Governor Nyesom Wike who suspended three local council chairmen the other day has been challenged by the APC.
Although the Rivers Governor appeared to claim he acted under the provision of the State Local Government Law, the APC which has stepped up its role as an opposition party insists Wike should recall the suspended council chairmen at once.
The party said in a statement issued on Sunday that Governor Wike has acted in contempt of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Wondering where Wike derived the right to suspend the chairmen of Port Harcourt, Abua and Degema Local Government Councils, the APC said only the Rivers State House of Assembly which has the power of oversight over the affairs of local government structures could suspend or remove elected council chairmen from office.
The full text of the statement issued by APC’s Spokesman, Ogbonna Nwuke read:
“The All Progressives Congress in Rivers State has learnt of the unilateral decision of Governor Nyesom Wike to suspend some elected Local Government Chairmen in the State.
“According to a Government Statement issued in Port Harcourt, those suspended by the order of the Governor of Rivers State are the Chairmen of Port Harcourt, Degema and Abua/Odual Local Government Councils.
“We have studied the circumstances surrounding the recent order issued by the Governor. We have found out that the State Governor acted outside the dictates of the Nigerian Constitution. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria recognizes the existence of three tiers of Government. They are Federal, State and Local Governments.
“For purposes of ensuring effective checks and balances in the system, the 1999 Constitution (As Amended) assigns oversight functions pertaining to activities of Local Government Councils to State Houses of Assembly.
“ The Rivers State House of Assembly is accordingly the only authority, which by way of resolutions, recommendations, lawmaking, etc, has the capacity to take far reaching steps regarding the management or administration of local government councils.
“There is no section of the Nigerian Constitution which allows the Executive arm of Government in any State, or a State Governor as head of the executive, to punish elected officials without referring perceived acts of misdemeanor against elected officials at the third tier level to the House which has the power of oversight.
“Where elected representatives err, our constitution allows a process of recall which makes it mandatory for two-thirds of the electorate to order the return of their representatives.
“The same constitution prescribes an impeachment of chairmen by councillors who constitute the legislative arm at that the Local Government level.
“In this instance, there is no proof that councillors in the affected LGAs have either complained or played their statutory roles before the Government action.
“For the avoidance of doubt, what the Governor has done, in our opinion, is to hijack the responsibility preserved for the State Legislature under the Constitution.
“It is important to note that the Rivers State House of Assembly which has the power of oversight has not sat to deliberate on this matter.
“The Rivers State House of Assembly sat about two weeks ago. To our knowledge, that was the last time that the elected representatives of the Rivers people met.
“There has been no other sitting bymembers to consider matters of legislative importance ever since.
“It is also a matter of public record, given what was placed within the public domain, that the House only considered matters related to some appointments pertaining to the State Judicial Service Commission.
“Not withstanding the reason why Governor Wike suspended the said local government chairmen, it is our view that the State’s number one citizen has brazenly breached constitution.
“By his action, he has treated the House of Assembly with great levity. It is our expectation that the House of Assembly shall call the Governor to order.
“We similarly believe that the suspension of senior staff employed by the Local Government Service Commission on grounds that they collaborated with their bosses, is another step taken too far.
“What was the Governor inferring by his action? Was he saying that workers at the grassroots should be disobedient to constituted authority?
“Against this backdrop, we ask the State Government to take steps within seven days to restore the elected chairmen of Port Harcourt, Degema and Abua Local Government Councils to their seats.
“While urging the Government to do what is right, we want to draw attention to the fact that elected Chairmen and councillors belonging to the APC have been in court. They have been challenging their illegal removal from office by the Government of Rivers State.
“The Supreme Court has ruled that it is illegal for any government in this country to set aside the mandate of elected Councils. We are aware that the Rivers State Government has acted in breach of this landmark decision.
“We urge chairmen and councillors who were elected on the platform of our great party not to relent in their effort to secure justice.
“The APC shall continue to stand with them through out this period. Our conviction that the Apex Court will compel the Rivers State Government to comply with its ruling remains unshaken.
“Finally, Rivers people can no longer tolerate the Governor’s bid to promote a culture of fear and intimidation.
“Rivers people have had enough of his penchant for running a one-man show.
“As a political party, the APC enjoins the Rivers Governor to tone down a little. Nothing can be gained from what many right thinking Rivers people are beginning to view as acts of executive reckless on his part.”