BY JIMITOTA ONOYUME
In this interview, the Leader of Rivers State House of Assembly, Hon Chidi Lloyd, speaks on the political crisis that is playing out in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state. He describes the recent suspension of 27 members of the House by the leadership of the party as mere verbal construct. Excerpts:
What is your response to the suspension of 27 members of the House, including yourself?
I don’t want to gratify such things. The suspension never existed. When the House took its stand on the Obio Akpor issue (i.e. suspension of the Chairman, his Vice and the seventeen councillors by the House of Assembly), some persons, led by Felix Obuah issued the Assembly a 48- hour ultimatum to rescind its decision or face disciplinary measures from the party.
This was on radio. The House went ahead to suspend the officials of the local government after due diligence, it took its decision suspending both the executive and legislature of Obio Akpor because they were all mentioned in the alleged corruption and subversion of peace that took place in the council. The world over, when you are mentioned in things like this, leaders resign; remember the Mayor of New York resigned on mere allegation that he was number nine on the list of those that peeped at a prostitute. We are evolving, as a House, we now said let the executive and legislature move out a little so that they don’t tamper with the investigation process. That is what we did, it was not conviction. If at the end of the day, the allegations are not founded, of course we will recall, but if they are founded, we will take further disciplinary measures against the chairman in pursuance to the Rivers State local government laws.
Some persons say there was procedural defect in the action of the House. They also claimed the petition the House relied on was spurious.
Anybody who has evidence to the fact that the petition was spurious should come out to say it. But there is no way the Assembly would not have acted on those weighty issues that were raised. We are not petty and we are not witch-hunting.
They say you were supposed to have forwarded your recommendations to the Chief Judge, CJ, of the state?
It was not impeachment. What they don’t know is that the Rivers State local government law empowers the House to act in situations like this. It is only when the legislative assembly of a local government impeaches the chairman that we forward to the CJ to investigate the allegations. We invoked our powers from the Rivers State local government laws which empower us to cause investigation into any council and shall take any action that is deemed free. We are working in accordance with the law. We are not a lawless Assembly.
Let’s look at the 27 members suspended. You said it never existed. Can we better?
We were never suspended. Pursuant to that threat, we went to court, got our lawyers and they filed process on the 26th and on Monday, 29th April, we got an order of court restraining them. Incidentally, there were two of them in that executive who were in court. Once they saw that His Lordship had given the judgement, they merely walked across to the radio station and announced that we have all been suspended which runs contrary to section 21 sub 4 of the party constitution. And remember that we are not run on convention. We have a constitution.
The constitution is clear that anybody accused of any office should be communicated in writing and you will hear from the other side, that was not done. A group of people went on air to suspend 27 members of the House out of 32. That is what I refer to as act two scene 1 of the script they have. These are a group of Nollywood stars who have been handed out a script and they are already acting. Act one scene one was the judgement of the Abuja High Court. Act two scene one is suspension of Rivers State House of Assembly members, Act two scene two, ultimatum to the governor of Rivers State to come and explain to them how he bought the aircraft, usurping the functions of the House of Assembly. I did not know that some of them are these talented.
Are you challenging the Abuja High Court order which sacked the leadership of Ake in Rivers PDP?
We are in court.
The PDP alleged that you were planning to sack five members of the House?
You can see that this was why a state in the South-South was worried about the way rumour goes on in the state and had to set up a Bureau for Rumour Mongering; and went ahead to appoint a Special Adviser on Rumour Mongering. Like I said, no legislator is punished for holding his view, but remember we have our own House rules that govern the conduct of members, if not, it will be a mad House. We have procedures. There was no contemplation at anytime to suspend five members of the House.
Why will anybody want to do that? And, in furtherance to this, they went to court restraining. They served us process.
The issue is that we were not contemplating suspending anybody. They have gone to court. We have also entered a memorandum of appearance. Our lawyers have filed. We will meet them in court. At no time was it contemplated that they will be suspended.
However, the Speaker of the House, as if he knew, called the House to a meeting and said everybody must behave in line with the rules of the Assembly. Nobody is going to be penalised for his views. But if you run foul if the House rules, we shall take disciplinary actions. The rules are there, you don’t just suspend a man based on rumour mongering.
Let’s also look at the signs that made the Hon Speaker raise alarm recently of threat to impeach him and the governor.
I don’t know about that. The Speaker may have more information on that. How would five people convene a House that has been adjourned sine die and go ahead to impeach the Speaker.
Why did the House adjourn sine die?
This is not the first time we are adjourning sine die. We have met our constitutional 186 days of sitting. We would have proceeded on vacation, but because of the love we have for the state, it will not allow us proceed because their might be state function. What this means is that there might be state functions and members could be called upon anytime to reconvene.
God being on our side, the government of Rt Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi will continue to deliver democracy dividends.