By Gift Chapi Odekina
The House of Representatives yesterday witnessed a rowdy session as a motion condemning Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State for granting amnesty to members of the gang responsible for the January 1, massacre of 23 persons in Omoku Town in Rivers State was been debated.
While moving the motion, Hon Betty Apiafi expressed concern over the amnesty granted by Okorocha to gang members declared wanted by the Rivers State Security Council.
This was as members who were in support and against the motion engaged in verbal match.
Moving the motion, Hon Apiafi said that following the January 1, deadly attack by gang members loyal to the late Don Wanny, the state security council declared 30 gang members wanted while placing a bounty of N20 million on each member.
The lawmaker stated that the alleged amnesty granted by the Imo State governor to gang members declared wanted by security agencies in Rivers State was “done in bad faith, unimaginable, preposterous and part of a wider plan to reintegrate and arm these criminal elements ahead of the 2019 general elections.”
She expressed shock as to why another state governor would grant amnesty to gang members who hail from 12 of the 23 local governments in Rivers State and who are on the wanted list of the state security council.
According to her, Okorocha’s action is capable of affecting the cordial relationship between the two neighbouring states who hitherto, had lived and maintained peaceful co-existence between the two states, and could lead to tension and affect the fragile peace prevailing in both states.
“If the action of the Imo state governor and the activities of these highly placed persons and politicians are not immediately checked, it could in the long run plunge Imo and Rivers States and indeed, the entire Niger Delta region into another round of avoidable violence and total breakdown of law and order,” Apiafi added.
Those in the House opposed to the motion were led by Majority House Leader, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, who said that the motion is a constitutional issue, insisting that “this House has no jurisdiction to look into this matter.
“Section 212 says it all; this is a dispute between states. If Rivers State has a problem with what Imo State did, they should apply Section 232 of the constitution.”
But, Hon Nkem Abonta (Abia/PDP) countered the House Leader’s assertion, arguing that pardon cannot be granted to a person by a state for a crime committed in another state.
He said that Section 212 of the constitution was not applicable to the matter, insisting that the House entertain the motion.
Another House member, Hon Bashir Babale (Kano/APC) said the motion could be amended and entertained in view of the security challenges in the country.
He said lives of innocent Nigerians were lost in the deadly massacre and that there was need to ensure justice and restore trust.
As a result of the palpable tension generated by the debate of the motion, Speaker Yakubu Dogara ruled against the adoption of the three prayers sought by the Rivers lawmaker, and instead mandated the chairmen of the House Committees on Justice, Ethics and Privileges, National Security and Public Safety to investigate the allegations contained in the motion.
The three lawmakers are also expected to advice the House on how to proceed with the matter and report back within one week for further legislative action.