Just In: Appeal Court Clears 25 Defected Rivers Lawmakers

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News Investigators/ The Court of Appeal has overturned an order of the High Court that invalidated the membership of 25 lawmakers of the Rivers State House of Assembly.

The affected lawmakers had defected from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Recall that the Rivers High Court presided over by Justice Charles Wali, had on May 10 ruled that the 25 lawmakers should stop parading themselves as members of the State Assembly following their defection to APC.

But the Appeal Court, in a unanimous judgment however on Thursday, July 4, held that the trial court lacked the jurisdiction to hear the case.

The affected lawmakers are those loyal to former Governor Nyesom Wike, now Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

The lawmakers, who won their elections on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, had announced their defection to the APC on December 11, 2023.

Following their defection, the Rivers State House of Assembly, under the leadership of then-Speaker Edison Ehie, declared the seats of the 25 lawmakers vacant on December 13.

The legal tussle started when anew Speaker of the State Assembly, Victor Oko-Jumbo, who is loyal to the governor, Siminialayi Fubara, dragged the former Speaker Martins Amaewhule and the 24 other lawmakers to court following their defections, seeking the declaration of their seats vacant.

Justice Wali had ruled in favour of the plaintiffs, restraining the lawmakers from entering the Assembly complex or performing any legislative duties on behalf of the Rivers State House of Assembly.

Mr. Amaewhule and his colleagues appealed to the ruling, arguing that the state high court had overstepped its authority by issuing the restraining order and that it lacked jurisdiction to make such ruling.

In the appeal, marked CA/PH/198/2024, the pro-Wike lawmakers urged the appellate court to stay the execution of the high court judgment.

In addition, they requested that the appellate court declare null and void all legislative actions taken by the Rivers State House of Assembly under Jumbo’s leadership.

Prior to the delivery of the judgment, the appellate court issued an interim ruling on June 14, directing both factions to maintain the current state of affairs and refrain from taking further actions until the appeal is resolved.

The appellate court also issued a stay of proceedings, prohibiting the Rivers State High Court and any other court from hearing or considering any further legal actions related to this matter, pending the outcome of the appeal.

But the 3-man panel Court of Appeal led by Justice Jimi Olukayode Bada on June 20, in a virtual hearing considered the written arguments presented by the parties.

The court then reserved its judgment, indicating that a decision would be issued at a later date.

In its judgment delivered on Thursday, the appellate court ruled in favor of the 25 lawmakers loyal to Wike, finding merit in their appeal.

As a result, the court overturned all of the restraining orders the high court had placed on them, thereby nullifying the previous decision.

Other members of the appellate court panel that gave the judgment on Thursday, were Justices Hamma Akawu Barka and Balikisu Bello Aliyu.

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