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Rivers State budget controversy sparks tension amid political reconciliation efforts

Dispute Over Appropriation Bill Submission Casts Shadow on Peace Process Initiated by President Bola Tinubu

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The call by Martin Amaewhule-led Rivers State House of Assembly for Governor Siminalayi Fubara to resubmit the 2024 Appropriation Bill is triggering unrest in the oil and gas-rich state. The political turmoil stems from the initial presentation of the budget amid a factionalized house, leading to an eight-point peace agreement, including the re-submission of the budget. However, the recent demand by Amaewhule has sparked tensions, with political stakeholders offering divergent views on the constitutional and procedural implications.

Addressing a sitting of 26 lawmakers on January 9, 2024, Amaewhule asserted that the state currently operates without a budget, urging the Auditor General to provide the state accounts to the Assembly as mandated by the Constitution. Governor Fubara, committed to implementing the presidential proclamation, has not responded to the lawmakers’ request, signaling a potential standoff.

Caretaker Committee Chairman of the All Progressives Congress in Rivers State, Chief Tony Okocha, contended that the initial budget presentation was a nullity. Okocha emphasized that the budget must be scrutinized by the Assembly, and presenting it to a factionalized group was inadequate. He insisted that Governor Fubara needs to submit the budget to the properly constituted house, aligning with the president’s resolution.

Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party in the state, Syney Gbara, viewed the issue as a constitutional matter, asserting that the decision to resubmit the budget rests with the governor. Gbara highlighted the governor’s commitment to peace and compliance with presidential resolutions, underscoring that the issue is subject to the governor’s discretion.

Meanwhile, Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike, declared that his camp has fulfilled its part of the peace deal initiated by President Bola Tinubu. Visiting the Oba of Ogbaland, Wike expressed commitment to peace and unity in the state, emphasizing adherence to the conditions set by the President. However, the budget dispute adds complexity to the ongoing reconciliation efforts and raises questions about the stability of political dynamics in Rivers State.

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