assembly.

In a statement signed on Monday by HRAN’s Country Representative, Mr. David Mathew, the organization clarified that the alleged extension by the now-defunct Martins Amaewhule-led House of Assembly had been nullified by a competent court.

“We read of the threats and promise to breach the peace and harmony in Rivers State by the immediate past local government chairmen in Rivers State, whose tenure expired by 12 noon today, June 17, 2024.

“According to the chairmen, their tenure was extended by six months by the Martins Amaewhule-led assembly, which amended Local Government Law Number 5 of 2018, amidst the political crisis in the state.

“It is necessary to remind the immediate past local government chairmen that, less than a month ago, a Rivers State High Court presided over by Justice Daketima Kio, nullified the six months tenure elongation of the state’s local government chairmen granted by the Martins Amaewhule-led House of Assembly,” the statement read in part.

According to Matthew, the judgment stated that the law was inconsistent with the 1999 constitution and section 9(1) of Rivers State Law No. 5 of 2018, which stipulates a three-year tenure for local government chairmen and councillors.

He said further, “The Judge stressed that the attempt to extend the tenure was unlawful and violated the officials’ oath of office.

“That judgement of the Rivers State High Court which nullified the extension of the tenure of local government chairmen in Rivers State is yet to be set aside.”

HRAN warned that the former chairmen’s refusal to leave office was not only unlawful but treasonable, constituting a direct threat to the state’s peace and stability.

The group, therefore, called on security agencies to closely monitor all 23 local government chairmen to prevent any potential breaches of the law.

The situation has already sparked local unrest, with youths blocking the main entrances to the Degema and Asari-Toru Local Government Area (LGA) secretariats, demanding the departure of the council chairmen.

Armed youths, suspected to be surveillance workers, have also been seen patrolling the creeks of riverine local councils in viral videos.

Last month, a state High Court in Port Harcourt declared the Local Government Law No. 2 of 2024 invalid, nullifying the six-month tenure extension for the 23 local council chairmen.

Furthermore, an Appeal Court ruling last weekend urged both parties to maintain the status quo, leading to conflicting interpretations by factions loyal to the Minister of FCT, Nyesom Wike, and Governor Siminalayi Fubara.

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