Court voids Rivers N800b 2024 budget - Watchtower media

Court voids Rivers N800b 2024 budget - Watchtower media

The court described the bill’s passage by the five lawmakers,  led by Ehie Edison, as an aberration and illegality.

It consequently ordered Governor Siminalayi Fubara to represent the budget to the  Martins  Amaewhule-led Assembly.   

However, the verdict drew mixed reactions from stakeholders in the state.

While some civil society organisations (CSOs)  called on  Fubara not to re-present the budget, the state chapter of the All Progressives Congress(APC) said it should be represented in the interest of the people and the state.

The judgment delivered by Justice James Omotosho was on a suit filed by the 27 members of the Assembly loyal to former governor of the state and Federal Capital Territory Minister Nyesom Wike. 

Listed as defendants of the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1613/2023  are the National Assembly, the Senate, the House of Representatives and the Clerk to the National Assembly.  

Others include   Fubara, Edison,  the  Rivers State Civil Service Commission and the  Inspector-General of Police(IGP).

Justice  Omotosho had while ruling on an ex-parte motion by the   27 legislators issued an interim order restraining Fubara and his agents from obstructing the pro-Wike legislators from carrying out their constitutional duties.

He also restrained the governor from removing/redeploying the Clerk of the Assembly and withholding funds meant for the Assembly, pending the determination of the substantive suit.

The judge extended the order on December 7 when the parties returned to court.

But, while the order subsisted, Fubara presented the budget that the five lawmakers loyal to him passed. The governor also prevented the pro-Wike legislators from sitting by demolishing a part of the Assembly complex and withholding funds for legislative functions.

Delivering judgment yesterday,  Justice Omotosho held that the five lawmakers’ passage of the budget and other actions taken while the  November 30   order subsisted amounted to nullity.

He said Fubara acted like a tyrant in the manner the   Assembly complex was partially demolished and funds for legislative activities withheld.

The judge issued an order restraining Fubara from frustrating   the Assembly-led by Amaewhule from sitting or interfering in its activities.

He also described as unlawful, Fubara’s redeployment of the Clerk and Deputy Clerk out of the   Assembly, stating that the action amounted to an affront on separation of power.

Justice Omotosho ordered the Clerk and the Deputy Clerk to resume office immediately and unhindered.

Apart from also asking Fubara to promptly release all monies standing to the credit of the Assembly, he ordered the  IGP   to immediately deploy his operatives to the Assembly complex.

The judge also barred the National Assembly from taking over the  Assembly or accepting or treating any request by  Fubara on any matter affecting the Legislature.

Immediately after the judgment, some civil society organisations converged at the entrance of the Government House in Port Harcourt and advised the governor against representing the budget. 

The placard-carrying members also asked the governor not to recognise Amaewhule as  Speaker.  

Their leader,    Enefa Georgewill, said Fubara will not succumb to the pressure to further desecrate the 1999 Constitution by carrying out the remaining items in the peace accord.

Georgewill argued that representing the already signed budget would amount to disregarding the Constitution and an invitation to anarchy. 

Rivers APC hails judgment

APC welcomed the verdict, saying it provides the governor with a new window to represent the budget.

It argued that the budget was never presented in the first instance because the Ehie-led group did not meet the 1/3  statutory requirement of forming a quorum to conduct a Legislative business.

“The budget was presented in error. There is no way four Assembly Members will be sitting as an Assembly when the law stipulated one-third, which is about 10 members. So it means that the Assembly never met, and for the Governor to take such a risk amounts to putting something on nothing,’’ said the APC Chairman Tony Okocha.

Okocha added: “The  decision of the Federal High Court, which also stopped the Governor from interfering with the affairs of the Rivers State House of Assembly, is in order and is welcomed by us.”

“Today’s(yesterday) decision of the Federal High Court is a victory for the people of Rivers State, as it has cleared the way for the governor to present the budget properly. “

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post