A Rivers State High Court in Port Harcourt has struck out a suit seeking to declare the seats of the 25 lawmakers of the State House of Assembly who defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC), following a misunderstanding between the state Governor, Siminalayi Fubara and the Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Nyesom Wike.
The suit registered in suit number PHC/61/CS/2024 before Justice Chinwendu Nwogu and filed by 10 members of Rivers Elders Forum, also seeks the court to interpret if the eight point agenda of President Bola Tinubu on the Rivers political saga in December 18, 2023 is constitutional.
Also that “whether the decision or directives or resolution at the purported meeting of the defendants at Aso Rock, Abuja on December 18, 2023 that the members of the Rivers State Executive Council who voluntarily resigned from their portfolios as commissioners should be resubmitted to the House of Assembly for approval, is constitutional and valid.
“Whether the decision/resolution under the directives of the 1st defendant aforesaid that the 2nd defendant should represent the budget of the Rivers State already presented to the 4th defendant and duly debated and properly assented to as a law can be lawfully and constitutionally represented for the purpose of being debated and repassed”.
Parties in the matter include Chief Anabs Sara-Igbe, Dr. Kalada Iruenabere, Chief Marcus Atata, Chief Nwankwo Sunday, Cletus Zorbo-Or Nadukoro, Asigbor Lede, Michael Aloega, D Allen Abbi, Johnson Ogbodu and Mina A.K. Hart, for claimants.
While the defendants are President Bola Tinubu, Rivers State governor Siminalayi Fubara, Rt Hon. Martins Amaewhule (for himself and other 24 state lawmakers), Rivers State House of Assembly and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Chief Anabs Sara-Igbe, one of the litigants in the matter.
Ruling on the Ex Parte application today, Justice Nwogu said his court lacks jurisdiction to hear the matter, he mentioned that similar matter was given judgement at a federal high court presided by Justice James Omotosho in Abuja.
Justice Nwogu also ruled that since President Tinubu is a party in the matter, the case should be transmitted to a higher court that have the jurisdiction to entertain it. He therefore struck out the suit for lack of jurisdiction.
Speaking with journalists outside the courtroom immediately after the judgement, Emmanuel Rukari, counsel for the claimants, said the ruling by Justice Nwogu was embarrassing. He said the presiding judge delivered the ruling after he went inside his chamber for alleged consultation.
Rukari also regretted that with the judge’s decision on a matter that was yet to be properly unveiled in the court, is an alleged evidence that there is no hope for the common man in the society.
“Unfortunately, the ruling came in an embarrassing manner. It is law and we hope to go back home and discuss with our clients on the best line of action. But if you ask me as a lawyer, this is a constitutional matter.
“These are issues that had to do with the state and from My Lord’s ruling, ordinarily it will seem that he has dived into the matter for which parties have not fully been served. All we came to court to do today, is to ask for an Ex-parte Order for Substituted Service because most of the parties have been served, some others we have not been able to serve them.
“Just for the judge to dived into jurisdiction where nobody from the other side have come in to oppose or to challenge his jurisdiction. He has also gone ahead to cite the case of Justice James Omotosho which was delivered within the week. I don’t know if there is a CTC to that effect which he looked into because we spent over an hour when he excused himself and went in.
“It is likely, he may have called every Tom, Dick and Harry to help out with what to say. It is rather embarrassing I will say that we have gotten ourselves to this level where judiciary is no longer the hope for the common man. But as it were we will follow the course of justice, we will go back home and to our clients to know what their mindset is and advise them appropriately”.
The claimants counsel continued that “Striking out our matter at this stage is ridiculous. He should allow the proper parties to be before him. All we are asking is that we want to serve them by substituted means and what we saw is that our action has been struck out. I don’t know that part of the law. Asking us to go to Abuja to apply on issues that happened in Rivers state and bothers on Rivers people is wrong”.
Explaining the suit struck our Rukari said “From what we heard, we woke up one morning to hear that the President directed that eight (8) point agenda be signed and all of that. The fact remains as to whether the president has that locus, has he that power to give that directives. So whether he has or not is a constitutional matter. The federal high court and state high court seize jurisdiction to hear this matter, a matter that affects the state House of Assembly”.
Also reacting on the matter, one of the claimants, Sara-Igbe accused the judge of being impartial in his decision.
He said: “It is a very good development for us. We know that there are judges in this state who are not doing the right thing at the right time. But as people, we are representing Rivers state in this matter, we will take it to the highest level.
“I think we will appeal this case to be able to tell Rivers people that this judge did not do the right thing. One, the other opponent were not served, we said we want to serve them, we have not come to the case and you are dismissing the case. You are citing laws that are not even before you. I think that is not proper”.
On wether they are going to appeal the ruling, Sara-Igbe said “When we discuss with the our lawyer, we will know the next step to go, but I think we will appeal to prove this judge that he is not competent and he is partial, he is not ready to do the case, that other judges in Rivers state will do the case. The Court of Appeal will do direct”.