Nigeria: Rivers State chapter reverses decision to protest

Nigeria: Rivers State chapter reverses decision to protest

By Zuleihat Owuiye, Mamos Nigeria

The Rivers State chapter of the Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) has reversed its decision to hold a mass protest against the police barricade at local government secretariats. NULGE President in Rivers State, Clifford Paul, had initially announced the planned protest to challenge the continued presence of the police at the secretariats. However, in a statement made on Sunday night, the organised labour announced the cancellation of the protest.

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), who were also against the barricade, had expressed their intention to join NULGE in the protest. However, the police warned against the demonstration, threatening to make arrests. In light of the warnings and the prevailing peace in Rivers State, the organised labour decided to suspend all planned actions. They stated that they would continue to pursue legitimate means to ensure the resumption of work for their members.

In a related development, former chairmen from 21 of the 23 local government areas in Rivers State staged protests in their respective councils, asserting that they would remain in office. These chairmen, who were elected during Nyesom Wike’s tenure as governor, cited the Local Government Amendment and Administrative Law No. 2 of 2024 enacted by the Martin Amawhule-led House of Assembly. This law extended their tenure for six months due to the failure of Governor Siminalayi Fubara to conduct local government elections.

Accompanied by their supporters, the ex-LG chairmen demonstrated their solidarity with the ongoing police barricades at the council secretariats. They and the 27 lawmakers of the state House of Assembly remained loyal to Wike, who has been engaged in a power tussle with Fubara over political control in the state.

The situation escalated last week when Governor Fubara announced the end of the tenure of the council bosses and wished them well in their future endeavors. Following the announcement, loyalists of the governor invaded all the council headquarters to remove the ex-LG bosses. In response, the governor announced the list of caretaker committees for the councils. However, the police intervened to prevent a breakdown of law and order by barricading the secretariats and preventing the newly constituted council from assuming office.

In Obio-Akpor LGA, George Ariolu, who claimed to be the authentic chairman pending a court decision on tenure elongation, led residents of the council to the police barricade. Ariolu emphasized their commitment to defending democracy and the rule of law. He expressed their determination not to allow any form of violence or destruction of the council secretariat.

Similarly, in Ikwerre LGA, Dr. Samuel Nwanosike led hundreds of supporters to the police barricades, stating that he remained the duly elected chairman of the council. Nwanosike reaffirmed their commitment to upholding the laws of Nigeria and respecting the orders given by the police. He highlighted their patience with the Nigerian police and their understanding of the importance of the constitution and the judiciary in upholding democracy.

The Area Commander commended the peaceful conduct of the protesters and urged them to maintain the peace. Meanwhile, hundreds of pro-police protesters marched to the Port Harcourt City Local Government secretariat, expressing their support for the police barricade and their appreciation for the neutrality of the police in maintaining law and order in the state.

In conclusion, while the planned protest by NULGE has been suspended, former LG chairmen in Rivers State are standing firm in their determination to remain in office.

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