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Bayelsa East: Why senator Degi is qualified to run, a timely guide to one Alhaji Awo Harmony

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By Ebere Okonkwo FCIS

In most societies in the large swap of space called Nigeria, there is usually the adage, that has the equivalent meaning of, “if you asked, you will be told” in most of those societies, the adage is used to limit the damaging impact of rumors, half-truths, and in unfortunate cases, reckless statements made in complete ignorance of the true position of things. Most African societies long practiced the principles of Natural Justice which includes the concept of having complete and total knowledge of facts of an issue before passing judgment or making reckless statements on them.
It is from the above, sound, and healthy social prism that one must view the latest outburst on the person of Senator Biobarakuma Degi Eremienyo, distinguished senator representing the good people of Bayelsa East at the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, by one Alhaji Awo Hamony who was described as an activist and Ex militant. In truth both the faceless author and the Ogbia justice Freedom Movement he claims to represent, have been found to be non – existent. Once again Senator Degi has to face malignant forces who would rather remain anonymous than face up to the truth and be guided in the direction of reality and justice.
Despite the anonymity of the originator of the article, it is important to state that this piece does not set out to throw equal invectives at the authors, but in the spirit of good relations for which the Ogbia people and indeed the people of Bayelsa are known, to explain the true position of things to avoid the purveying of half-truths and in some cases ignorant positions as far as the Person of Distinguished Senator Degi is concerned.
It is of course true that the Supreme Court in its decision of 13th February 2020 confirmed the decision of the Federal High Court delivered by Justice Inyang Ekwo disqualifying the candidacy of the APC Governorship Team on the grounds that the Senator Degi made false statement to the Electoral Body by reason of the submission of academic certificates bearing differences in the names written on them. The decision which in the opinion of this writer is flawed failed to address the issue of genuineness of the documents, whether they were forged, and whether Senator Degi had falsified those documents.
The decision was curiously dismissive of the efforts made by the Senator’s team to call evidence to show that all those academic documents were duly issued to him for the stated attainments and by the right awarding or issuing authorities, the spelling errors in his name notwithstanding. All these questions could have been truly tried by evidence, especially where, not only the political future of an individual is in question, but where also the destiny of an entire state, the will of the people, who voted overwhelmingly for a party and candidates of their choice was in issue.
The decision of the Federal high Court, which was confirmed by the supreme court, was also not rooted in or accommodating of social realities. In truth, investigations and social experiments have shown that the misspelling of names in academic certificates especially in the milieu and generation to which Senator Degi belongs is rife, and common place. In truth pronunciation intonation bears a large part of the blame for such error. More so, at the relevant time in issue, what was the level of data and information accuracy obtainable in local communities in Nigeria at the time? A more compelling question is whether the courts should be blind to these realities and therefore be complicit in making it fatal for both an individual and a whole state?
Bayelsa unfortunately was not the first where a misapplication of law and evidence will result in manifest injustice to a people or to an individual. Imo State was another case where technical considerations were unduly elevated in resulting in an unjust outcome to both the people and an individual. Imo state people while accepting the judgment of the court are not however trying their best to inflict more pain on the individual involved but have learnt to be their brother’s keeper in assuaging the feelings of a man who has been treated unjustly. They have not failed to remind the government of the day that they are a product of a judicial decision and not the will of the people. Bayelsa East people and the kinsmen of Senator Degi, whom he has nonetheless served faithfully and meritoriously in the Senate, should be able to make similar distinction between wheat and Chaff.

