Pro-Wike lawmakers’ seats remain vacant, I will not present the budget – Fubara

Pro-Wike lawmakers’ seats remain vacant, I will not present the budget – Fubara

Rivers State Governor Siminalayi Fubara on Wednesday said his administration has commenced the process of preparing the 2025 budget.

The governor also dismissed the threat by the Martin Amaewhule-led faction of the state House of Assembly that he should resubmit the 2024 budget, saying that having defected to the All Progressives Congress from the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party on which they won election, their seats remained vacant.

Fubara stated this when he received on a solidarity visit the leadership structure, key stakeholders, opinion leaders, women and youths of Etche and Omuma Local Government Areas, led by Ogbakor Etche, the apex socio-cultural organisation of Etche Ethnic Nationality Worldwide, at the Government House, Port Harcourt.

In a statement issued by the Governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Nelson Chukwudi, and sent to newsmen, the Governor described the recent comments by the Amaewhule faction as noise of delusional people.

He urged the “25 former legislators” to wake up from their slumber and added that the ship of government in the state was sailing smoothly.

Lawmakers loyal to former governor and Federal Capital Territory minister Nyesom Wike had been at odds with Fubara over political control of the state.

Following a failed attempt to oust the governor, which resulted in the demolition of the Assembly headquarters, the lawmakers announced their defection to the APC, a move the state PDP seized on to declare their seats vacant.

A Rivers State High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, the state capital, has granted an interim injunction restraining pro-Wike lawmakers from impersonating lawmakers in the state.

However, the Court of Appeal in Abuja on July 4 confirmed Amaewhule and 24 other lawmakers as members of the Rivers State House of Assembly.

In a session held at the state legislative headquarters on Monday, the court-reinstated lawmakers asked Fubara to resubmit the 2024 budget to the Assembly and gave him a one-week ultimatum.

The government, in a swift action, moved to court to restrain the state’s Chief Judge and others from recognising the Amaewhule-led Assembly, while also appealing the Court of Appeal’s judgment to the Supreme Court.

Ruling out the idea of ​​resubmitting the 2024 budget, Fubara said his administration had begun preparing the details of the 2025 Appropriation Bill, with priority given to education, healthcare and agriculture.

“Let me assure you that agriculture is one area we have promised the very special and peace-loving people of Rivers State that our 2025 budget, which we have already begun preparing, will address.

“Don’t worry about those people who are delirious. They think we are still sleeping. Let me tell you people so you can listen wherever you are.

“I wanted to help them, honestly because I know them. And I’ve said it before, these are people I’ve helped. I paid their children’s school fees. I paid their house rent. So I wanted to help them.”

“We all knew what happened when they crossed over (defected), and how did they do it? By our God, for them to make that mistake, they crossed over. They left, they left. Now, let me tell you: when I wanted to help them, I agreed to help them because we are all one. We disagree to agree as they say,” he said.

He added: “They thought they were clever. What is stopping them is the declaration of vacancies of their seats, which was made on December 13, 2023. We are not making any budget to overturn that decision. It is what will send them to their villages.”

“As I speak to you, I have started preparing my budget for 2025, which I will present very soon. And, in that budget, my key areas will be education, health and agriculture.”

Fubara said the three priority areas would ensure that even if more roads were built, emphasis would be placed on quality healthcare services for the people of the state.

“Our children need to go to quality schools. Even if they cannot go to private schools, let them go to public schools that have standards. We need to go to good government-owned health centres and receive standard healthcare services.

“Even though we cannot afford those private hospitals, when you go to the public ones you can get the same services with qualified professionals. That is our way of thinking.

“And when we come to the issue of agriculture, we will address the issue of unemployment. When we start involving our youth, they will not have time to get involved in crimes. So, our idea is to secure and protect our state,” he added.

He reiterated that he is not fighting against anyone as has been insinuated, adding that being loyal does not mean losing one’s freedom, sense of discretion and doing the right thing.

“I want to assure you of one thing: We are not fighting against anyone. We appreciate what God has done through the people in our lives. But we are not going to govern this state on our knees. We will govern this way, this way.

“If only being on our knees to rule is the way we will be seen as loyal, then I will pack up the few things I have here and go relax in my home comfortably, because it will be a disaster, not only for me but for everyone in the state and even for my generation.

“I will remain steadfast and on the side of truth. Let me thank the President General (of Ogbakor Etche) for bringing together his people, the great people of Etche and Omuma, to come and pay us a visit of solidarity,” he said.

Fubara urged the people of the Etche Nation to continue to support his administration because his vision was clear and comprehensive to promote the well-being of all Riversians.

He promised to work with the Nigerian Police to resolve the problem of herdsmen attacks on farmlands and farmers in the area, including the issue of illegal dredging activities.

The Oyeisi Etche, Eze Emmanuel Opurum, pledged the support of the Etche and Omuma people to Fubara to ensure the success of his administration.

The President General of Ogbakor Etche Worldwide, Sir Charles Nwonuala, said the Etche people came to express their support, trust and faith in Fubara and his administration.

The Head of Civil Service in Rivers State, Dr. George Nwaeke, said Oyeisi Etche, the entire leadership structure including the 70 academic teachers of Etche Nation, stood with women and youths in solidarity with Fubara and his administration.

Meanwhile, the PDP has warned the Amaewhule faction of the Rivers House of Assembly to refrain from actions and statements that may disturb peace and governance in the state.

The party also urged the Inspector General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, to safeguard democracy, peace and security in the state.

The National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, on Wednesday insisted that under the self-executing provision of Section 109(1)(g) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the lawmakers were no longer part of the state House of Assembly.

“The National Leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), for the umpteenth time, warns former members of the Rivers State House of Assembly who lost their seats by defecting from the PDP to the All Progressives Congress (APC) to desist from actions and statements that may disturb peace and governance in the state.

“The party advises the former lawmakers to note that they are no longer members of the Rivers State House of Assembly, in accordance with the self-executing provision of Section 109(1)(g) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and as such, they cannot sit or issue any notice to the state governor in their capacity as members of the Rivers State House of Assembly,” the statement read.

He said his action of seeking to assume the powers of the State Legislative Assembly was to cause a crisis, undermine and disrupt the democratic and constitutional order in the state.

The party urged residents to remain vigilant, abide by the law and work together to ensure continued stability, peace and the delivery of democratic benefits.