APC divided as A’Court returns pro-Wike lawmakers to Assembly

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The Court of Appeal, Abuja division, on Thursday, dismissed the ex parte order issued on May 10, 2024, by the Rivers State High Court, Port Harcourt, which barred Martin Amaewhule from parading himself as the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly.

The court also dismissed the decision of the state high court stopping the 24 members of the Assembly loyal to ex-Rivers governor, Nyesom Wike, from accessing the complex or carrying out any legislative assignment in the name of the Rivers State House of Assembly.

A three-man panel led by Justice Jimi Olukayode-Bada, in its judgment, upheld the appeal filed by a factional Speaker of the River State House of Assembly, Amaewhule, and 24 others against the Speaker, Victor Oko-Jumbo, and two others.

The state high court had barred the pro-Wike lawmakers from the Assembly based on a suit seeking to declare their seats vacant on the basis that they defected from the Peoples Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress.

The Amaewhule-led lawmakers had in December 2023 announced their defection from the PDP to the APC amid the political rift between Wike and the incumbent Rivers State Governor, Siminalayi Fubara.

On Thursday, the APC in Rivers State was divided over the appellate court’s verdict reinstating the pro-Wike lawmakers to the Assembly.

The Rivers State House of Assembly has been polarised since 2023 following the feud between Fubara and, Wike.

While  Amaewhule led pro-Wike lawmakers, Edison Ehie, emerged as a factional Speaker, leading pro-Fubara lawmakers.

In December 2023, the pro-Wike lawmakers defected from the PDP to the APC.

Ehie later resigned as a lawmaker and was appointed as Fubara’s Chief of Staff.

In May 2024, the lawmaker representing Bonny Constituency, Oko Jumbo, was elected the Speaker.

The pro-Fubara lawmakers approched Justice Charles Wali of the state high court and obtained an order restraining the  25 pro-Wike lawmakers from parading themselves as Rivers Assembly members following their defection.

The trial judge barred the pro-Wike lawmakers from conducting legislative sittings anywhere — including within the legislative quarters.

He also restrained Governor Fubara from interfacing with or accepting resolutions and bills from the 25 lawmakers.

Displeased, the pro-Wike lawmakers, however, appealed, leading to Thursday’s pronouncement by the appellate court.

Delivering the judgment, Justice Olukayode-Bada said,“The trial court lacked the jurisdiction to hear and determine the suit of the respondents and there must be an existence of real urgency and not self-induced urgency in granting an ex parte.”

Rivers APC divided

Meanwhile, the appellate court judgment generated discordant tunes in the Rivers APC on Thursday.

While the Rivers State APC Caretaker Committee Chairman, Chief Tony  Okocha, said the appeal court verdict meant that the pro-Wike lawmakers are still in charge, the camp loyal to the former Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, disagreed.

In a short message sent  to our correspondent, Okocha, who is an ally of Wike, welcome the judgment, saying justice had been served in the matter.

He stated, “The grey areas that have led Rivers into a litany of litigation have been sorted out. Justice was served.  The reasoning adduced by the venerated Justice of the Court of Appeal, under which stood the bedrock of their unanimous decision, is very sound and unimpeachable.”

But the Publicity Secretary of the APC loyal to Amaechi, Mr Darlington Nwauju, in a statement, said the judgment did not change the fact that the 25 pro-Wike lawmakers defected from the PDP to the APC.

Nwauju, however, urged the parties in the suit to respect the rule of law and approach the Supreme Court if they deemed it necessary.

He said, “We urge parties in dispute to respect the path of the rule of law and constitutionality and approach the highest court if they deem it expedient.

“The fact that the Court of Appeal has taken a decision one way or the other pooh-poohs the fact that while awaiting the decision of this court, the madness that took place on the 25th of June 2024 in the name of a protest for which an improvised explosive device was detonated, was ab initio infantile, illogical and grossly irresponsible.

“Finally, today’s ruling does not vitiate the fact that the 27 Assemblymen did defect from the PDP to the APC.”

The state government, however, kept mum over the judgment, with the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Joseph Johnson, failing to respond to calls and a message seeking his reaction to the new development.

Also, the state Chairman of the PDP, Aaron Chukwuemeka, could not be reached for comment.

But the National Legal Adviser of the APC, Prof Abdulkareem Kana, hailed the appeal court verdict, noting that it didn’t come to him as a surprise.

He said, “It is a position that is very clear. What people don’t understand is that there is a political defection and there is a legal defection. A person may politically defect and may not legally do so.

‘’A political defection is me coming out to say I have moved or defected to another party. I will go to the National Assembly to make noise, and raise dust here and there to create confusion.

“But the thing is this: If I claim I have left the party, have I written a letter of resignation to intimate the party and have they accepted my resignation? That is number one.

‘’Secondly, have I gone to my ward to register with the new party I joined and given a form of recognition? This is because the party constitution or the NEC can refuse to accept a person applying to be a member. These are all the stages that people are not taking into cognizance.

‘’The parliamentarians must write to the speaker to indicate their interest in defecting. But the speaker himself in this case was among them. So, who did they submit their letters to?’’

Punch

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