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Tension In Rivers As Youth Occupy Secretariat Over Tenure Expiration Of LG Chairmen

A palpable sense of tension has enveloped the 23 local government areas of Rivers State, as the tenure of council chairmen comes to an end today, June 17, 2024, at midnight.

The expiration of their term has sparked uncertainty and anxiety, leaving residents on edge, awaiting the next developments in the political landscape of the state.

The simmering tension in Rivers State has escalated, fueled by the defiant stance of Local Government (LG) chairmen, who have refused to vacate their offices despite the expiration of their tenure.

The chairmen, under the umbrella of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON), are relying on the controversial Local Government Amendment Law No 2 of 2024, passed by the 27-member House of Assembly, led by Speaker Martin Amaewhule, which grants them a six-month tenure extension.

This move has sparked a political showdown, plunging the state into uncertainty and chaos.

Allwell Ihunda, the Chairman of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) in Rivers State, and also the Chairman of Port Harcourt City Local Government Area, maintained that the law passed by the House of Assembly explicitly empowers them to remain in office, despite the expiration of their tenure.

Ihunda’s unwavering stance has further intensified the political standoff in the state, as the debate over the legality and legitimacy of the tenure extension continues to simmer.

The ongoing political standoff in Rivers State has its roots in a law passed by lawmakers loyal to Minister Nyesom Wike, allowing council chairmen to remain in office due to Governor Siminalayi Fubara’s alleged failure to conduct local government elections.

Despite the Governor’s warning last month, urging the chairmen to vacate office peacefully, the embattled former Speaker, Martin Amaewhule, has vowed to resist any attempts to appoint caretaker committees to fill the vacancies in the 23 LGAs.

The situation remains volatile, with both sides digging in their heels, refusing to budge.

In the latest escalation of the political showdown in Rivers State, youths in Degema took a bold stance early Monday, occupying and barricading the council secretariat, determined to prevent the outgoing council chairmen from remaining in office beyond their tenure.

The youths, chanting war songs and appearing battle-ready, vowed to prevent the chairmen’s return to the council, citing the long-standing feud between the former Governor, Nyesom Wike, and his successor, Governor Siminalayi Fubara.

The chairmen, elected during Wike’s tenure, have been at loggerheads with Fubara, with six laws vetoed by the Governor, further fueling the tensions. The standoff has brought the state to a boiling point, with no clear resolution in sight.

In a show of unity and determination, hundreds of youths from Asari-Toru Local Government Area converged on the council headquarters in Degema, singing in their local dialects and chanting slogans like “He is a failure, you must go!” and “Asawana” (a solidarity chant).

The youths, who occupied the facility and surrounding areas, vowed to remain until Wednesday, when work resumes, daring the council chairman to attempt to enter the secretariat.

Their message was clear: the chairman’s tenure is over, and it’s time for him to leave. The scene was one of defiance and resolve, as more youths continued to arrive, solidifying their stance against the chairman’s continued leadership.

Aldo, in a bid to maintain order and prevent potential security breaches, a significant security presence was deployed in Port Harcourt City Local Government Area and Obio/Akpor LGA on Monday.

At the secretariat, over six police patrol vans were stationed at the entrance, manned by stern-looking security operatives.

While the heavy security presence was evident, movements of people were not restricted.

Meanwhile, Obarilomate Ollor, the outgoing chairman of Eleme LGA, issued a stern warning to those seeking to forcibly remove him from office, vowing that any attempts would be met with resistance. The tense standoff continues, with security forces on high alert to maintain peace and order in the region.

Speaking at the inaugural Annual General Meeting of the Aleto Clan Association in Port Harcourt, Ollor addressed stakeholders and revealed that he had received intel about plans to storm the council on June 17th.

In a bold warning, he vowed to unleash terror on anyone who attempts to invade the council, making it clear that he will not tolerate any such actions.

He said: “Some people are ganging up, they want to use force to enter into the local government. Let me tell you, the local government is not a community town hall or students union secretariat.

“That is a government facility. So stay away from there except the law permits you to go there. If you go there against the law, what you will see you will not.

Meanwhile, the Rivers State Police Commissioner, Olatunji Disu has declared his readiness to protect lives and property in the face of ongoing tensions.

Speaking to newsmen, at the State Police Command, CP Disu warned individuals against parties taking the law into their own hands, emphasising that anyone found doing so would face the full wrath of the law.

The police boss, in a passionate appeal, urged parents to caution their children against getting involved in the crisis, warning that they should not be used as “cannon fodder”.

He also vowed to protect all government property and human life in the community, ensuring a safe and secure environment for all.

He said: “My job as a police policeman protects lives and property. And that is what we have gone out to do since morning.

“We are aware of the crisis that has to do with the tenure of the Local Government Chairmen and we have gotten one court order or the other, and the court of Appeal has given an order for everybody to exercise restraints till the 20th of this month, just three days.

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