On his part, Senator Degi has also not accepted the unjust and false conclusions of the judiciary on his person. Various actions have been filed against him to rely on the unjust decision against him to remove him from the Senate, and to destroy his journey of principled public service to his people.
One of such cases was filed at the FCT High court by a person purporting to represent the good people of Bayelsa East Senatorial Zone, sponsored by a faceless group that called themselves the Bayelsa Integrity Group. That action was filed to compel the Inspector General of Police to commence Criminal Proceedings against the Senator for forgery, given the outcome the judgement of the supreme court.
The group had earlier petitioned the inspector General of police but while the investigation ordered by the IG was ongoing, the group desperately rushed off to the FCT High Court to commence the action. The investigation report of the IG’s team which was tendered in court was to the effect that the certificates in issue which were submitted to INEC were duly issued to Senator Degi and the discrepancies were spelling errors which were acknowledged by the issuing authorities.
During the actual proceedings, in which the court was called upon to determine if the Senator had forged those documents and was therefore subject to have criminal proceedings against him, more than a dozen witnesses were called, from officials of the school in Bassambiri in Ogbia, the Secondary school in Ogbia, WAEC office in Abuja, INEC office, Rivers State University of Technology, NYSC office Abuja and even living school and classmates of Senator Degi, who testified to the veracity of the person of the Senator and also to the genuineness of the Certificates, the spelling errors in them notwithstanding.
Key evidence tendered in court which the Federal High Court of Justice Inyang Ekwo did not allow to be brought in by calling for proper trial, included, attendance registers from 1974 -76 of the State School Bassambiri, and the WAEC Photo Album in which not only the mix up in the name was properly identified but also in which the identity of Senator Degi was established by photo Evidence. Letters from the supreme court confirming the identity of the Notary Public before whom the affidavits of correction of names were deposed, were tendered
After a highly technical and deservingly robust trial, the court found the certificates to be genuine and duly issued to the Senator Degi. The case by the Bayelsa Integrity Group was dismissed as they failed to establish Forgery on which their case was based.
It must be noted that the Supreme Court has gradually begun to correct the hasty decisions in which discrepancies in the name and certificates of a candidate was treated unwaveringly as proof of fraud, falsification and forgery exemplified in the Senator Degi’s case. As we know the courts are human and therefore fallible. In the case of Senator Frank Ibezim of Imo North Senatorial District, which is on all fours with the Senator Degi case, the Supreme court in a very circumspect decision held that discrepancies simplicita, cannot establish forgery, falsification, and fraud, but that any court called upon to determine such cases ought to call evidence as such weighty allegations are inappropriate to be tried by Originating summons. The import of the decision in the IBEZIM’s case is that there is an unspoken remorse in the way the Degi matter was decided.
It is for the above reasons that any discerning person should know that in view of the existence of an evidenced based judgement of a court of competent jurisdiction, holding that Senator Degi’s academic documents are genuine, the attempts to besmirch his person and portray him as a document forger are unwarranted, legally unsustainable, constitutionally untenable and will soon become actionable. If there are other cogent reasons for denying Senator Degi participation in the electoral process, it should not be for the already judicially settled matter of the genuineness of his academic credentials. The FCT high court has put it beyond peradventure.
