New Telegraph

Rivers Crisis: CNPP Warns On Dangers Of Politically Influenced Verdicts

The Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) has condemned the recent ruling of the Court Appeal Court on the Rivers State Assembly lawmakers’ defection, saying the judgement has a semblance of a verdict procured from the “black market.”

The umbrella association of all registered political parties and political associations in the country, in a statement signed by its Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Comrade James Ezema, called for “an end to politically influenced court verdicts in Nigeria if our democracy must survive.”

Noting that the ruling is meant to destabilise the state as it will lead to a parallel State House of Assembly, which is a very dangerous development for Nigeria’s democracy, CNPP maintained that defecting lawmakers have lost their seats by their action.

The statement read in part: “Though the Court of Appeal nullified the ruling of the state High Court on account of lack of jurisdiction, the appellate court did not declare null and void the declaration of the seats of the defected lawmakers vacant by the Rivers State House of Assembly. “This is unambiguous as the then Edison Ehi-led Rivers State House of Assembly votes and proceedings that declared their seats vacant are yet to be declared null and void by any court.

“Therefore, the actions of the Hon. Ehi-led House in declaring the seat vacant and remained valid and until the court declared otherwise, the defecting lawmakers lost their seats thereafter and attempt to reconvene is most injurious to the rule of law and dangerous to democracy.

“The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) ought to have conducted a bye-election to replace the defected lawmakers. This is because in the eyes of the law, the defected lawmakers ceased to be elected representatives of the people having breached section 109 (g) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).

“We believe that the Supreme Court will not allow itself to be used as a tool to plunge the country into political unrest and will certainly resolve this matter on appeal promptly. We advocate for judicial reforms that enhance transparency, accountability, and adherence to established legal procedures to enable the judiciary to uphold its role as a pillar of democracy.

“The CNPP will engage citizens, civil society organizations, and the media to raise awareness about the implications of this ruling because an informed public is essential for safeguarding democratic values, especially with the current parallel Assembly in Rivers State. “We therefore stand united in demanding justice and respect for the rule of law and we urge all stakeholders to prioritize the interests of the people of Rivers State and uphold the principles of democracy.”

The Court of Appeal, Abuja division, had last Thursday, dismissed the exparte order issued May 10, 2024, by the Rivers State High Court, in Port Harcourt, which barred Martin Amaewhule from parading himself as the speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly.

The appellate court also dismissed the decision of the state High Court which stopped 24 other members of the Assembly from accessing the complex or carrying out any such Legislative assignment in the name of the Rivers State House of Assembly.

A three-man panel led by Justice Jimi Olukayode-Bada, while delivering judgement on the suit, 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 court in its determination of the issue of jurisdiction of a lower court to hear and also grant and ex parte order, held that the Federal High Court is exclusively and mandatorily the only court that can hear such matters and not a state High Court, citing section 273 of the Constitution.

Justice Charles Wali of the state High Court had on May 30, restrained the lawmakers in Amaewhule faction from conducting legislative sittings anywhere, including within the legislative quarters. The judge also restrained Governor Siminalayi Fubara from interfacing with or accepting resolutions and bills from the 25 lawmakers.

The suit was filed by Victor Oko Jumbo, a factional speaker, and two other lawmakers — Sokari Goodboy and Orubienimigha Adolphus Timothy. The three legislators are loyal to Fubara. The court also held that all of the laws made by Amaewhule and others would amount to a nullity until the matter was determined. The appellants had asked the appeal court to dismiss the judgment of the lower court and nullify the decisions taken by Jumbo’s faction.

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