Rivers Crisis: Clash over relocation, court bars pro-Wike lawmakers from parading as Assembly members

Sharon EboesomiMay 11, 20247 min

“Now, therefore, I, Sir Siminalayi Fubara, the Governor of Rivers State this 30th day of October 2023, Pursuant to the powers vested in me under the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) hereby issue, order, and direct that all proceedings and business of Rivers State House of Assembly shall temporarily take place at the Auditorium…”

 Rivers Crisis: Clash over relocation, court bars pro-Wike lawmakers from parading as Assembly  members

A Rivers court has barred the Speaker of the pro-Wike faction of the state Assembly, Martin Amaewhule and 24 other lawmakers in Rivers State loyal to the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike, from parading themselves as members of the Rivers State House of Assembly.

The ruling issued on Friday by Justice Charles N. Wali of the Rivers State High Court in Port Harcourt prohibited the lawmakers in question from holding proceedings at the House of Assembly Quarters Auditorium or any other location,  pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice filed on Friday, by the newly sworn-in Speaker, Rivers State House of Assembly, RT. Hon. Victor Oko Jumbo and Hon. Sokari Goodboy Sokari and others in suit number PHC/1512/CS/2024 against Hon. Martin Chile Amaewhule and 24 other lawmakers.

Meanwhile, the legislative seats of the affected lawmakers had already been declared vacant with effect from 13th December 2023.

A strong police presence of over 35 fierce-looking and fully armed policemen and over four security vans were seen at the Assembly Quarters’ entrance gates on Aba Road, Port Harcourt, just hours after the court ordered Martin Amaewhule‘s faction of the State House of Assembly to stop posing as legislators in the state.

According to reports, the state assembly members led by Amaewhule allegedly mobilised police officers to their three entrance gates in order to prevent the governor from entering the property.

Many speculated that when Governor Siminalayi Fubara visited the State Assembly Quarters on Thursday, he would be thinking of renovating the building but Amaewhule had declared that they do not want the governor in the facility any more. 

READ ALSO: Big Story: Will Wike vs Fubara feud rip Rivers NASS caucus apart?

Fubara had, in the meantime, issued an executive order relocating the Rivers State House of Assembly’s sittings temporarily.

OrderPaper recalls that last year, amid the feud between Fubara and his predecessor, Wike, there was an explosion at the state House of Assembly. Despite the explosion,  the pro-Wike lawmakers found their way into the complex and attempted to impeach the governor.

Also on December 13, 2023, the House of Assembly complex was demolished under the supervision of  Fubara after the state government said the building was defective.

The Executive Order marked RVSG 001-2023 read: “Whereas on the 29th day of October 2023, a fire incident occasioned by unknown person burnt and damaged the hallowed chambers of the Rivers State House of Assembly

“That the Hallowed Chamber of the Rivers State House of Assembly in its present state is unsafe and constitutes a threat to the lives of the staff and the Honourable members of Rivers State House of Assembly and, thus, not conducive for the business and proceeding of the Rivers State House of Assembly.

“That it is expedient to carry out urgent repairs, renovation, and reconstruction of the burnt and damaged chambers of the Rivers State House of Assembly. That it is further reasonable to ensure that the business and proceedings of the Rivers State House of Assembly are not impeded and frustrated.

“Now, therefore, I, Sir Siminalayi Fubara, the Governor of Rivers State this 30th day of October 2023, Pursuant to the powers vested in me under the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) hereby issue, order, and direct that all proceedings and business of Rivers State House of Assembly shall temporarily take place at the Auditorium, Admin Block, Government House, Port Harcourt until the repairs, renovation or reconstruction of the chambers of the Rivers State House of Assembly are completed.”

In response to this order, the lawmakers loyal to Wike disagreed with Fubara.

Amaewhule criticised the executive order in a speech to elders and political figures who supported the FCT minister on Sunday at a solidarity protest near the Legislative Quarters in Port Harcourt.

Amaewhule said that the governor lacked the authority to issue an executive order instructing legislators on the location of their meetings.

According to him, there was a grand plot by the governor to bring down the structures the same way he ordered the demolition of the House of Assembly Complex.

He said, “The governor has no power to issue any executive order directing lawmakers where to sit. There is a subsisting judgement barring the governor from interfering with the sitting of the House of Assembly.

“Only the Federal High Court has the jurisdiction to entertain matters regarding the declaration of any seat vacant. We relocated here. We furnished it. This building is less than two years old and built by the best engineers.

“It is a new building. This is where we are sitting. There is no problem at all. We have not invited him. We need to invite him before he can do anything.”

However, the state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Joseph Johnson, dismissing the statement by Amaewhule, insisted that Fubara had the power to relocate the state Assembly.

Johnson said, “He does not have a locus. He is no longer a speaker and he cannot even dictate whatever he would have loved to say thereafter. There is already an existing court ruling, even though an ex parte order.”

The commissioner further stated that “Amaewhule has lost status, and if he truly is a lawmaker, the law says that the law you fail to respect cannot protect you.

“The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Section 109(1g) says that you lose your seat once you cross. They crossed before they got the judgment that they claimed they got from Omotosho.”

Sharon Eboesomi

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