Additionally, it must be noted that the disqualification from participating in an election into the Senate is a constitutional matter and should be treated delicately. Where a person is unduly excluded from an electoral process because of a non-existent ground, it could raise a cause of legal action that may jeopardize that process. Section 66 (1) (i) of the constitution is the extant provision in respect of the matter in issue. It provides that a person shall be disqualified in a particular election if he has in that election submitted a forged certificate to INEC. By the tenor of that section of the constitution, there is nothing in that section that presupposes a permanent bar from participating in another election.
This argument is even reinforced by the fact that where the constitution envisages a bar, it clearly imposed it as it did in Section 66(1)(d) which provides for a ten-year bar for a person convicted of a criminal offence.
The first question therefore is, did Senator Degi submit forged certificate to INEC? In both the Federal High Court and the Supreme court, the question of Forgery of the certificates was totally avoided and the courts focused on falsification or the making of a false statement in the INEC forms, based on the discrepancies or spelling errors in the names on the certificates. The only court that has pronounced on the genuineness of Senator Degi’s certificates (as against their being forged) is the FCT high court and its finding is that they are genuine, and we know that appellate courts usually do not derogate or depart from extensive findings of fact by the lower court. What makes this more compelling is that the trial was by writ of Summons and extensive, contrasting sharply with the procedure adopted by the Federal High Court presided over by Justice Inyang Ekwo. We believe that had Justice Ekwo, called for trial of those criminal elements, he would inexorably have come to the same conclusions as the FCT high court.
The second question to answer is whether Senator Degi has been convicted by any court of law, to warrant a constitutional bar on his participation in the coming electoral process? The answer to that is in the negative. There is therefore no basis for imposing a bar where the constitution has imposed none. Other than these legal issues, the question of Zoning is one of electoral and community considerations. Bayelsa East people are entitled to decide whether one good term deserves another, and it will be unconscionable to try to truncate the will of the people by citing nonexistent legal limitations.
Finally, the Federal High court and the supreme court held that had Senator Degi presented a Deed Poll rather than an affidavit of correction from a notary public, the misspellings on the certificates would have been held as corrected. Assuming without conceding that the misspelling of the names in the certificates presented the Federal High court and the supreme court with a difficult situation in respect of those certificates, because of the use of an affidavit of correction of name rather than a deed poll, the challenge is one of form not of substance. Yet that decision applies only to the governorship election and not to any other past or future election.
At any rate, the deed poll from the supreme court correcting those errors in the names as laid down by the Supreme Court in those cases has been effected and was tendered in evidence at the FCT High Court, and all questions as to the genuineness of the certificates have now been both judicially and administratively settled.
This piece therefore serves to fulfil the traditional requirement that when proper, truthful, and more current and compelling information becomes available, there is need for adjustment of our previously held positions. It is hoped that the Ogbia people and indeed the Bayelsa people will do what closely knit kinsmen do, stand for justice, and defend their own against the unfortunate and unjust judicial damage done to Senator Degi and the People of Bayelsa in general. We have no doubts that they will adjust in the face of truth.

