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SUPREME COURT CASE:TENSION IN RIVERS STATE

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…As Amaechi’s Aides Prepare Handover Notes

By: Destiny Ugorji

Unsure of the outcome of the pending Supreme Court case over the tenure of office of the Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, there is palpable tension in the state over the outcome of the case.

 

The Supreme Court had set aside November 11, 2013 to hear the appeal filed by Governor Rotimi Amaechi against legal moves by former governor of the State, Celestine Omehia to unseat him.

Five Justices of the apex court, led by Justice Walter Onnoghen consolidated the multiple appeals brought in respect of governor Amaechi’s re-election that took place in April 2011 as against August 2011.

Although it was Governor Amaechi that approached the court to challenge the decision of the Court of Appeal to join the sacked governor, Celestine Omehia in the substantive appeal before it, other parties in the mater also followed him to the apex court with their own appeals.

Trouble started when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in 2010 published a timetable for the 2011 general election and the governorship election in Rivers State was slated for August 2011.

The election timetable released by the electoral body also affected five other states, whose governors then, were seeking tenure elongation and were caught up in the staggered elections which the 2007 electoral disputes foisted on the polity.

Prompted by the development, Governor Amaechi’s legal adviser, Chief Cyprian Chukwu filed a suit at the Federal High Court in Abuja against the governor and INEC, contending that the date fixed by the INEC’s timetable was wrong.

The substance of his suit was that since the Supreme Court decision which brought Amaechi to power in 2007 was that it was the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that won the April 2007 governorship election in Rivers State, Amaechi’s tenure started counting on May 29, 2007 and not on October 27, 2007 when he was sworn in after Omehia was sacked.

In his judgment, Justice Abdul Kafarati backdated Amaechi’s tenure and said, even though the governor was sworn in on October 26, 2007, his tenure would end on May 28, 2011 or May 2015 as the case may be. His reasoning was that since the Supreme Court said it was the PDP that won the April 2007 governorship election in Rivers State, and not the candidate (Amaechi), the tenure started counting on May 29, 2007 when Omehia was sworn in.

The Judge held that the period spent in office by Omehia, who was sacked by the Supreme Court, formed part of Amaechi’s tenure of four years, adding that it was wrong in law for the governor to expect that his tenure elongation would run till October 2011 because his election of April 14, 2007 under PDP platform was never nullified by any court.

The Judge ruled that the Supreme Court in its judgment in October 2007 only asked Omehia to vacate office on account of illegal occupation for the rightful person and never cancelled the poll or ordered any fresh one.

A close associate of the Governor confirmed to Atlantic Reporters that, unsure of the final outcome of the apex court case, the Governor had directed some of his close aides to prepare their hand over notes in order not to be taken unawares.

There are also allegations of panic looting of the state treasury by the governor and his team, a report that is yet to be refuted.

Meanwhile, out of the Court room, governor Amaechi still has a lot of hurdles to cross.

Just recently, stakeholders of Port Harcourt City Local Government Area passed a vote of no confidence on him over what they described as “none performance and waste of public funds.”

Former deputy speaker of the Federal House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Austin Adiele Opara revealed the people’s mind while speaking at the inauguration of wards, local and units officers of the Grassroot Development Initiative (GDI) in Port Harcourt.

The ex-federal lawmaker decried the poor level of development in the LGA, and further described the Amaechi’s administration as “unsatisfactory and colossal waste”.

“The people of Port Harcourt are not satisfied with the administration of Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi. All the roads in PHALGA are bad. He does not have respect for the traditional institutions. The PHALGA people have rejected the Governor.”

Adding his voice, chairman of the ruling PDP in the State, Felix Obuah told the gathering that six serving commissioners in Gov. Amaechi’s cabinet are set to dump him and would declare for the GDI in its next inauguration.

He however called on Rivers people to support President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015.