Court declares Reps’ takeover of Rivers Assembly illegal

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  • Faults redeployment of Rivers CP

BY IKECHUKWU     NNOCHIRI
ABUJA—The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, yesterday, declared that the House of Representatives acted in breach of Section 11(4) and (5) of the 1999 Constitution, when it assumed the lawmaking functions of Rivers State House of Assembly, on July 10, 2013.

Aside declaring the action illegal and unconstitutional, the Court further held that going by the provisions of Sections 215(2) and (3) of the Constitution, neither the Senate nor the House of Representatives, had the powers to direct the Inspector General of Police to re-deploy the Rivers State Commissioner of Police or any officer under the command of the Nigerian Police Force.

Presiding Justice R. A. Mohammed maintained that the National Assembly failed to adduce any evidence to show that as at the time it passed a resolution to take over the legislative arm of governance in Rivers, the State House of Assembly, was incapable of performing its functions as provided for under the Constitution.
He said: “Facts of the case are clear and simple. Following a fracas that erupted at the Rivers State House of Assembly, on July 10, the National Assembly passed a resolution asking the Inspector-General of Police to redeploy the Commissioner of Police in Rivers. It also, by that resolution, took over the legislative functions of the Rivers State House of Assembly.

“No doubt that the National assembly has the powers to take over any state Assembly, but that power is not without target.”
Justice Mohammed stressed that under the Constitution, a state House of Assembly could only be deemed unable to perform its functions if it was proved that such Assembly could not convene a meeting or transact legislative business.
According to the judge, “there is no proof that, as at the time the National Assembly took over, the Rivers Assembly was unable to hold a meeting or transact business. In fact, from an uncontroverted affidavit before this court, after the fracas on July 9, the embattled Speaker of Rivers State House of Assembly, returned, and presided over a meeting attended by 23 other lawmakers.

“In the same meeting, the Deputy Governor of the state presented the 2013 budget of the state, which was amended and passed into law by the 23 lawmakers. Twenty-four hours after that, the House of Representatives passed a resolution to take over the legislative functions of the Assembly.
“The defendants have not by any evidence shown that the Assembly did not sit or approve the 2013 budget on July 9.  The meeting of the Speaker and the other 23 members of the Assembly was not also denied. The absence of a specific denial of these crucial facts will leave the court with no option than to hold that the facts deposed by the plaintiffs were established.”

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