Ebere Okonkwo FCIS is a legal practitioner and Governance Expert, and writes from Abuja

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Opinion

Rivers political crisis: Fubara raves as Wike likely retreats (3)

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By Ehichioya Ezomon

As the Rivers political crisis reaches – or being pushed by the feuding parties to – its crescendo, Governor Siminalayi Fubara’s adopted a strategy of one-day, one-taunt, one-threat, one-allegation to deal with his opponents, or enemies of Rivers State, as decreed by the governor.
Hence such headlines as, “Rivers crisis: ‘I have defeated my enemies, they now sleep with two eyes open’ — Fubara,” “Fubara: ‘Small thing I did they no longer sleep,'” “You haven’t seen anything yet, wait for joker, says Fubara,” “We’re battling huge debts left behind by Wike’s government — Fubara,” “Fubara vows to probe Wike, says ‘jungle is mature,'” “I’ll liberate Rivers from oppression, says Fubara,” “Rivers crisis: ‘Conduct yourselves, nobody has monopoly of violence,’ Fubara warns LG chairmen.”
To rein in his traducers, Fubara’s decided to probe the administration of former Governor and Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, Chief Nyesom Wike – ironically his political godfather-turned nemesis accusingly fueling the Rivers crisis.
On Monday, May 13, at the inauguration of Dagogo Israel Iboroma (SAN) as Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, to replace Prof. Zaccheaus Adangor, who resigned after he’s redeployed to the Ministry of Special Duties (Governor’s Office), Fubara vowed he’s “not going back on it (probe).”
He told Mr Iboroma – who’s sworn in after screening by the pro-Fubara three-member House of Assembly, presided by Victor Oko-Jumbo – that he’s brought on board as the Attorney-General to tackle the legal matters faced by the government “with bravery and courage.”
Fubara’s words: “My brother, Dagogo Iboroma, you are going to be the brand new Attorney-General of our dear State. SSG (Secretary to the State Government), give him his letter, he is the Attorney-General
“Why are we bringing you at this very critical time? We have a lot of issues around us. We believe that you are not going to be the one that, when they send (court) service to you, you go and file ‘nolle prosequi’ (a formal notice of discontinuance) or you go and file one thing that would kill us here.
“Let me also say this. You have a big task. We will be setting up a judicial panel of inquiry to investigate the affairs of governance. So, brace up, I am not going back on it (probe).
“Please, defend us. We know that you are going to defend us because your record is clean. You are a gentleman and peaceful. You are not a noise maker. People like you are endowed, and they have the fear of God.”
Prof. Adangor didn’t escape Fubara’s censor for allegedly sabotaging the administration “he served as chief law officer,” even as Adangor, in his resignation letter, claimed Fubara interfered in the discharge of his duties.
Adangor’s letter reads: “The Governor of Rivers State had, in the past couple of weeks, willfully interfered with the performance of my duties as the Hon. Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Rivers State, by directing me not to defend, oppose, or appear in suits instituted against the Hon. Attorney-General and the Government of Rivers State by persons admittedly hired and sponsored by the Government of Rivers State.”
But as Fubara said: “It is good that you (Iboroma) were already a SAN (Senior Advocate of Nigeria) before your appointment. This means that you’re a very thorough lawyer and has earned your appointment. Not like the one (Adangor) we had here.
“Instead of you (Adangor) to close your mouth, you go publicly to claim that you are a learned person, and go publicly to tell people that you were the chief law officer. Chief law officer?
“You were here and you went to stand before a Magistrates’ court. At that time, you didn’t remember that you were a chief law officer, going against the ethics of your job. Like I said, you will get your reward, not in the next world, but in this world.”
Though Fubara’s elated to’ve found “a well- constituted House of Assembly” (of only three members out of 31) to discharge legislative duties, and “the appointment of a seasoned lawyer as Attorney-General,” he doubts the resolution of Rivers’ crisis amicably due to alleged “deliberate sabotage” of his government.
“It has become very clear that… there is no way to resolve it (crisis) amicably, and for a lot of reasons. There is visible evidence that there is sabotage, deliberate attempt to sabotage this administration,” Fubara said, adding, “for that reason, we have to move forward, and moving forward, if it means taking decisions that are going to hurt anybody, we are not going back.”
One such decision is Fubara’s avowal to rehabilitate the Rivers State House of Assembly Residential Quarters in Port Harcourt, launched in 2022, thus pre-empting the report of experts he’s commissioned to carry out integrity tests on the quarters that houses the lawmakers and their families, and also serves as a legislative house, which Fubara’s lately relocated to the Government House via an Executive Order.
With opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers alleging the governor intends to demolish the structures, as he reportedly did to the House of Assembly complex, Fubara, on Thursday, May 9, displayed the attitude of the typical politician to regard – and appropriate – state resources: financial and material as theirs.
After he “stormed” the residential quarters – and journalists wanted to know his mission to the place, Fubara asked what’s amiss if he visited his own property. He said: “Is the assembly quarters not part of ‘my property’? Is there anything wrong in going to check how things are going on there? You are aware of the developments. We have a new Speaker, and I went there to see for myself how things are. There might be a few things I want to do there for the good of our people.”
