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Cultists regroup amidst political crisis in Rivers

τPalpable fear as 7 killed during rival cult clash in Makurdi


Suspected cultists shot dead Mr. Endwell Awunze along Ula-Pata, Ahoada town, on Tuesday night, amidst the souring political crisis in Rivers State.

It was gathered that Awunze, who was suspected to be a whistleblower against cultism and other violent crimes in the Okporowo community in Ahoada East Local Government Area, might have been trailed by the suspected cultists before his untimely death.

It was gathered that Awunze left the venue of protest opposite Ahoada East Council headquarters, where they were protesting against tenure elongation of local government chairmen and boarded a motorcycle at about 7pm. An anonymous source disclosed that as the motorbike was navigating along Ula-Pata road, three gunmen, who had already laid ambush, opened fire on Awunze who died instantly.

The source said the driver of the motor bike sustained gunshot injuries and was rushed to the hospital where he is receiving treatment. Daily Sun gathered that as at 7am, yesterday, the body of Awunze was still at the scene of crime. The source further disclosed that until his death, Awunze was an oil pipeline surveillance worker.

Meanwhile, tension gripped Port Harcourt City Local Government Council (PHALGA) yesterday morning as youths, suspected to be in support of tenure elongation, gathered around the council premises amidst a crisis over local government administration.

One of the leaders of youths and a former council executive and current Coordinator, Grassroots Development Initiatives (GDI) in PHALGA, identified as Enwukwe, said their commitment was to ensure peace and order in the state capital.

He explained: “These are youths from Port Harcourt Local Government Council. We have come to ensure peace and order in our local government council because, yesterday, we received information that some individuals gathered hoodlums to besiege the council even during a public holiday.

“Today, we have come to see why that happened; but, fortunately, the police have taken over the local government council premises, and everyone is here peacefully. These are supporters of Grassroots Development Initiatives loyal to the Minister of FCT.”

However, police have blocked the Bank Road (back of the Rivers State Judiciary Complex) leading to the council headquarters. It was discovered that after the youths had left the council headquarters, another group loyal to the state governor, Siminalayi Fubara, arrived at the council. The crisis was triggered by the expiration of the tenure of local government chairmen, on Monday, and the governor’s directive that Heads of Local Government Administration (HLGA) should take over leadership.

Meanwhile, Governor Fubara, has sworn-in Caretaker Committee Chairmen for the 23 local government councils of the state. The swearing-in ceremony was performed at the Executive Council Chambers of Government House, Port Harcourt, yesterday. This is sequel to their screening and confirmation by the Victor Oko-Jumbo-led State House of Assembly at its sitting, yesterday.

He said the swearing-in of the chairmen would ensure seamless administration of local governments following the expiration of tenure of elected chairmen and councillors in the state. The governor directed the newly sworn-in CTC chairmen to pay outstanding salaries of former council chairmen and councillors. He also directed them to audit the accounts of their respective councils.

Meanwhile, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has called for a state of emergency, accusing the governor of allegedly recruiting thugs to protest in the state. The state CTC Chairman of APC, Tony Okocha, made the call when he briefed journalists in Port Harcourt, following the souring political crisis in the state. He accused the governor of encouraging breakdown of law and order, as well as illegal takeover of councils.

In a swift reaction, the state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mr. Joe Johnson, described Okocha’s call for a state of emergency as an “empty call”.

Johnson said: “Well, the call by Tony Okocha, even though I have not heard it, is an empty call that has no basis. The governor is so busy leading the protest. Rivers people are reacting to the situations that are unsavoury.

“So, if there is any reason for anybody to protest in Rivers State, know it’s a protest in support of the government. They (protesters) are reacting to emancipate themselves. They are getting out of captivity they all suffered in the last eight years.

“And the governor is too busy to think of protest from any angle. He is too busy to sponsor any protest. There is an organ for the governor. So, if anybody thinks he is doing it for the governor, no, the person is wrong.

“The state is against any enemies of the state. So, there is no other way to describe it than to say, the event of today, now, has enthroned a regime that will prepare the state for a peaceful election. And to say, also, that the former chairmen who were kicking and showing resistance to leave office after expiration of their tenure, didn’t understand the tenets of the law.

“Justice Kio had ruled that the House of Assembly has no powers under any law as guided by our constitution to extend the tenure of any local government chairman. And they accepted that and went on appeal.”

Johnson stated for the former council chairmen to resist vacating their office was funny, adding that there was no way they would fool Rivers people.

He explained further: “The issue of June 20 matter that is for hearing at the Court of Appeal is a different matter. I had earlier mentioned to you that Justice Kio had ruled on the issue of local government tenure extension.

“The Charles Wali’s case is the one that is standing on its own, where they have said Martin Amaewhule and his members are no longer members of the House of Assembly and the People’s Democratic Party. If anything, they were former lawmakers until the court said otherwise. But, I am relying on the judgement of the trial judge, which is Justice Charles Wali. So, that puts it to rest.”

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