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Court dismisses suit seeking to declare 25 Rivers Assembly seats vacant

A RIVERS State High Court in Port Harcourt has dismissed the suit seeking to sack the state’s 25 lawmakers who defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC).  

In his ruling, the presiding judge, Okogbule Gbasam, held that the lawmakers were still members of the PDP, noting that the claimants failed to provide proof that the defendants defected to the APC.

Gbasam explained that defection could only be established through the party membership register, a membership card, and fulfilling all party requirements, not through newspaper, radio, or online publications.

This development came a few weeks after Charles Wali, a jude of the state High Court, declared the seats of the 25 lawmakers vacant pending the determination of a suit before it. 

Wali also ordered Martin Amaewhule to stop parading as the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly and barred the 25 lawmakers, who are believed to be loyal to the state’s immediate past governor and current Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Nyesom Wike, from posing as lawmakers in the state.

The presiding judge gave the order in suit No PHC/1512/CS/2024, brought by the Speaker, Rivers State House Of Assembly Victor Oko Jumbo and two others.

Backstory 

The ICIR reports that the state governor, Siminalayi Fubara, and his predecessor, Nyesom Wike,  have been at loggerheads over who controls the state’s PDP structure and other issues since he came into office on May 29, 2023. 

The development has generated widespread controversies and crises in the state, with the APC calling for Fubara’s impeachment.

The call for his impeachment came barely 24 hours after the governor said the House of Assembly, led by the Speaker, Martin Amaewhule, did not exist.

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On several occasions this year, the lawmakers have overridden the governor on state policies and laws as the crisis ballooned.

While noting that some of his commissioners were working against him, Fubara decried how the state House of Assembly had been working at variance with his government.

He had also threatened that the House members could cease to exist as state lawmakers if he so wished.




     

     

    He acknowledged the roles some political figures, particularly his predecessor, Wike, played in his ascent to the governorship but stated that such efforts wouldn’t cause him to idolise a man.

    Following the hostility between the two leaders, 25 members of the River State House of Assembly members decamped from the PDP to APC in 2023, shortly after assuming office.

    The feud had degenerated into nearly physical combat between their loyalists, and the possible chaos was so palpable in the state that President Tinubu had to intervene twice before tempers were calmed.

    The ICIR also reported that no fewer than three commissioners have resigned from the Fubara’s government in the past few weeks as Nigerians await the end of the dramas in the state governance.

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    Usman Mustapha is a solution journalist with International Centre for Investigative Reporting. You can easily reach him via: [email protected]. He tweets @UsmanMustapha_M

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