Fubara’s query reminds of the late media sensation and Kano State Governor Sabo Bakin Zuwo, during the short-lived Second Republic (1979-1983). Sen. Zuwo had hardly spent a few weeks in his three-month stay in power (October 1 to December 31, 1983) when he appropriated the state resources to the Government House for quick disbursements.
When anti-graft operatives had intel about – and actually saw – the stacked amount of Kano State’s money in the government house – where Zuwo handed it out at his whim and fancy – and was asked for an explanation, the following dialogue ensued:
Zuwo: “Whose money is this?” Security operatives: “Kano State’s money.” Zuwo: Whose house is this?” Security operatives: “Kano State’s Government House.” Zuwo: “You found Kano State’s money in Kano State’s Government House, is there any problem with that?” Security operatives: Tongue-tied, no response!
Fubara’s claim of Rivers property as his also recalls an apocryphal (unverified) saying, attributed to Louis XIV, King of France and Navarre, “L’État, c’est moi” (“I am the state,” literally, “the state, that is me”) – allegedly said on April 13, 1655, before the Parliament of Paris – is a phrase that “symbolises absolute monarchy and absolutism,” according to Wikipedia.
In the context of Nigeria’s politics, the President and Governor act as absolute monarchs, who equate themselves as the State, and do what they like with its resources, without questioning from the legislative arm of government under their stranglehold. That’s where Fubara’s veered lately with his proclamation of a three-man Rivers State House of Assembly, to make laws for the state, and oversight the executive that installed the chamber itself.
Getting away with a five-member Rivers Assembly that passed a hefty N800bn budget within 24 hours, and signed into law the next day – a 48-hour wonder – Fubara gambles now with three members in a 31-member assembly, to “guard” his government in the next three years before the 2027 general election.
And seemingly free of the political bondage he’s been held by Wike, Fubara’s ploy – barring any unforeseen circumstances – is to put the final nail into the political coffin of his opponents: Wike and his sacked loyal members of the Rivers Assembly, depending on several factors, chiefly, the direction of cases in court, resistance from the sacked pro-Wike lawmakers, and local council chairmen, whose tenure ends in June, and the courage by Fubara’s three-member legislature to go the whole hog with the governor for the ultimate showdown with Wike.
Top of these challenges is the Wike probe, which sing-song Fubara took a notch higher on Tuesday, May 14, when he alleged that Rivers’ huge debt overhang was incurred by Wike, who also didn’t pay contractors for projects executed for the state, as reported by Premium Times on May 15.
Fubara revealed this at the commissioning of reconstructed 10.89km Aleto-Ogale-Ebubu-Eteo road at Ebubu community, Eleme local government area, where he said he’d lived and worked to get to Level 14 in the Rivers civil service.
His words: “This is to let the world know that if there is one problem this administration has, it is the huge debt burden. Most of the projects being commissioned, the contractors are coming for their balance-payment, and it is running into billions.
“I have said that I don’t want to talk. I don’t want to talk because I was part of that system. But, when you (Wike) keep pushing me to talk, I will say it so that the people will know the true situation of things and be properly informed.”
Fubara’s charge counters claims by then Governor Wike in November 2022, that he’s fully funding the multi-billion naira projects executed by his administration, and that he wouldn’t leave any debts behind for his successor.
Wike said he’s deploying arrears of 13 per cent of oil revenue – (later with additional refunds of N78bn incurred by the prior Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi government (2007-2015) to rebuild federal roads in Rivers) – paid by then President Muhammadu Buhari to Rivers State.
Wike, inaugurating the Rivers State campus of the Nigeria Law School (NLS) declared: “That is why, since 2019 till now, we have been commissioning projects in the state,” and threw a challenge to other governors in the South-South zone “to account for the oil revenue they have received.”
Whatever, Fubara’s poured cold water on Wike’s claim of financial prudence and accountability, as he’s in a postion to know – as then Accountant General of Rivers – the actual financial health of the state, and challenges Wike to account for how he spent Rivers resources in eight years!
On the launching of the road, Fubara said he’s happy to be there (Ebubu community), and “to join the good people of Rivers State to start this wonderful celebration of our first anniversary in the face of all the troubles. It shows that we are still focused, not minding the level of distractions.”
“This project was awarded at the cost of N6.7 billion, and I can say boldly that no kobo is remaining. We’ve paid the contractor its complete sum. Our gathering here is to tell our people that their problem is our problem,” Fubara said.
Obviously as a parting shot at Wike, Fubara said he’d invited Abia State Governor, Dr Alex Otti, to inaugurate the road because Otti is not a man of “artificial integrity,” but a “pragmatic man.”
Now that the die is cast for the probe of the eight-year tenure of governance of Rivers State by Nyesom Wike, how will Governor Fubara proceed with the task? This and other issues will form the next installment of this article!

