Politics

May 12, 2024

Rivers: Eight court cases complicate political war

Tension in Rivers as LG chairmen’s tenures expire; youths storm secretariats

File image of Fubara (left) and Wike

•Why we took over House quarters – Police
•State govt defends Fubara’s visit to lawmakers’ quarters

By Davies Iheamnachor, Daniel Abia & John Alechenu

Legal battles in Rivers State have worsened the state’s political situation, Sunday Vanguard has gathered.

Sunday Vanguard learnt that from injunctions barring impeachment proceedings to disputes over legislative defections, the state’s judiciary has become a battleground for settling political scores.

Findings reveal that legal tussles in the state began on November 1, 2023, when a Rivers State High Court at Isiokpo, Ikwerre Local Government Area of the state, issued a restraining order against the State House of Assembly led by Martin Amaewhule and the Chief Justice of state, Justice Simeon Amadi, from impeaching Governor Siminalayi Fubara.

Fubara sought this interim measure to stall the impeachment moves initiated against him by the state’s legislative arm.
On December 18, 2023, the 25 lawmakers in the House loyal to the Minister of Federal Capital Territory, Mr Nyesom Wike, approached a Federal High Court in Abuja seeking the legal backing to continue serving as lawmakers.

The order, which was handed by Justice Donatus Okorowo, also prevented the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, from conducting by-elections to fill the vacated seats of the House members who allegedly flouted the law and defected from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to the All Progressives Congress, APC.

Upon the tension that arose, President Bola Tinubu invited the warring parties to a peace meeting in Abuja. During the meeting, which was held on December 18, 2023, the parties signed an eight-point peace accord, now known as the Presidential Proclamation.

The proclamation signed by Fubara and others sparked a fresh round of disagreement, leading to more litigations.

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The legal battles escalated further when the Rivers State Elders and Leaders Forum challenged the legitimacy of President Tinubu’s eight-point peace proclamation, arguing that it was inconsistent with constitutional principles and the rule of law.

The elders led by a former governor of the state, Rufus Ada-George, highlighted concerns over the president’s directives, describing them as unfavourable to the Fubara administration.

Therefore, the Rivers State Civil Society Organisation approached the court with another suit seeking to sack the 27 lawmakers who defected from the PDP to the APC.

The CSOs, led by its Chairman, Enefaa Georgewill, challenged the legal standing of the defected lawmakers and sought to prevent Fubara from re-presenting the already passed 2024 budget to them.

In a different suit, plaintiffs, led by a member of the Rivers State House of Assembly representing Bonny State Constituency, Victor Jumbo; Senator Bennett Birabi, Senator Andrew Uchendu, Rear Admiral O. P. Fingesi, Ann Kio Briggs and Emmanuel Deinma stormed Abuja with suit to stop Fubara from obeying the presidential proclamation.

The plaintiffs, in FHC/ABJ/CS/1718/2023, insisted that the said agreement was not only illegal but amounted to usurpation, nullification, and undermining of the extant/binding relevant provisions of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.

They prayed the court to, among other things, determine whether Tinubu, Fubara and the Rivers State Assembly have the rights and are entitled to enter into any agreement that has the effect of nullifying or undermining the constitutional/legal potency of the provisions of Section 109(I)(g) and (2) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
Again, the legal scuffles culminated in a recent ruling by the Rivers State High Court, barring Speaker Martin Chile Amaewhule and the 24 lawmakers loyal to Wike from acting as members of the State House of Assembly.

Justice Charles Wali, in granting an interim injunction, declared the seats of the defected lawmakers vacant, pending further legal proceedings.

Wali gave this order in a case in suit number PHC/1512/CS/2024, filled by Victor Oko Jumbo (Speaker, Rivers State House of Assembly) Hon. Sokari Goodboy, Orubienimigha Timothy, members of the assembly against Martin Amaewhule, governor of Rivers State, the Attorney General of the state, Chief Judge of the state and 24 others.

Invasion

In a related development, the Rivers State government faulted claims by the estranged Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Martins Amaewhule, that Fubara threatened to attack members of the House and their families.

Amaewhule, in a letter addressed to the Director General of the Department of State Security Service, DSS, said: “The governor has no power to invade the residence of members and unilaterally do anything, especially to our Hallowed Chamber after illegally demolishing our Chamber on Moscow road, Port Harcourt.”

The state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mr Joseph Johnson, who reacted to the allegation, yesterday, said going by the ex-parte order granted by the state High Court, Amaewhule’s letter “has lost its steam”.

Johnson said until the matter before the court was resolved, the 27 APC lawmakers had nothing to hold onto.

He said the allegations of an attack on members and their families by the governor, is “weightless”, adding that “as self-acclaimed lawmakers, they should furnish the world with concrete evidence of how the governor invaded the Assembly quarters with armed thugs and security operatives. How can they say that the Governor forced himself into the premises? Do they mean that the Governor does not have any right to visit any facility that is built by the Rivers state government especially if such facility needs urgent attention of government? How can somebody invade what rightly belongs to him?”