The chambers of Akwa Ibom State House Of Assembly was in turmoil October 30 when legislator went on rampage and armed police had to flush them out. “Policemen suddenly came and the next moment, you heard poah poah and they started firing tear gas inside the chambers “Emmanuel Akponobong, a member of the house, told Newswatch. Some members painted an even more horrifying picture, saying the state police commissioner, who led the team, pointed his pistol at them, threatening to shoot them if they did not move out of the assembly.
In the ensuing melee, a number of legislators were wounded, while several others had their cloths torn. Many assembly members abandoned their cars, briefcase and other valuables as they fled the premises of the assembly. Some workers at the state governor’s office, which is a short distance from the assembly watch in consternation house members dashing into a valley as they fled towards the governor office for safety.
The assembly premises were still sealed up by late last week. Okon Akpan, police public relation officer, said the police action was in best interest of peace and security. The incident was the climax of the turbulence that started October 29 when some members went on the warpath with six executive members of the house and announced their suspension. Before the day proceedings commenced, the speaker’s car was dented with an iron rod as some members who claimed he was running away with the mace tried to block his exist. A staff of the house was beaten up by two members who said he was reluctant to switch on an electronic gadget to enable the house commence seating.
The absent of the speaker and the mace did not prevent the house from sitting, however. An acting speaker was elected while a plastic pipe was adopted as the symbol of authority. After a motion was passed to use it in place of the missing mace, akpanobong then read out a list of seven allegations signed by 34 of the 48 members of the house against the six principal officers.
Among the allegation were that they failed to constitute the house tenders board. They were also accused of recruiting workers into the house without the knowledge of other members. They were similarly alleged to have suppressed the report of the house service committee after its facts finding tour of other states houses of assembly. But more importantly was the allegation that they received the sum of 520,000 from the state government for the hospitality of members’ constituents during the sixth anniversary celebration of the creation of the state but did not bring in to the knowledge of the house. The members then proceeded to suspend the principal officers, including Jimmy Ntuen, speaker; Christ Nyang, his deputy; and Uwem Ekanem, majority leader. Others are Nelson Effiong, majority chief whip; Asuquo Utim, majority leader; and Ime Mbon, minority whip.
In their place, acting officials were elected to take charge of the house pending the outcome of the report of the committee set up to look into the allegations. Akpanobong was elected deputy majority leader. Some angry members later sealed up the gate of the assembly and prevented the suspended officers from leaving the premises with their official cars. Ntuen told Newswatch the police came to the rescue of the officials after being held hostage for about five hours.
The problem continued October 30, leading to the sealing up of the place by the police. Ntuen said that he reported at the premises that morning to find some members changing the door to his office with the aid of carpenters. He said they attacked him when they saw him and smashed his legs with a hammer.
The members, however, gave a different account. They said the suspended officials invaded the premises of the assembly with thugs who beat up everyone at sight. They also alleged that the police moved in to support the suspended officials. The Police too gave its own version. Akpan told Newswatch that police played an impartial role in the matter. Both sides, he said, invaded the premises with thugs and the police had to act fast to protect lives and government property “if the police had not acted immediately it would have been disastrous” he said.
Ntuen denied the allegation made against the suspended executive and blamed it all on blackmail. The “520,000 which the members talked about was for other purpose from which they all benefited“he said. Allegation that he suppressed the reports of the house service committee, he said, was untrue because the committee did not report to him.
There appears to be no immediate end to the crisis. Imo Udok who was elected acting deputy minority leader, said the house is determined to remove all unprogressive elements from office. Akpan told Newswatch that until members resolve the issue, the police would not allow them back to the assembly premises.
-Newswatch, November 16, 1992