Mr Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria

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Opinion

Rivers political crisis: Fubara raves as Wike likely retreats (2)

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By Ehichioya Ezomon

As noted in part one under this header on Monday, April 29, 2024, Governor Siminalayi Fubara voluntarily and freely signed the peace agreement emanating from his solicitation for President Bola Tinubu to intervene in the political crisis in Rivers State that’s pitted the governor against his predecessor in office and Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Chief Nyesom Wike.
Fubara signed the “Eight-point Resolutions” in the presence of his backers, such as former Rivers Governor Peter Odili, Deputy Governor Ngozi Odu and chairman of Rivers chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Aaron Chukwuemeka, and with Prof. Odu and Mr Chukwuemeka also appending the document.
When Fubara’s newfound political allies railed and raised hell against the agreement, claiming the governor didn’t sign it – and if he did, it’s under duress from the almighty Presidency, and a betrayal of the Rivers people, who’ve lined behind him in his fight for political supremacy with Wike – Fubara confirmed that he endorsed the document willingly.
The governor, in a Christmas message on Monday, December 25, 2023, said the resolution brokered by Tinubu to resolve the crisis was “not a death sentence,” but would ensure lasting peace, and he’d implement it in a way to restore political stability in Rivers.
But implementating the peace accord appears a “death sentence” to Fubara, who – short of repudiating the document as urged by his supporters – is dilly-dallying, signalling that he might not honour the spirit and letter of the agreement, so as not to hand victory to his opponents.
Looking at the items in the agreement, it’s evident that Fubara’s sidetracking the sticky issues that caused and fueled the crisis in Rivers. For example, Fubara and his team – as urged in the peace agreement – haven’t withdrawn matters they filed in court against the Rivers Assembly and others.
The likely Fubara-engineered cases in court triggered the resignation of the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Prof. Zacchaeus Adangor, who, in an April 23 letter, accused Fubara as barring him from cases against the Attorney-General, and Government of Rivers State.
Adangor’s letter reads in part: “It is important to mention that the Governor of Rivers State had, in the past couple of weeks, willfully interfered with the performance of my duties as the Hon. Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Rivers State, by directing me not to defend, oppose, or appear in suits instituted against the Hon. Attorney-General and the Government of Rivers State by persons admittedly hired and sponsored by the Government of Rivers State.” However, Fubara – in a no-holds-barred speech on Monday, May 6, when he received a delegation of political and traditional leaders from Bayelsa State, led by former Governor and Senator Seriake Dickson – alluded to Prof. Adangor sabotaging the interest of his administration and that of Rivers State, as reason for redeploying him to the Ministry of Special Duties (Governor’s Office), which Adangor declined and quit the government within 24 hours of the letter of redeployment issued on April 22 by Secretary to the State Government, Dr Tammy Danagogo.
Recall that Mr Isaac Kamalu, Commissioner of Finance, moved to the Ministry of Employment Generation and Economic Empowerment, resigned his post same day, citing “inability to function properly in an atmosphere devoid of peace,” and disputed Fubara’s claim of doubling the Rivers internally-generated revenue in 10 months, noting a steady rise in internal revenue receipts for years, “culminating in what the state is presently generating though not the figures (Fubara) erroneously claimed in the media.”
Drafting this piece the upper week, I posited that the Rivers Assembly, led by Martin Amaewhule, maybe in name and in place, and sitting in a location of their choice, but wasn’t recognised by Fubara because 27 of its members had dumped the PDP for APC when there’s allegedly “no fictionalisation of the party nationally.” Hence Fubara’s vetoed bills passed by the Assembly, which then overrode the governor, and passed the bills into law.
Fubara’s now publicly proclaimed the pro-Wike 27 APC members in the Rivers Assembly as “not existing,” going by law, and stressed he only accommodated them as his former political allies, and for the sake of peace in Rivers. Also, Fubara, during the Bayelsa delegation’s visit, dismissed the Tinubu brokered peace deal between him and Wike “as not constitutional.”
Fubara’s words: “It (peace deal) is a political solution to a problem. I accepted it because these (APC lawmakers) are people that were visiting me and we were together in my house. These are people that I have helped in many ways even when I wasn’t a governor.
“Yes, we might have our disagreements, but I believe that one day, we could also come together. That was the reason I did it. But, I think it has gotten to a time when I need to make a statement on this thing, so that they understand that they are not existing.
“Their existence and whatever they have been doing is because I allowed them to do so. If I don’t recognise them, they are nowhere. That is the truth. So, I want you (the visitors) to see the sacrifice I have made to allow peace to be in our state.
“I can say here, with all amount of boldness, I have never called any police man anywhere to go and harass anybody. I have never gone anywhere to ask anybody to do anything against anybody.
“But what happens to the people that are supporting me? They are being harassed, they are being arrested and detained. There is no week that somebody doesn’t come here with one letter of invitation for trump-up charges and all those things.”
