Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
There was a rowdy session at the House of Representatives, yesterday, when lawmakers were divided over a motion which condemned the amnesty Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, granted some alleged criminals declared wanted in Rivers State.
The debate was to later degenerate into a face-off first between Imo and Rivers lawmakers and later, between the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) members and their All Progressives Congress (APC) counterparts.
The motion, entitled “Alleged Grant of Amnesty by Governor Rochas Okorocha to persons who had been declared wanted by the Rivers State Security Council,” was sponsored by Betty Apiafi and 11 Rivers lawmakers.
Leading the debate on the motion, Apiafi expressed concern that some persons declared wanted in Rivers, in connection with killing of some residents in Omoku, Rivers state, were recently granted amnesty by Okorocha.
She recalled that a deadly attack, by a criminal gang, led by one Don Wanny, who is now deceased, in Omoku, on January 1, led to the death of 23 residents who were returning from a cross-over service.
According to Apiafi, after the attack, the Rivers State Security Council, acting on security reports, declared 30 people suspected to be part of the gang wanted, with a N20 million bounty placed on each of them.
The lawmaker posited that these wanted persons have now been granted amnesty by the Imo State governor and urged the Federal Government and security agencies not to recognise the alleged amnesty.
“The alleged amnesty granted by governor Okorocha, in concert with some ‘highly placed’ politicians, to persons who had been declared wanted by the security agencies was clearly in bad faith, unimaginable, preposterous and part of a wider plan to reintegrate and arm these ‘criminal elements’ into society, ahead of the 2019 general elections.”
However, speaking under a Point of Order, Nnanna Igbokwe, from Imo State, said the difference between Imo and Rivers, over the amnesty issue, would be resolved at the Supreme Court.
Citing section 323 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, Igbokwe argued that the House does not have the jurisdiction to entertain issues involving two states or a matter between a state and the federal government.
Similarly, in his contribution, Majority Leader of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, said the chamber cannot entertain the issue as it would amount to legislative over-reach.
He noted that section 212 of the constitution vests on a governor, the power to grant pardon to any person convicted of an offence.
Nevertheless, the House leader said if the Rivers State government has any misgiving with what Imo State government has done, it should go to court.
Apparently infuriated by the Majority leader’s contribution, Deputy Minority Leader, Onyeama Chukwuka, jumped to his feet in open protestation.
On his part, Uzoma Nkem-Abonta argued that a state cannot grant amnesty to a person for a crime committed in another state.
The lawmaker added that section 212 of the constitution did not apply in the matter and urged the House to entertain the motion.