A Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday declared the Rivers State 2024 Budget, which was presented and passed by the four-member House of Assembly led by Ehie Edison, as illegal and unconstitutional and nullified it.
The court reinstated Martin Amaewhule, the leader of the 25 lawmakers who supported the former Fovernor of the state, now Minister of FCT Nyesom Wike as the rightful and legitimate Speaker of the State House of Assembly.
The court gave this verdict in favour of a lawsuit filed against the National Assembly, Governor Siminalaye Fubara and others, in which Justice James Omotosho ruled that the governor behaved like a dictator in destroying the House of Assembly and blocking its funds from the Consolidated Account.
Justice Omotosho directed the Governor to submit the budget again to the lawfully constituted House of Assembly under Speaker Martin Amaewhule.
According to the Judge, the meeting of the four lawmakers where the budget was supposedly passed was invalid and meaningless. He added that the presentation of the budget by the governor to the four lawmakers was disrespectful to his order that forbade Fubara from taking any action on the House of Assembly while the suit was pending.
He overturned the withholding of the House of Assembly funds by Governor Fubara on the basis that he had no constitutional authority to do so and ordered him to immediately release the funds to Martin Amaewhule’s leadership.
The court restrained Governor Fubara from hindering the House of Assembly under Amaewhule, barring it from sitting or meddling in the affairs of the House.
Justice Omotosho criticized and annulled the transfer of the Clerk and Deputy Clerk out of the House of Assembly by the Governor as a violation of the principles of separation of power and also ordered the Clerk and the Deputy Clerk to resume office in the House of Assembly without delay or obstruction.
The Judge who resolved all issues in dispute against Governor Fubara having not contested the allegations against him, issued some injunctive orders against him and other defendants.
Among others, Governor Fubara was prohibited from disturbing, frustrating or interfering with the affairs of the State House of Assembly and State Legislators.
The Inspector General of Police and his agents were ordered to immediately provide adequate security to the Speaker and legislators loyal to former Governor Nyesom Wike.
The Rivers House of Assembly and its Speaker, Martin Amaewhule as the 1st and 2nd plaintiffs had filed the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1613/2023.
In the amended originating summons filed on 11 December 2023 by their team of lawyers including Ken Njemanze, James Ogwu Onoja, Ferdinand Orbih and Moses Ebute, all Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN), the plaintiffs sued the National Assembly, Senate President, Deputy Senate President, Senate Majority Leader, and Senate Minority Leader as the 1st to the 5th defendants, respectively.
The House of Representatives Speaker, House Deputy Speaker, House Majority Leader, House Minority Leader, and Clerk to the National Assembly were also sued as the 6th to the 10th defendants, respectively.
The plaintiffs also sued the Governor of Rivers State, Attorney-General of Rivers, Commissioner of Finance, Accountant-General of Rivers, Rivers State Civil Service Commission, Inspector-General of Police and Edison Ehie, who was also listed as Rivers State House of Assembly’s Speaker in the suit, as the 11th to the 17th defendants, respectively.
The plaintiffs sought an order of injunction restraining the 1st to the 10th defendants from entertaining any request from the 11th defendant (Governor Fubara) to take over the performance of the functions of Rivers State Assembly, including its role in making laws for the peace, order and good government of Rivers in respect of matters that are within its constitutional and legislative competence.