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Rivers Crisis: Appeal Court Vacates Order Sacking 25 Rivers Pro-Wike Legislators

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The Court of Appeal in Abuja has overturned the order that led to the removal of 25 members of the Rivers State House of Assembly after they defected to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

The appellate court’s decision, delivered unanimously by a three-man panel of Justices on Thursday, declared that the Rivers State High Court, which issued the initial order, lacked the jurisdiction to take such an action.

Justices Hamma Akawu Barka and Balikisu Bello Aliyu joined Justice Jimi Olukayode Bada in delivering the judgement.

The appeal was filed by the lawmakers, led by the embattled Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly, Hon. Martin Amaewhule, challenging the May 10 interim injunction issued by Justice Charles Wali.

This injunction had restrained the lawmakers from acting as members of the Assembly following their defection from the party under which they were elected.

The legal battle originated when Hon. Victor Oko-Jumbo, backed by supporters of Governor Nyesom Wike, filed a suit arguing that Amaewhule and the defected lawmakers should no longer be recognized as members of the Assembly.

Justice Wali’s court initially ruled in favor of Oko-Jumbo, leading to restrictions on the pro-APC lawmakers from accessing the Assembly or participating in legislative activities.

In response, Amaewhule and his colleagues appealed the decision, asserting that the state high court had exceeded its jurisdiction.

Their appeal, marked CA/PH/198/2024, sought not only to overturn the restraining order but also to nullify legislative actions taken by the opposing faction led by Oko-Jumbo.

Ahead of delivering its judgement, the appellate court had issued an interim ruling on June 14, instructing both factions to maintain the status quo until a final decision was reached.

It also prohibited any other court from adjudicating on the matter pending its own ruling.

In its ruling on Thursday, the Court of Appeal sided with the lawmakers who defected to APC, declaring merit in their appeal and consequently lifting all restraining orders issued against them by the Rivers State High Court.

The lawmakers, originally elected under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), had publicly announced their switch to the APC on December 11, 2023.

Subsequently, the Assembly, led by then-Speaker Hon. Edison Ehie, declared their seats vacant on December 13, triggering the legal and political skirmish that culminated in today’s appellate court decision.

Meanwhile, the National Democratic Coalition (NDC) has strongly criticized the decision of the Court of Appeal.

In a statement issued by its Executive Director, Dr. Samson Iroegbunam, the coalition described the judgement as detrimental to Nigeria’s democratic principles.

According to the coalition, the appellate court’s ruling undermines the rule of law by allowing politicians to switch parties without facing consequences, contrary to constitutional provisions. T

“The Court of Appeal decision effectively nullifies the earlier order of the Rivers State High Court, which restrained the defected lawmakers from assuming their roles in the Assembly,” remarked Iroegbunam.

He criticised the rationale behind the ruling, arguing that it sets a troubling precedent regarding jurisdictional issues and the interpretation of constitutional provisions.

Furthermore, the coalition expressed concern over the perceived controversial nature of the judgement, asserting that it adds to existing doubts about the judiciary’s impartiality.

“Instead of enhancing the rule of law and stabilizing Nigeria’s democracy, the Appeal Court has introduced new complexities,” lamented Iroegbunam.

Amidst the outcry, the NDC called upon the people of Rivers State to remain calm, affirming that efforts will continue to challenge the ruling all the way to the Supreme Court.

“It is imperative to defend the Constitution, which clearly stipulates the consequences of defection by elected officials,” emphasized Iroegbunam, citing Section 109(1)(g) as a pivotal guideline.

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