COURT TO DELIVER JUDGMENT ON SUIT AGAINST FUBARA, NATIONAL ASSEMBLY, OTHERS

The Judgement on the suit filed by the Rivers House of Assembly’s factional Speaker, Martin Amaewhule, against Governor Siminalayi Fubara, the National Assembly and others at the Federal High Court Abuja had been fixed today, 22 January 2024.

The case was adjourned by the presiding judge, James Omotosho, after counsel for the parties presented their arguments for and against the case.

The case which judgement was reserved today has Mr Amaewhule the factional Speaker of Rivers State House of Assembly as the 1st and 2nd plaintiffs in 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, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Ferdinand Orbih, also a SAN, among others, 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, Clerk to the National Assembly were also sued as the 6th to the 10th defendants, respectively.

They 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 qentertaining any request from the 11th defendant (Governor 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.

They sought an order of injunction restraining Governor Fubara from impeding or frustrating the assembly under Amaewhule’s leadership as its speaker.

They equally sought an order restraining Mr Fubara as well as the 12th, 13th and 14th defendants from withholding any amount standing to the credit of the Rivers State House of Assembly in the state’s Consolidated Revenue Fund, including salaries and emoluments due and payable to the speaker, deputy speaker and other members of the house as well as to the clerk, deputy clerk and other members of staff of the assembly.

Alternatively, they sought an order of injunction restraining them from denying the assembly of the due funds for running its affairs including the payment of salaries, allowances, emoluments and meeting its financial obligations no matter how described, among other 11 reliefs.

Upon resumed hearing on Monday, the judge, Mr Omotosho, granted the application for joinder filed by Mr Ehie.

Mr Ehie, who also listed himself as Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly, was joined in the suit as the 17 defendant and the court made an order deeming all processes filed by him as being properly filed.

Plaintiffs’ lawyer, Mr Njemanze informed the court that contrary to insinuations, he did not file any motion of discontinuance of the case.
“We are ready to proceed on the substantive matter but we have a motion pending. It is a motion filed on 15 December 2023. We are asking for the restoration of the status quo as of 29 November 2023,” he said.

The senior lawyer said that pursuant to the order of the court made on 11 December 2023, the plaintiffs amended the originating summons in the suit in which they sought 11 reliefs and raised six questions for determination.

He said the 26-paragraph affidavit was deposed to by Mr Amaewhule, the 2nd plaintiff.

He also said that on 15 December 2023, a motion on notice was filed, seeking an order to restrain Mr Fubara, the state’s attorney-general, the finance commissioner, and the accountant-general from continuing the demolition and destruction of the house of assembly complex in Port Harcourt.

“We are saying that they want to deter us from performing our constitutional duties despite the order my lord made ex-parte,”
He said they ignored the order even after it was extended.

“In this situation, you have the power to discipline all the parties,” he said. Mr Omotosho then said he read online that the issue had been settled.

But Mr Njemanze said, “As of the time we came, the House of Assembly was performing its work, but now, they are being interfered with.”

The lawyer, who informed the court that only about four members passed the state’s budget, urged the court to grant their prayers.

On his part, counsel for the 1st to 10th defendants (the National Assembly and its officials), Joshua Musa, a SAN, said he filed a counter affidavit on 14 December 2023.

He said the circumstances that could necessitate the invitation of the National Assembly to take over the assembly had not arisen.

K. A. Imafidon, who appeared for Governor Fubara, told the court that his client instructed them to withdraw all that they filed in the suit “We have a motion on notice seeking to dismiss the plaintiffs’ suit dated 11 December and filed 12 December 2023. We also filed a motion on notice dated and filed on 11 Decmeber 2023 to set aside the interim orders made in this suit on 3 November 2023.

“We have a counter-affidavit in opposition to the plaintiffs’ motion on notice for interlocutory injunction dated 12 December and filed the same day, etc

“We sought to withdraw them and urge the court to grant our prayer,” he said.

M. O. Ojo, who appeared for Ehie (17th defendant), however prayed the court to stand down the matter on the grounds that the information he had was that the parties had settled their differences.

He pleaded with the court to grant his request to allow his senior to take over the matter. The judge, Mr Omotosho, who said he had gone through the court file and did not see any notice of discontinuance of the case, however granted Mr Ojo’s plea.

Upon resumed hearing, Oluwole Aladedoye, a SAN, who now announced appearance for Mr Ehie, said notified the court that the 2nd plaintiff attended a meeting convened by the president where the decision was taken for the settlement of the disputes.

The judge then asked if there was a term of settlement before the court.

“If that was the position, why did you move the motion for joinder,” he said.

Moving his motion, Aladedoye said a notice of preliminary objection challenging the jurisdiction of the court was filed on Dec 18, 2023.

According to him, the preliminary objection prays for an order striking out the suit for want of jurisdiction.

Federal High Court Headquarters, Abuja

Besides, he said a counter affidavit was also filed. We also filed on Dec 18 in response to the amended originating summons with one exhibit.

The lawyer urged the court to dismiss the suit.
“I have a question for the plaintiff. Do you think we can still continue with this matter in view of the submission of counsel for the 17th defendant that the president had settled the issue?” Mr Omotosho asked Mr. Njemanze.
Responding, Mr. Njemanze said he was aware that President Tinubu invited all the parties, except the National Assembly officials (1st to 10th defendants), to a meeting.

“And at that meeting, it was agreed that the 11th defendant (Mr Fubara) and his supporters shall withdraw all pending suits.
“Secondly, it was also agreed that the plaintiffs shall withdraw the notice of impeachment against the governor.

“The notice of impeachment has been withdrawn and the assembly is sitting fully but the governor has failed to withdraw the suit he, as governor, filed at Rivers State High Court.

“What we are supposed to do under the agreement, we have done. If tomorrow, I am instructed to withdraw, I will do so. We are for peace,” he responded.

Then the judge asked Mr Aladedoye: “Who is the 17th defendant and in what capacity did you file this suit?”

The senior lawyer responded thus: “As at the time your lordship adjourned on 7 December 2023, and up until Mr President convened the meeting, the 17th defendant was the speaker of Rivers Assembly.”

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