Fubara boasted that with the powers at his disposal, he knows what to do to put in check those that don’t want peace but to destroy Rivers State. “I know that I have always taken the path of peace. I have shown respect. I’ve subjected myself to every meeting of reconciliation for peace. And what happens, each time we come out from such meetings, we are faced with one thunder or lightning,” Fubara said.
“Even when I have all the instruments of State powers, I have shown restraint, and I believe that whoever is alive, and has been following the activities of our dear state, knows that I have acted as a big brother in the course of this crisis.
“I have not acted like a young man that may want the house to be destroyed but, I have behaved like a mature young man that I am. This is because I know that no meaningful development will be achieved in an atmosphere of crisis.
“And because our intention for Rivers State is to build on the foundation that had been laid by our past leaders, it will be wrong for me to take the path of promoting crisis. That is why we are still recording the development that you are hearing around Rivers State.”
In line with his declaration of “non-existence” of the 27 pro-Wike members, and the leadership of the Rivers Assembly, Fubara’s refused – contrary to the peace deal – to represent the state budget of N800bn he presented on December 13, 2023, to his loyal five PDP lawmakers, headed by former “Speaker Edison Ehie,” who passed the budget within 24 hours, and signed by Fubara the next day. A 48-hour wonder!
But on Monday, January 22, the law came on the side of the Rivers Assembly – and by extension the presidential peace agreement – when a Federal High Court in Abuja set aside the N800bn budget because both the presentation and passage of the appropriation “amounted to nullity, and a wilful breach of the court order made on November 30, 2023,” the court ruled. Justice Omotosho also restrained Governor Fubara from frustrating the Amaewhule-led Rivers Assembly from sitting or interfering in its constitutional and legislative functions, and barred the National Assembly, the police and any member of the state executive arm from interfering in the assembly’s affairs.
Similarly, a Federal High Court, Abuja, on Tuesday, January 30, dismissed a suit seeking to stop Governor Fubara from re-presenting the N800bn 2024 budget of Rivers State, with Justice Joyce Abdulmalik, ruling that a similar suit in the matter had been decided by a sister court on the day she had granted an interim order (which she subsequently set aside) to the plaintiffs, who claimed that Tinubu, Fubara and the Rivers assembly have no right nor entitled to enter into any agreement that has the effect of nullifying or undermining the provisions of Section 109(I)(g) and (2) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal has reserved judgment on appeal by some Rivers elders, led by a member of the Rivers State Elders Council, Chief Anabs Sara-Igbe, and nine others, questioning the legality of the peace agreement that they asked to be declared unconstitutional, and the representation of the Rivers 2024 N800bn budget to “a properly-constituted Rivers State House of Assembly for approval,” as demanded in the peace deal.
A Rivers High Court, presided by Justice Chinwendu Nworgu, had struck out the suit, seeking interpretation of the Constitution on whether the president has the legal right to direct Fubara to re-present the budget to 24 lawmakers, led by Amaewhule, “even after their seats were declared vacant.”
As first reported by PUNCH, the dissatisfied claimants appealed the high court ruling, joining President Tinubu, Governor Fubara, Rivers Assembly Speaker, Martin Amaewhule, the state House of Assembly and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
On Wednesday, May 1, the three-man panel of the Appeal Court, led by Justice Elfreda Oluwayamisi-Dawodu, reserved judgment to a date to be communicated to parties after they’d adopted their final written addresses. While the counsel for President Tinubu and Governor Fubara didn’t file any brief of argument in the suit, no lawyer represented the PDP during the proceeding.
In support of his adopted written address, counsel for the claimants, Wilcox Agberetor (SAN), argued that the appeal be allowed, and the matter transferred back to the Chief Judge of Rivers State, for reassignment to another judge, while counsel for the House of Assembly, K.C Njemanze (SAN), urged dismissal of the appeal.
Equally unimplemented in the eight-point peace accord between Fubara and Wike are issues of the caretaker committees in Rivers local governments, and dissolution of the Local Government administration, which the peace deal declared “null and void and shall not be recognised.”
This has added a fresh layer to the power tussle between the governor and Rivers Assembly, which’s overriden five bills Fubara’s vetoed, including the revised Local Government Law that paves way for election into the local government areas of Rivers State.
Is Governor Fubara intent on honouring the peace resolutions? If he does, what’s worth doing at all is worth doing well! No need to continue digging in; it only profits the puppeteers and “where-belly-face” politicians egging him on to renounce the agreement. Many of them were with Wike yesterday, they’re with Fubara today, and will be with another governor tomorrow for “stomach infrastructure.”
Fubara should free himself of the sycophants and bootlickers in and about the corridors of power in Rivers State, so he can clearly see and directly hear from the masses, who suffer more as his fight-to-finish with Wike lingers! Or does he want a no-end to the Rivers crisis?
Fubara talks about being patient, tolerant and restrained in his dealing with the Rivers crisis. Will his patience snap, and pull off completely the gloves, and bare-knuckle his traducers in Abuja and Rivers? How will he carry out the struggle? Defensive or a blitzkrieg?
That’ll be taking a page or two from former Rivers governors, who hounded and/or probed their predecessor-governors over real or phantom allegations! And he’s at liberty to tread that path in Rivers peculiar, firebrand politics. More in the next piece under this header!

