The Akwa Ibom House of Assembly was again thrown into turmoil on Tuesday as a faction made up of five All Progressives Congress (APC) lawmakers clashed with those loyal to Onofiok Luke, the Speaker, at the assembly premises.
The APC lawmakers, Tuesday morning, made their way into the House chambers where they quickly held their ‘sitting’ and passed a “resolution” suspending 11 lawmakers.
The ‘sitting’ was presided over by Nse Ntuen (Essien Udim State Constituency).
The other four lawmakers were Gabriel Toby, Etim Ekpo/Ika; Otobong Ndem, Mkpat Enin; Victor Udofia, Ikono; and Idongesit Ituen, Itu.
They were yet to leave the assembly when the state governor, Udom Emmanuel, who belongs to the Peoples’ Democratic Party, arrived with police officers, officials of the State Security Service (SSS), and some youth loyal to the state government and the PDP to chase away the factional lawmakers.
Photos posted on Facebook showed some of the lawmakers fleeing for safety.
A car was reportedly set ablaze during the fracas.
“Let nobody, party think they can intimidate us in Akwa Ibom State,” the speaker, Mr Luke said during plenary, as he, alongside other lawmakers, took control of the assembly.
“The people of Akwa Ibom have shown solidarity as seen in what happened today. We will continue to stand with our governor. We will continue to make laws for our economic development of the state and for the betterment of the youth of the state,” the speaker said.
The House of Assembly, reacting to the latest development, passed a vote of confidence on Mr Luke.
The House called on security agencies to arrest the five lawmakers and a former sergeant-at-arms, Godwin Ukpong.
They also called for the redeployment of the new commissioner of police who is barely one week old in the state.
The police spokesperson in the state, Odiko MacDon, refused to comment on the incident when PREMIUM TIMES contacted him.
The Commissioner for Information in the state, Charles Udoh, told PREMIUM TIMES it was necessary for the governor to visit the assembly because of the crisis.
“The governor is the chief security officer of the Akwa Ibom State, so when there is a security threat, the governor has to physically supervise what’s going on there,” Mr Udoh said.
“The five dissident, sacked House members, aided by the police with thugs dressed in fake police and army uniform, had invaded the House of Assembly.
“The governor, being the chief security officer of Akwa Ibom state, has an obligation to be there.
“The governor’s presence helped to restore peace and calm at the assembly, especially when you consider the fact that the illegality perpetrated by the five sacked members of the House of Assembly, was aided and abetted by the Nigeria Police Force,” he said.
The five lawmakers, last week, defied the Constitution and announced the “removal” of Mr Luke after their seats were declared vacant for defecting from the PDP to the APC.
The crisis snowballed into the sealing of the assembly by the police in the state which later vacated the premises on Friday.
Last week, the Senate resolved to investigate the crisis after Albert Bassey, a PDP senator from the state, raised a point of order during plenary.
A human right group, the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), last week, cautioned against the withdrawal of the police from the assembly premises, saying such moves could leave room for an attack by hoodlums.
“In the face of the tensed situation currently in the House of Assembly, the withdrawal of the officers and men of the Nigeria police and other security agencies therefrom, is nothing but counter-productive, ill-timed, and could leave a leeway for hoodlums and even aggrieved lawmakers to once again resort to self-help, thereby threatening the peace at the Akwa Ibom House of Assembly and its environs,” the chairman of CLO, Akwa Ibom state branch, Franklyn Isong, said on Friday, while briefing journalists in Uyo.
“As we speak to you right now, the hoodlums have converged near the House of Assembly.
“The CLO, therefore, call on the Inspector General of Police, the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner of Police and other security agencies to deploy their officers and men to maintain security, peace, and order at the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly until normalcy returns.
“While there, the security agencies should allow free access to the chambers by the legislators to carry on with their normal legislative business,” Mr Isong said. (PREMIUM TIMES)