by Solomon Osadolo
The Judicial Commission of Inquiry set up by the Rivers State Government to investigate the crisis that rocked the state House of Assembly on July 9 and 10 has summoned the Minister of State for Education, Chief Nyesom Wike; the state Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Felix Obuah; and the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Joseph Mbu, to appear before it to respond to allegations against them.
The commission also summoned lawmakers opposed to the state Governor, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, in the assembly; Evans Bipi, Victor Ihunwo, Micheal Okechukwu Chinda, and Martins Amaewhule; and the former chairman of Emohua Local Government Area of the state, Chukwuemeka Woke.
In a statement released by the chairman of the commission, Justice Biobele Georgewill, the commission also said it was summoning Mrs. Oluchi Iwuoha Chimezie of Television Continental (TVC); the General Manager, Nigeria Television Authority (NTA); the General Manager, 92.7 Niger Info FM; and the Port Harcourt Area Commander, Nigeria Police.
According to reports:
Georgewill disclosed that the commission had received three memoranda from the Speaker of the assembly, Hon. Otelemaba Dan-Amachree; House Leader, Hon. Chidi Lloyd, and another one, jointly signed by 25 lawmakers of the assembly.
In the statement titled: “Judicial Commission of Inquiry insists on fair hearing to all the parties in the crisis that rocked the assembly,” Georgewill said the commission had to make the names of those invited public since they failed to appear before the panel.
The commission also said it would publish the memoranda so far received by the commission in a local newspaper and gave persons, who have issues to respond to August 20 to send their responses to the commission.
Part of the statement read: “Following the refusal by some persons and organisations mentioned in the memos so far submitted by some affected persons to the commission of inquiry and forwarded to them by hand and through both NIPOST EMS and courier services, which copies were returned to the Secretary of the Judicial Commission, the judicial commission has directed the publication of the entire memos so far submitted to the judicial commission together with a hearing notice in a special edition of one of the local newspapers circulating within Rivers State, particularly the Port Harcourt Metropolis at great cost and expense to the judicial commission in a bid to ensure that all persons and organisations mentioned as having played any role in the said crisis in the memos so far submitted are given and afforded the opportunity to be heard on the allegations made against them by responding to those allegations made against them before the judicial commission in the overall paramount interest and of fair hearing, which is one of the twin pillars of the fundamental concept of fair hearing under the Laws of this great country, Nigeria”
He further said: “The judicial commission believes, having taken this step to ensure due notice of the allegation in a newspaper, all those whose name or organisations were mentioned in those memos would seize the opportunity of this publication to respond to these memos and submit their response to the judicial commission through the Secretary of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry, High Court 11, Port Harcourt on before 12 noon on Tuesday, August 20, 2013, when hearing of the evidence of those, who have submitted memos to the judicial commission would earnestly commence from day to day until the public sitting of the judicial commission is concluded with.”
In a related development, the commission has rejected the plea of the counsel to Dan-Amachree, Mr. Ken Atsuwete, for the speaker to give evidence in a location where he considered safe.
Atsuwete said he made the application because he felt the speaker could be at risk since the police had withdrawn his security detail.
In his ruling, Georgewill said it was too early for such application to be made, pointing out that there were others who would give evidence and that the commission would only consider such application if it deemed it necessary as its work progressed.
However, the Obuah-led faction of the PDP has rejected the summons extended to Wike, Mbu and the party chairman.
The media adviser to Obuah, Jerry Needam, in a statement, said: “We are in court challenging the constitution of the panel. Amaechi can’t be a judge in his own case. He was in the hollow chambers on the day of the incident. He is a suspect. He lacks the morality to inaugurate the committee. The report of the committee is already premeditated. Amaechi will use the report to indict his political enemies. He is targeting the minister and the chairman of the PDP. We reject the invitation and the panel.”