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Gunfire, as Akwa Ibom Assembly crisis escalates

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•5 expelled lawmakers take over House, suspend 11
•Gov Emmanuel seeks global intervention, CP’s suspension
•We are doing our duty, Police insist
•Rights group slams Akpabio, writes US; PDP reacts
•APC chieftain, Obong Udo reacts

By Harris-Okon Emmanuel, Chioma Onuegbu & Dirisu Yakubu, Yinka Ajayi
YO — The  struggle for political supremacy in Akwa Ibom State generated pandemonium yesterday, after five members of the House of Assembly earlier expelled, reconvened to purportedly initiate impeachment proceedings against Governor Udom Emmanuel.

The five members, all belonging to the All Progressives Congress, APC, however, had their gathering disrupted by the arrival of the governor.

Scene at the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly complex crisis, yesterday. Photo: Chioma Onuegbu.

The governor’s arrival restored control of the House to the Speaker, Onofiok Luke-led 21-member group who in turn raised a motion demanding the removal of the just arrived commissioner of police, Musa Kimo, who was accused of giving cover to the group of five former lawmakers.

Speaking after his intervention, Governor Emmanuel accused the police of working in cahoots with his predecessor, Senator Godswill Akpabio, to foist anarchy on the state.

He demanded the immediate removal of the commissioner of police, Kimo who has spent less than a week in the state.

The governor was, however, countered by a chieftain of the APC who, yesterday, accused him of violating the principle of separation of powers through his intervention.

The crisis in the House was sparked after the Speaker, Luke, on November 19 declared the seat of five members who defected from Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to the APC vacant.

The action followed the judgment of a Federal High Court, Uyo Division, on November 14 that rejected the plea by Nse Ntuen to stop the speaker from declaring his seat vacant upon his defection from the PDP to the APC.

Speaker Luke, following the court judgment, declared Ntuen’s seat vacant alongside the seats of four other members who defected to the APC.

Yesterday, the five expelled members, led by Ntuen, who the four others had earlier elected speaker at a parallel sitting on November 19, stormed the legislative complex to sit in plenary.

Their arrival as early as 8.30 a.m. with a new mace was in the company of heavily armed policemen and thugs who had taken control of the premises as early as 4.30 a.m.

The staff of the Assembly who reported for work as well as some visitors that arrived the premises to attend yesterday’s sitting were chased out of the premises as soon as the group of five arrived.

With Ntuen presiding and the four others sitting, they suspended no fewer than 11 lawmakers and dissolved the standing committees of the House.

Those the group of five suspended were the Speaker Luke, Udo Kerian Akpan, Felicia Bassey, Nse Essien, Lawrence Udofia, Usoro Akpanusoh, Ime Okon, Friday Iwok, Asuquo Archibong, Mark Esset, Emmanuel Ekpenyong and Aniekan Uko. The group suspended them till further notice.

The Reign of Five

The reign of the five, however, came to an abrupt end at about 10.07 a.m. when the governor arrived the premises of the assembly with some commissioners, aides, assembly staff and over 300 supporters to counter them. The arrival of the governor forced the group of five to their heels.

As the governor arrived, there was spontaneous firing of gunshots into the air. Vanguard could not confirm who fired the shots, between the thugs who escorted the five and the security men that followed the governor.

Four of the five APC expelled lawmakers escaped through the back door of the assembly complex.

The factional speaker, Ntuen, was, however, unlucky as the crowd that followed after the governor manhandled him and smashed his SUV car.

Restoration of order

Following the restoration of order, the House went into a plenary with the speaker, Luke, presiding.

During the plenary, the House passed a resolution calling for the redeployment of the new State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Kimo, for allegedly facilitating the sitting of the group of five.

The House also adopted a motion calling for the arrest of the sacked five lawmakers, namely Ntuen, Gabriel Toby, Victor Udofia, Idongesit Ituen, and Otobong Ndem as well as one Mr. Godwin Ukpong who posed as the sergeant-at-arms for the group of five.

Police working with Akpabio to create chaos — Udom

Reacting to the crisis, Governor Udom Emmanuel called on the Police High Command to withdraw the Commissioner of Police, who he accused of aiding and abetting the sacked APC lawmakers and also turning a blind eye to events in the House.

The governor equally accused his predecessor, Senator Akpabio, of importing violence and bloodbath into the state.

“In Akwa Ibom State, due to the ambition of some fetish people, people that this state had given the opportunity to become what they never dreamt of becoming, some of them were commissioners for six years and governor for eight years, making 14 years.

“But today, that democracy is being threatened in Akwa Ibom State. And I want the whole world to know, to hear me that I have seen a total breakdown of law and order today, led by the Nigerian Police.

‘’It is the same police that I am using the resources of the state to make sure we maintain peace and order in this state.

Gov calls on international community

“This morning, we called the Commissioner of Police that we got information that he wants to escort those sacked members to the House of Assembly and he denied it. And this morning, what they are drumming is Warsaw saw War.

“We are calling on the international community that this is a war that has been declared. This is the first time the entire police structure is being deployed to a particular political party.

‘’We want the whole world to know that whatever happened in this state was caused by the police and not any other security agency, but the police force, led by the Police Commissioner. We are saying today that Akwa Ibom State is being intimidated by the police. Let the police force be called to order.

‘’I called the DIG operations, and he promised to call them to order, but nothing has been done. Also, we have been calling the Inspector General of Police since morning; he has rebuffed us. So we are telling the whole world that Akwa Ibom State is under siege by the police.

‘’We are very peace-loving people, but our peace is being threatened by the police. The commissioner of police that was just posted to the state last Friday has achieved his mission.

‘’I want to now call on the police force that this evening, the CP should be withdrawn. He has to leave this evening (yesterday). The head of Quick Response Squad, QRS, should also be withdrawn so that we can have peace.”

APC chieftain disagrees

A chieftain of the APC in the state, Obong Michael Udo, however, disagreed with the governor as he accused him of breaching the doctrine of the separation of powers between the legislative and executive arms of government.

“Gov. Udom Emmanuel should realize that we are practising a democracy where the rule of law is paramount. He should understand that one action such as the one he embarked on today (yesterday) is capable of throwing the entire state into needless chaos and anarchy.

APC Speaker of Akwa Ibom House of Assembly Nsen Ntuen: suspends PDP Speaker Onofiok Luke

“The reason for laws in any society is to avoid anarchy. The federal government should caution Gov. Emmanuel to allow the legislature to settle whatever their problems may be and not become part of the problem,” Obong Udo admonished.

A-Ibom Govt reacts

The state Commissioner for Information, Mr. Charles Udoh, however, disagreed with Udo, saying “Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly was invaded in the early hours of today by suspected thugs of APC dressed in military uniforms and under the protection of the police, on the orders of the Akwa Ibom State Police Commissioner.

“Normalcy was restored however by the timely visit of the Akwa Ibom State Governor, His Excellency, Mr. Udom Emmanuel. The visit of the Governor to the House of Assembly was clearly in line with his position as the chief security officer of the state. The Governor has a moral and constitutional responsibility to protect lives and properties in the state legally.

“It is pertinent to note prior to this, 13 APC thugs dressed in military uniforms and armed with AK47 rifles were apprehended by law-abiding citizens and handed over to the police. However, it defies logic that these hoodlums were set free without due process of investigations by the Officer in Charge of Quick Response Squad in Akwa Ibom State, Superintendent Abdulkareem Suleiman.

“The driver of the vehicle that conveyed the thugs dressed in military uniforms, Innocent Edet Udoh, and the gang leader; Nsikak Monday Stephen, who is also the youth leader of Nung Udoe Itak are still in custody.

‘’They have made useful confessional statements. The driver has confirmed to law enforcement agents that they were hired by Victor Udofia, the immediate past State House of Assembly member who represented Ikono state constituency.

“Recall that two days ago, a section of the perimeter fence of the Assembly complex was pulled down in the dead of the night by people suspected to be APC thugs as a prelude to facilitating the invasion.”

Our position — Police

Reacting, the Akwa Ibom Police Command described the insinuation of bias as baseless and unfounded.

Police Public Relations Officer, Macdon Odiko, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) said: “The allegations that the Police backed the All Progressives Congress, APC, are baseless and unfounded.

‘’The Commissioner of Police is not a politician, and Police have nothing to do with politics. Legitimate members of the House were allowed in to carry out their legislative duties.

“The CP (Commissioner of Police) was proactive because he deployed policemen to the House as at 4.00am. The CP is to provide security to the good people of Akwa Ibom State. So, how can he now turn a blind eye to the happenings in the House?”

Rights group tasks US on Akpabio

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, yesterday, tasked authorities of the United States of America, USA, to bar Akpabio from entering their country for allegedly aiding and abetting the current outburst of violence in Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly.

The association, in a petition signed by its national coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, and addressed to the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington, called for the withdrawal of Akpabio’s visas, noting that his call for the use of Hitler-styled violence largely informs the unrest currently pervading the state assembly

The petition, titled: “Request for Diplomatic Sanction of Senator Godswill Akpabio,” dated November 23, 2018, read: “Sir, recall that Senator Akpabio left the PDP a few weeks ago, turning his back on his godson, Governor Udom Emmanuel, setting off a chain of acrimonious exchanges between the two as reported by the independent media.

