Fubara vs Wike: Rivers elders drag Tinubu to court

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By: Admin

PORT-HARCOURT, South-South, Nigeria – Six prominent elders from Rivers State, including Senator Bennett Birabi and Senator Andrew Uchendu, on Friday have filed a lawsuit against President Bola Tinubu and five others.

The plaintiffs, led by Victor Jumbo, a member of the State House of Assembly dragged President Tinubu before a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja for allegedly compelling Governor Fubara to enter into an unconstitutional agreement.

The alleged agreement, signed on December 18, is now at the center of a legal battle. The plaintiffs contend that it is not only illegal but also amounts to the usurpation, nullification, and undermining of the relevant provisions of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.

At the forefront of this legal action are key figures such as Rear Admiral O. P. Fingesi, Ann Kio Briggs, and Emmanuel Deinma. They are vehement in their assertion that the agreement infringes on the constitutional framework, raising questions about its legitimacy.

The plaintiffs have approached the Federal High Court in Abuja, seeking a legal determination on whether President Tinubu, Governor Fubara, and the Rivers State Assembly possess the rights and entitlement to enter into an agreement that could nullify or undermine the constitutional/legal potency of Section 109(I)(g) and (2) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.

In their argument, the elders highlight that neither President Tinubu nor Governor Fubara holds the statutory powers to impede the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) from conducting fresh elections to replace the 27 Rivers State lawmakers. These lawmakers had defected from the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress, (APC).

The lawsuit underscores the deep legal and constitutional implications of the alleged agreement, making it a matter of broader significance. The plaintiffs are seeking clarity on whether such agreements can override constitutional provisions and potentially impact the democratic process.
Aside from President Tinubu, who was cited as the first defendant in the suit numbered FHC/ABJ/CS/1718/2023, other defendants in the matter are the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Governor Fubara, the Rivers Assembly, Speaker of the Rivers State Assembly and the INEC chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu.

In a 19-paragraph affidavit that was deposed to by the sixth 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 state House of Assembly, “without any justification or lawful excuse whatsoever, decided to defect from the PDP, being the platform on which they were elected.”

The deponent said: “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 FCT), while they are disloyal to the current governor of Rivers State, Mr Siminilayi 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.

“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, on 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 fifth 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.

“That on the 18th of December, 2023, while the whole crisis was still ongoing, the first defendant (Tinubu) invited all the warring parties (which include the third defendant (Fubara), former Governor (Wike) and some other persons) so as to settle the brewing issues between the disputing parties.

“At the end of the said meeting, the first defendant caused all the parties to the said dispute to reach certain resolutions and enter certain agreements, which they thereafter reduced into writing and they all signed same.

“The online printout report of the said agreement along with its certificate of compliance with the Evidence Act are attached to this affidavit and marked Exhibit ‘A’.

“That the said agreement that was reached and signed by the said parties (under the supervision of the first defendant) stipulates among other things that the said 27 members of the Rivers State House of Assembly will be allowed to return to the Rivers State House of Assembly and retain their seats at the House and their leader, Hon. Martin Amaewhule (the former Speaker of the House), will upon return to the House and assume his seat as the Speaker of the House of Assembly, while the subsisting Speaker, Hon. Mr. Edison Ehie, will step aside.”

The plaintiffs maintained that a member of the House of Assembly who has relinquished membership of a political party which sponsored him during the term for which he was elected is mandated by law to vacate his seat in the House.

“That the 27 members of the Rivers State House of Assembly, having relinquished their membership of the PDP and joined the APC, are legally mandated by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) to vacate their seats as members of the House of Assembly.

“That the agreement between the first and third defendants is unconstitutional and usurpation, nullification and undermining of the extant/binding relevant provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).

“That this suit is instituted to challenge the said agreement and its undermining and nullification effects against the supreme and binding provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as Amended).

“That it will be in the very interest of justice, in compliance with the principle of the sanctity of the constitution and adherence to the principle of the rule of law to determine this suit in the plaintiffs’ favour and completely discountenance, reject and refuse the defendants’ defence against our case and claims in this suit,” the deponent further averred.

Aside from seeking the declaration of seats of the 27 lawmakers vacant, the plaintiffs, in the suit they filed through their team of lawyers led by Dr Olukayode Ajulo, SAN, want INEC to, pursuant to the provisions of Section 116 (I) and (2) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, conduct an election to fill up the seats.

They further want: “An order of perpetual injunction restraining the first, second and third defendants from ever interfering with the affairs of the Rivers State House of Assembly presided over by the fourth defendant and thereby allow the fourth defendant to superintend over and fully take charge of the affairs of the Rivers State House of Assembly pursuant to the superior and extant provisions of sections 92, 93, 94 and 109 (I) and (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).”

No date has been fixed for the matter to be heard.

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