Mr Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria

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Opinion

What’s Gwan with Ajuri Ngelale

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By Maikudi Tanko Yahaya

Many of my generation can relate with a very popular song; What’s Gwan released in the early ’90s by Aniocha North-born Okeleke Elumelu, better known by his stage name, Ras Kimono. The dread locked wearing reggae exponent who brought his rustic village, Onicha Olona in Delta state to national, regional, and to reasonable extent global recognition ruled the airwaves along his other colleagues like Mandators, late Majek Fashek, Orits Williki and few others. The wide-eyed dance hall crooner who by the way would have being 66 years old this month, according to news reports slumped at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos while waiting to board a flight to the United States of America was pronounced died moments later at an Ikeja-based hospital on 10th June 2018 at the age of 60.

While working on this article, the title of that lyrically strong and masterful produced song which by every standard was a marketing success came to mind. With the frequency of snide remarks and subtle attacks on the presidential media adviser, Ajuri Ngelale, one can’t help but ask “what’s Gwan.”

During campaigns and after his emergence as the president-elect of Nigeria, Bola Tinubu was equivocal and unapologetic about his intentions to include youths in sensitive positions in his government. Weeks after his inauguration on May 29, 2023, Tinubu set the ball rolling by putting action to his promise with the appointment of Ajuri Ngelale as his Special Adviser, Media. This to a large extent, came as a huge surprise to many in the country’s media fraternity. Hitherto, some familiar names had being flying around as likely choice for the position.

Indeed, with the emergence of Ngelale as the chief spokesman and publicist, Tinubu, in some ways has ingeniously created history, and broke away from the norm. Appointing Ngelale, in his late ’30s to such high-profiled position further confirms Tinubu’s commitment to youth inclusivity in his government. Also, Ngelale when juxtaposed with his predecessors, since 1999, from Doyin Okupe to Late Tunji Oseni, Late Remi Oyo, Segun Adeniyi, Reuben Abari, and Femi Adesina seems to be less popular, accomplished and experienced. All but one of these former media advisers are (were) distinguished fellows and members of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, (NGE). That Tinubu entrusted the management of his media and publicity to someone derogatorily regarded as “rookie” by some people speaks volume about his penchant for youth-growth, and capacity development.

Further to this, Tinubu has shown that he is conscientiously committed to grooming the younger generation for leadership with the appointments of more youths into his government. Betta Edu, suspended Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation Minister; Khalil Halilu, Executive Vice Chairman/Chief Executive of National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure, (NASENI); Jamila Bio-Ibrahim, Minister of Youths Affairs and her colleague the Minister of state; and few others are all in their 30s. The appointment of 37 year old Ngelale, and that of his contemporaries succinctly confirms Tinubu’s status as a leader passionate about grooming youths for the future.

Despite Tinubu’s noble, novel initiative, and determination to encourage the participation, involvement, and elevation of youths in his government, it thus appears that some people are opposed to Ngelale. From careful analysis, he has being subject of criticism, complaints, and characterisation by people who somehow detest his ambitious, audacious, and unusual confidence and operations. For some people, they feast on any issue to not only pour their frustrations and anger on Ngelale but also throw tantrums and invectives to mischievously whittle down his hardwork. Any unintended slip from the United Arab Emirates issue to USA’s NASDAQ and Maersk incident are used as avenues to roll out salacious and jealousy-imbeded comments and statements.

For now, it’s apposite to ask those opposed to Ngelale, why now? Criticisms are good, necessary for effective and efficient deliveries and performances. But when hate, dislike, and anger are clothe and cloaked in garment of constructive engagement it impedes concentration, confidence, character, and capacity. For now, contrary to the moonlight tales and negative narratives of those who appears miffed with Ngelale, the Rivers-born publicist who is the youngest occupier of the position is not doing badly. Given his professional background as a hard-nosed and hardworking reporter in AIT, and CHANNELS before his transition to public service as aide on public affairs to former Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, and now as Tinubu’s spokesman, the light-skinned, and six-foot tall son of former water resources Minister, Precious Ngelale is improving on the job.

As someone who strikes as receptive to new ideas, professional initiatives, and constructive criticism from genuine quarters, the writer believes Ngelale would be willing to hear, listen to robust engagements from any person. Rather than resort to regular “exposure and vilification” of his “errors and gaffes” it is advised that these professionals should offer genuine counsel whenever necessary to help grow and nurture the career growth of their younger brother and colleague.

Maikudi Tanko Yahaya is a Public Affairs Analyst based in Kaduna

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