Fistfights break out in Rivers State Assembly

In Nigeria, a political row between President Goodluck Jonathan and the Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi spilled over into the Rivers State Assembly last week.

Assembly members convened to impeach the Speaker, which according to some came as part of a wider attempt to impeach Amaechi.  The Speaker supports Ameachi, thus Assembly members and others hoping to impeach the governor needed to replace the Speaker with one of their sympathizers.

Tempers flared and an all out brawl ensued.  The House leader, as seen in this video, repeatedly beat another Assembly Member using a club.

The assembly member being beaten in the video is presently in hospital and his recovery is uncertain.  Since then, the House leader has checked himself into the hospital, feigning injuries of his own to avoid prosecution.

Afterward, Port Harcourt experienced heightened security forces on the streets and some disturbances throughout the city as pro- and anti-Amaechi groups clashed.  However, this was far short of the “crisis” or “chaos” that the media reported.  For the most part, things are calm in Port Harcourt at the moment.  But of course this is not to say that the situation could not escalate as the political impasse continues.

The disagreement between the President Jonathan and Governor Amaechi is complex, but rooted in Amaechi’s popularity throughout the country, his decision not to support Jonathan’s bid for the 2015 presidency, and rumors that he himself plans to run for the highest office.

Since then, Jonathan and Amaechi have clashed in both politics and through a proxy war over leadership of the Rivers State security forces.  Amaechi had strong support as the head of the governors council, but since has dwindled due to the political row and maneuvering by the president.  The governor was also recently suspended from the ruling PDP party.

Police loyal to the president have repeatedly cracked down on pro-Amaechi demonstrators.  On June 25, the governor told the police commissioner of Rivers State, “…be ready to shoot me, I will be in front. I will not sit here and wait for you to march here…I will march down with you people.” Amaechi has called Rivers a “police state”.

According to the governor’s supporters, President Jonathan wants Amaechi out and is engaged in a four-step process to do so. First, replace the commission of police (CP) with one who is loyal to the president. Second, destabilize the state by holding back security forces and letting insecurity ensue.  Third, move to impeach the Speaker and replace him with someone loyal to the president.  Finally, impeach Amaechi himself with the backing of the new Speaker, the new CP, and the community which is tired of insecurity.

If these rumors about the president’s plan are true, we’ve reached an impasse at step three.  The crisis is likely to continue, if not escalate.  However, President Jonathan has denied any involvement in the increased insecurity and the move to impeach the Speaker.

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