The dust raised by Imo State Governor Rochas Okoroch’s amnesty to some criminal suspects, sad to have committed atrocities in Rivers State, is yet to settle.
A motion on the “alleged amnesty by Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha to persons who had been declared wanted by the Rivers State Security Council” caused tempers to run riot on the floor of the House of Reps yesterday.
The argument dovetailed into a Rivers State versus Imo State face-off and then became All Progressives Congress (APC) against Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
According to The Nation, Deputy Minority Leader Onyeama Chukwukah (PDP Anambra) was so incensed at House Leader Femi Gbajabiamila’s position that for two minutes, he threw tantrums at him. Speaker Yakubu Dogara’s plea could not calm Chukwukah down.
The motion, which was by Hon. Kingsley Chinda ( PDP Rivers), Betty Apiafi (PDP Rivers) and 10 others was presented by Apiafi.
Moving the motion, she noted “with concern the recent grant of amnesty to some persons who had been declared wanted by the Rivers State Security Council consisting of the State Governor. Commissioner of Police, heads of Army, Navy, Air Force and the Security and Civil Defence Corps in the state.
“Aware of the deadly attacks carried out by the notorious Don Wany ( now deceased) led criminal gang in Omoku Town, Rivers State on January 1, 2018, leading to the death of about 23 innocent citizens who were returning home from cross overnight service.”
She said no fewer than four of the criminal gang members, including the younger brother of the said Don Wany were killed in a gun duel.
But Hon. Nnana Igbokwe (Imo PDP) raised a point of order, saying that the issue was that of a dispute between two states, which should naturally be resolved by the Supreme Court. “ Imo State government acted on the amnesty laws of the state, “ he said, adding that any dispute arising therefrom with Rivers State could only be resolved at the Supreme Court.
His submission triggered a heated debate on whether a governor could pardon a crime committed in another state, and if the House could even hear the motion in the first place.
Gbajabiamila supported Igbokwe’s position. He said it was a constitutional issue, adding that the House cannot discuss it, otherwise it would be “legislative overreach”.
“What transpired in the last few minutes shows there is a dispute. Where is the proper forum for its resolution?” He said the Supreme Court is the right place.
Chukwukah got angry. He jumped to his feet and directed his response at the Majority Leader. The conclusion of his protestation was: it was indecent to throw legislative boulders in the path of an issue that had to do with the loss of lives.
Rules and Business Chairman Orker Jev (APC Benue) also incurred Nnana Igbokwe’s wrath when he said Imo State’s amnesty was not binding on any other state. “It is clear that the point of order raised by Igbokwe seems to be a state law,” he said.
Hon. Johnson Ogbuma (Edo APC) insisted that only a Constitution amendment could have stopped Okorocha from doing what he did, Tajudeen Yusuf said there was the need to find out if Section 212 of the constitution which is in contention applies to Imo State or Nigeria.
Bashir Babale (APC Kano) cautioned members on the volatility of the issue. Uzoma Anonta (Abia PDP) wanted to know if a Boko Haram member who killed in the North east can be granted amnesty in the Southwest.
Uche Nnam-Obi (PDP Rivers) noted that in the spirit of the amnesty given by Okorocha, criminals would be killing in one state and running to another for pardon.
Zakari Mohammed (APC Kwara) noted that members “have been divided along party lines”. The motion should be referred to the relevant committees to advise the House,” he said.
Because of the heated debate and the passion displayed, the Speaker deferred the motion to the House committees on Justice, Ethics and Privileges, National Intelligence and Public Safety for advice. They are to report back within one week.