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HomeNewsCourt Declares Rivers 2024 Budget Illegal

Court Declares Rivers 2024 Budget Illegal

The Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday nullified the N800bn budget signed into law by the Rivers State Governor, Siminalaye Fubara.

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In December, the governor presented an N800bn 2024 Appropriation Bill to a faction of the Assembly comprising four lawmakers.

Following the passage of the budget by the lawmakers, Fubara subsequently signed the budget into law.

The Rivers Assembly became divided following a move by 27 lawmakers loyal to ex-governor Nyesom Wike to impeach Fubara.

The lawmakers loyal to Wike approached the court after their seats were declared vacant by the Edison Ehie-led Rivers Assembly following their defection to the All Progressives Congress.

In the matter marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1613/2023, the Rivers State House of Assembly and Martin Amaewhule are the two plaintiffs.

The National Assembly, Senate President, Deputy Senate President, Senate Majority Leader, and Senate Minority Leader are the first to the fifth defendants, respectively.

The House of Representatives Speaker, House Deputy Speaker, House Majority Leader, House Minority Leader, and Clerk to the National Assembly are the sixth to the 10th defendants.

Other defendants are 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 the 11th to the 17th defendants.

The plaintiffs, among others, sought an order of injunction restraining the first to the 10th defendants from entertaining any request from  Fubara to take over the performance of the functions of Rivers State Assembly, including its role to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of Rivers in respect of matters that are within its constitutional and legislative competence.

Also,  Ehie instituted contempt proceedings in Suit No. PHC/3638/CS/2023, at a State High Court in Port Harcourt against the pro-Wike lawmakers, challenging their sittings and legislative activities after their seats were declared vacant.

Consequently,  President Bola Tinubu brokered peace between Wike and Fubara.

One of the resolutions in the peace deal was for all parties to withdraw all pending matters in court.

The factional speaker loyal to the governor, Ehie,  resigned his position in the House of Assembly and later withdrew his suit against the 25 lawmakers loyal to Wike.

Delivering judgment on the matter, Justice James Omotoso said the governor through his counsel, had withdrawn all his processes in the matter.

He,  however,  admitted the arguments and facts presented by the plaintiffs in the matter.

Omotoso also said Ehie, having resigned from the River State Assembly, could not sue or be sued in the case.

He subsequently declared the presentation of the Appropriation Bill to the four lawmakers void.

Omotoso said, “The purported sitting of Ehie and four other lawmakers who sat to pass the budget of the state is null and void.

“The order seeking to set aside the Appreciation Bill signed by the governor despite an interim order is hereby granted.”

He then ordered the governor to re-present the budget to the legally constituted House of Assembly led by  Amaewhule.

He also faulted the redeployment of the Clerk and Deputy Clerk by the governor, saying that was beyond the power of the governor.

Omotosho said, “The constitution is clear that the appointment of a clerk and deputy clerk is done by the Rivers State Speaker and is subject to confirmation by the lawmakers, and that their appointment, remuneration are governed by the Rivers State House of Assembly Law, even though they are civil servants.”

He ordered the Clerk and the Deputy Clerk to resume office immediately and unhindered.

The judge also granted the order restraining the governor from continuing the demolition or construction of the Rivers State House of Assembly building.

The court also restrained the governor from frustrating the House of Assembly under Amaewhule from sitting or interfering in the affairs of the House.

“This court hereby declare that the governor of Rivers State, by himself or by members of the staff of the Rivers State Public Service are not entitled to take steps aimed at interfering in the affairs of the River State House of Assembly, the Speaker, in the performance of their duties,” Omotoso held.

The judge held that the governor cannot withhold the due funds of the lawmakers in the state’s Consolidated Revenue Fund.

“The first plaintiff is entitled to funds or amount standing to the credit of Rivers Assembly in the state’s Consolidated Revenue Fund, including salaries and emoluments, and that same cannot be stopped by anyone, including the governor,” the judge said.

The judge subsequently restrained the National Assembly from accepting any requests from the governor.

The judge also granted the order restraining the governor from continuing the demolition or construction of the Rivers State building.

Omotoso also ordered the Inspector General of Police to immediately give adequate security to the Speaker and legislators loyal to Wike.

“The court is against any plan to jeopardise democracy. A governor should not exceed his power.

“The claim of the plaintiff succeeds substantially,” Omotoso added.

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