Two Conflicting Court Judgement On One Budget: Which Should Be Obeyed?

Two Conflicting Court Judgement On One Budget: Which Should Be Obeyed?

Two courts of coordinate jurisdiction on Monday issued conflicting judgments on the passage of the Rivers State 2024 budget. While Justice James Omotoso of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja invalidated the presentation and passage of the Rivers 2024 budget by four members of the state House of Assembly led by Ehie Edison, Justice J. O. Abdulmalik of the Federal High Court, Abuja, ordered parties in the suit to maintain the status quo.

The first judgement from the Federal High Court in Abuja, voided and set aside the presentation and passage of Rivers State 2024 budget by a group of four-member legislators in the State. The court in a judgment delivered by Justice James Omotoso ordered the governor of the State, Siminalaye Fubara to represent the budget to the legally constituted House of Assembly under the Speaker, Martin Amaewhule.

Rivers Assembly Crisis: Court orders parties to maintain status quo

As the political crisis rocking the Rivers State House of Assembly deepens, the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Monday, ordered all the parties to maintain status quo.

The court, in a ruling that was delivered by Justice J. O. Abdulmalik, directed the parties not to take further steps, pending the determination of an application that is seeking to stop Governor Siminilaya Fubara from re-presenting the already passed 2024 budget of the state before the legislative house.

Justice Abdulmalik fixed February 28 to hear the application which was brought before the court by six elders of the state.

The plaintiffs in the matter, led by a member of the Rivers State House of Assembly representing Bonny State Constituency, Hon. Victor Okon Jumbo, are; Senator Bennett Birabi, Senator Andrew Uchendu, Rear Admiral O.P. Fingesi, Ann Kio Briggs and Emmanuel Deinma.

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They had through their team of lawyers led by Mr. Olukayode Ajulo, SAN, approached the court, praying it to declare seats of 27 lawmakers in the state that defected from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to the All Progressives Congress, APC, vacant.

In a 19-paragraph affidavit that was deposed to by the 6th Plaintiff, Deinma, who identified himself as an indigene of Rivers State from Okrika Local Government Area, the court was told that sometime in November, 2023, 27 out of 32 members of the Rivers State Assembly, “without any justification or lawful excuse whatsoever, decided to defect from the PDP, being the platform under which they were elected.”

According to the deponent: “On the basis of the above fact, the said 27 members of the Rivers State House of Assembly moved out of the Rivers State House of Assembly Complex and began to hold their proceedings at a different location.

“That it became an obvious fact that the 27 members of the Rivers State House Assembly are fully loyal to the former Governor of Rivers State, Chief Ezenwo Nyesom Wike (now the Hon, Minister of F,C.T.), while they are disloyal to the current Governor of Rivers State, Mr. Siminilaya Fubara.

“That only five (5) Honourable members of the Rivers State House of Assembly remained with the PDP, as they did not defect/decamp to the APC but remained as members of the PDP and as valid members of the Rivers State House of Assembly.

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“The said remaining five (5) Honourable members of the Rivers State House of Assembly, who did not defect/decamp to the APC, headed by Hon. Mr. Edison Ehie on the 30th of November, 2023, declared the seats of the said 27 members of the Rivers State House of Assembly vacant for decamping/defecting from the political party platform, PDP, under which they were elected as Honourable members of Rivers State House Assembly.

“That upon declaring the seats of the said 27 members of the Rivers State House of Assembly vacant, the said Mr. Edison Ehie (who now became the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly) immediately sent a Notice via a Letter to the 5th Defendant, wherein he informed him of the vacancy in the 27 seats of the Rivers State House of Assembly and requested that he should conduct a bye election to fill the said 27 vacant seats.

“That the aforesaid development resulted in several law suits on both sides (which are the said 27 members who defected to another Political Party and the Five [5] members who remained valid members of the Rivers State House of Assembly) in a bid to exercise superiority over one another.

“While the whole issues/disputes were on going, sometime in December, 2023, the Executive Governor of Rivers (Mr. Sim Fubara) presented the 2024 Appropriation Bill to the five (5) member House of Assembly headed by the said Mr. Edison Ehie,” the deponent averred.

More so, the plaintiffs queried the constitutionality of a peace agreement they alleged that President Bola Tinubu compelled governor Fubara to enter into with the immediate past governor of the state and current Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Nyesom Wike.

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They maintained that the said agreement that was signed on December 18, 2023, was not only illegal, but amounted to an usurpation, nullification and undermining of the extant/binding relevant provisions of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.

Consequently, they are praying the court to among other things, determine whether President Tinubu, governor 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.

They contended that neither President Tinubu nor governor Fubara has the statutory powers to stop the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, from conducting fresh election to replace the 27 Rivers State lawmakers that defected from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to the All Progressives Congress, APC.

Aside from President Tinubu who was cted as the 1st Defendant in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1718/2023, other Defendants in the matter, are; the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, governor Fubara, Rivers Assembly, Speaker of the Rivers State Assembly and the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu.

Meanwhile, Justice Abdulmalik ordered substituted service of the court processes on the defendants, stressing that in view of circumstances sorounding the case, they should be put on notice to enable them to respond to the ex-parte motion the plaintiffs filed to stop the re-presentation of the Rivers State budget to the pro-Wike lawmakers that decamped to the APC.

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