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Breaking: Rivers crisis: Defected 25 lawmakers win at Appeal Court

As a result, the court overturned all of the restraining orders the high court had placed on them, thereby nullifying the previous decision.

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The Court of Appeal has nullified an order of the Rivers High Court that stopped 25 members of the State House of Assembly who defected from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC) from parading themselves as lawmakers.

The three-man Appeal Court, in a unanimous judgment on Thursday, July 4, held that the trial court lacked the jurisdiction to hear the case.

Persecondnews recalls that Justice Charles Wali of the Rivers State High Court issued a temporary restraining order on May 10, which barred the lawmakers in question, who are loyal to former Governor Nyesom Wike, now Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), from identifying as members of the Assembly following their defection from the political party that initially sponsored their elections.

The court order followed a suit that was filed by Hon. Victor Oko-Jumbo, who subsequently emerged as the Speaker of the Assembly.

In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs, who are supporters of the current governor, Gov. Siminialayi Fubara, argued that Amaewhule and the 24 other lawmakers who defected lost their seats in the Rivers State House of Assembly effective December 13, 2023, and were no longer considered members due to the declaration of their seats vacant.

In his ruling, Justice Wali sided with the plaintiffs and prohibited the lawmakers loyal to Wike from entering the Assembly complex or performing any legislative duties on behalf of the Rivers State House of Assembly.

Unhappy with the outcome, Amaewhule and his colleagues appealed to the higher court, seeking to overturn the decision.

They contended that the state high court had overstepped its authority by issuing the restraining order and lacked the jurisdiction to make such a ruling.

In the appeal, marked CA/PH/198/2024, the pro-Wike lawmakers urged the appellate court to stay the execution of the high court judgment.

In addition, they requested that the appellate court declare null and void all legislative actions taken by the Rivers State House of Assembly under Jumbo’s leadership.

Prior to the delivery of the judgment, the appellate court issued an interim ruling on June 14, directing both factions to maintain the current state of affairs and refrain from taking further actions until the appeal is resolved.

The appellate court also issued a stay of proceedings, prohibiting the Rivers State High Court and any other court from hearing or considering any further legal actions related to this matter, pending the outcome of the appeal.

Justice Jimi Olukayode Bada led a panel of the appellate court on June 20, where the rival parties presented their written arguments in a virtual hearing.

The court then reserved its judgment, indicating that a decision would be issued at a later date.

In its judgment delivered on Thursday, the appellate court ruled in favor of the 25 lawmakers loyal to Wike, finding merit in their appeal.

As a result, the court overturned all of the restraining orders the high court had placed on them, thereby nullifying the previous decision.

Other members of the appellate court panel that gave the judgment on Thursday, were Justices Hamma Akawu Barka and Balikisu Bello Aliyu.

The lawmakers, who won their elections on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, had announced their defection to the APC on December 11, 2023.

Following their defection, the Rivers State House of Assembly, under the leadership of then-Speaker Edison Ehie, declared the seats of the 25 lawmakers vacant on December 13.

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