The Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, on Monday, ordered that a suit seeking the National Assembly takeover of legislative functions of the Rivers State House of Assembly be transferred to its Abuja division.
The suit, marked FHC/ PH/MISC/418/2023, was filed by Kingsley Igbaki, and four others.
The PUNCH reports that the Rivers Assembly is being rocked by a crisis, leading to its factionalisation following the move to impeach the governor.
Counsel for the plaintiffs in the suit, Frank Ayebaekipreye, told journalist on the court premises on Monday that his clients wanted the National Assembly to take over the Rivers Assembly’s legislative function to allow for the passage of the state’s 2024 budget.
The lawyer said, “The National Assembly should take over legislative functions of the Rivers Assembly on the grounds that the Rivers State House of Assembly by virtue of the crisis that has eroded the House is unable to sit.
“With the crisis rocking the Rivers State House of Assembly, the likelihood of it ending cannot be ascertained as it stands now because there are a series of litigation pending in court.
“So, on that basis, let the National Assembly take over, pending when the Rivers State House of Assembly is able to unite itself and sit.
“And if this crisis continues, there is a likelihood that Rivers State will not have a budget in the year 2024, because for every budget to be passed to law the state legislature must sign.
“So as it stands now in Rivers, which legislative house would sign the budget into law now that the Rivers State House of Assembly is having a crisis?
“The constitution, under Section 14(4) stated that where there is a crisis or where the state Assembly cannot sit, the National Assembly shall take over the legislative functions of the House. That is why the applicants are here in court.”
Earlier during the proceedings in the courtroom, Justice P. M. Ayua directed that the suit be taken to Abuja since the National Assembly, the 1st respondent in the matter, sits in Abuja and there was a similar action filed in Abuja with similar parties, the suit in Port Harcourt should be sent to Abuja, so that both matters could be heard and determined together in Abuja.
The plaintiffs’ counsel had told the judge that all necessary legal processes had been filed and served on all the respondents in the matter, adding that the proof of service was before the court.
But counsel for the respondents, C. N. Eke, to the court that there was already a similar suit, marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1613/2023, pending before the Abuja division of the court.
Eke said the Abuja suit was seeking an order to restrain the National Assembly from taking over the legislative functions of the Rivers State Assembly.
Wading in, Justice Ayua directed that the suit filed before him should be taken to Abuja.
Meanwhile, conflicting legal representation delayed the hearing of a lawsuit filed by the Rivers State Governor, Siminalayi Fubara, against the State House of Assembly.
At the Isiokpo High Court on Monday, Justice Ben Whyt adjourned the matter till December 20, 2023, after two lawyers announced appearances for the Martin Amaewhule-led faction of the Assembly.
The Edison Ehie faction of the Assembly also had double legal representation.
The situation made Justice Whyte adjourn for the parties to regularise their legal representations.
In the suit, Fubara is asking the court to stop the Assembly, the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker, the Clark and the Chief Judge of the state from impeaching him.