“Sir, we are worried that this threat made by the serving senator from Akwa Ibom State may have already started manifesting, given the current violence that is being unleashed on Akwa Ibom State by the All Progressives Congress- controlled police force.

“Our prayer is that you should use your good office to stop Senator Godswill Akpabio from visiting your country which is known for its lack of tolerance for violence of all shades, particularly with regards to the approval of the atrocities by Hitler in Poland, which is clearly what this Nigerian senator just did.

“Kindly withdraw all visas to Senator Godswill Akpabio who has professed his approval to the atrocities committed against humanity and civilization by the world’s most dangerous war criminal, Adolph Hitler.”

PDP  reacts

The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, yesterday, condemned the violent invasion of the Akwa-Ibom state House of Assembly by security forces allegedly doing the bidding of the All Progressives Congress, APC, to forcefully take over the control of the legislature.

The party said it was a shocking scene at the Akwa Ibom House of Assembly, when invading security forces allegedly shot sporadically and “disrupted legislative activities in the attempt to assist the APC to forcefully overthrow the duly elected leadership of the state legislature.”

PDP slams Akpabio over alleged plots to cause violence in Akwa-Ibom

The statement read: “Nigerians are all aware of how Senator Akpabio declared war on Akwa-Ibom and boasted that ‘War shall see Warsaw and Warsaw shall see war’ in the APC’s quest to take over the state; a mission that has apparently commenced with the violent invasion of the state legislative house.

“The PDP is also aware of the role being played by security operatives, particularly the Police, in this ignoble scheme, which has the backing of the Presidency to destabilize the oil rich state ahead of the 2019 general election.

“Our party had earlier alerted of the ploy by the Presidency to trigger violence in Akwa-Ibom state, create an impression that the state has become ungovernable, with a view to opening the way for a declaration of a state of emergency, which will enable them dismantle all democratic structures and forcefully take over control of the state.

“The PDP cautions Senator Akpabio, the APC and the Presidency to note that their design is a recipe for national crisis,  as the people of Akwa-Ibom state and indeed, all well-meaning Nigerians across board will never allow anybody to overrun the state or take over any arm of government by any means other than through the laid down process of free, fair and credible elections.

“This reprehensible scheme, which failed in Benue state, cannot succeed in any part of our country, as Nigerians are now, more than ever before, willing, ready and able to protect our democracy with every means available within their rights as free citizens under the law.

Akpabio denies role in Akwa Ibom fracas

Senator Godswill Akpabio has asked to be counted out of the crisis which he yesterday blamed on the governor.
In a statement issued on his behalf by his special assistant on media, Aneite Ekong, the former governor said:

“Ordinarily, the Distigushed Senator wouldn’t have bothered to respond to the spurious allegation because it is contrived to malign his integrity and stands logic on its head. However, it follows a clear pattern of crying wolf by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) since the Senator, who was the live wire of the party in the State left the party to join the All Progressives Congress (APC.) The strategy by the PDP and its chieftains is that anything and everything must be pinned on Senator Akpabio.

“In his desperation to shop for who to blame and pass the buck, Governor Udom Emmanuel has blamed the security agencies in the State and Senator Akpabio has only become his latest victim. How can a state Governor accuse Senator Akpabio of being the brain behind the crisis, and at the same time declared that “the police should be held responsible for any breakdown of law and order in the state and not any other person.” Does it add up?

“It beats the imagination of right thinking individuals that a Governor could spew outright lies and falsehood in the face of the crisis in which he is a major sponsor. It is on record that the Governor personally led his security aides and thugs to the House of Assembly and supervised the manhandling of some members of the House of Assembly who were performing their constitutional duties.

“The brazen act of lawlessness by the Governor is responsible for the crisis. In justifying this meddlesomeness and interference in the functions of a separate arm of government, the Commissioner for Information of Akwa Ibom State, Mr Charles Udoh said he went to the House of Assembly as the Chief Security Officer of the State!

“It is instructive that Senator Akpabio was never at the scene of the fracas neither has anyone any evidence of his involvement, except the oft repeated strategy of blaming anything that is wrong in the State on Senator Akpabio.
“Akwa Ibom people have a right to determine who leads them. The choice will be based on performance and not on sentiments.

“We advice Governor Emmanuel to brace up and face the challenges of his office, instead of looking for who to blame for his lacklustre performance in the last three and half years which have made Akwa Ibom people determined to democratically vote him and his party out in the election next year.”

Akwa Ibom crisis: HURIWA urges US to bar Akpabio

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