The Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered all the parties in the Rivers State Assembly crisis, to maintain the status quo.
In a ruling on Monday, Justice Joyce Abdulmalik directed the parties not to take further steps, pending the determination of an application that is seeking to stop Governor Siminalayi 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.
They had approached the court through their lawyer, Olukayode Ajulo, praying it to declare the 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, 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 them, based on 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.
They added 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 and now Minister of F.C.T, Nyesom Wike, while they are disloyal to the current Governor of Rivers State, Mr. Siminilaya Fubara.
They further add 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.
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 Wike.
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 a fresh election to replace the 27 Rivers State lawmakers who defected from the PDP to the APC.
Meanwhile, Justice Abdulmalik ordered substituted service of the court processes on the defendants, stressing that given the circumstances surrounding 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.