The battle of wits in Rivers State between the House of Assembly and the state governor, Siminalayi Fubara, continued on Friday, January 26, following the decision of the House to override the governor’s assent on four passed bills.
It was gathered that the Martins Amaewhule-led House of Assembly had earlier passed four bills into law and sent them to the governor for his assent.
The passed bills are the Rivers State House of Assembly Fund Management Bill, the Rivers State Local Government Law (Amendment) Bill, the Rivers State Traditional Rulers’ Law (Amendment) Bill, and the Rivers State Advertisement and Use of State-owned Property Prohibition (Repeal) Bill.
It was learnt that when the bills, which went through the law making processes were sent to the governor for his assent, Fubara refused to sign them.
But the passed bills were re-presented to the House, which reconvened on Friday and the lawmakers decided to override the governor’s assent.
The special adviser to the speaker on media, Martins Wachukwu, confirmed that the House, at its 99th legislative sitting, bypassed the assent of the governor to four bills.
Wachukwu said the decision was taken after the House read a letter from the governor justifying why he failed to sign the bills.
The governor in the letter read on the floor of the House argued that such amendments would create confusion and breach constitutional provisions.
But the majority leader, Major Jack, re-presented the Rivers State House of Assembly Fund Management Bill on the floor of the House.
The speaker, Martin Chike Amaewhule, cited Section 100(5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 amended, saying it empowered the House to override the governor, where the governor withholds his assent.
The speaker immediately put the issue in question before the House to seek the lawmakers’ votes and the 24 members, more than two-third majority, unanimously voted that the bills should become laws without Fubara’s assent.
The House adopted same procedures for three other bills and the lawmakers with unanimous votes overrode the governor’s assent.
Amaewhule said that reasons adduced by the governor for withholding assent on the Local Government Amendment Bill appeared to be anticipatory and tailored towards creating a situation that would make holding election in the state impracticable.
He said the amendment curtailed the powers of the governor in suspending local government council chairmen and appointing caretaker committees.
Amaewhule described the amendment to the Rivers State Traditional Rulers’ Law as innocuous and wondered why the governor declined assent.
He said the law was amended to include a resolution of the House in the recognition, de-recognition or suspension of traditional rulers in the state to curb arbitrariness.
On the repeal of the Rivers State Advertisement and Use of State-owned Property (Prohibition)Law No. 7 of 2022, the speaker said that the House decided to repeal the law so as not to financially overburden the people of the state and impede their access to use of state-owned facilities and regretted that the governor withheld assent to such people-oriented bills.
He said that the House would continue to strengthen democratic institutions and ethos in the state and instructed the Clerk of the House to ensure that copies of all the laws were transmitted to relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies.