Federal High Court Nullifies N800bn Rivers  Budget Signed into Law by Fubara - The Top Society

Federal High Court Nullifies N800bn Rivers  Budget Signed into Law by Fubara

HANNAH ONI

The Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja, on Monday, nullified the N800 billion budget signed into law by the Rivers State Governor, Simi Fubara.

Fubara had sent the budget for 2024 to a four-man House of Assembly member for approval on December 13th 2023 amid his faceoff  with the FCT Minister, Nyesom Wike, who has the support of 27 out of the 31 lawmakers in the House

The court also upheld the suit filed by the Rivers State House of Assembly and its Speaker Martin Amaewhule, against Fubara, which sought an order of injunction restraining the governor from frustrating the assembly under his leadership as Speaker, among others.

Martin Amaewhule, an ally of the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), had named the National Assembly, Senate President, Deputy Senate President, Senate Majority Leader, and Senate Minority Leader, the House of Representatives Speaker, House Deputy Speaker, House Majority Leader, House Minority Leader, Clerk to the National Assembly as first to 10th defendants, respectively.

Rivers state Governor, Attorney-General of Rivers, Commissioner of Finance, Accountant-General of Rivers, Rivers State Civil Service Commission, Inspector-General of Police and Edison Ehie the former factional speaker of the House were listed as the 11th to the 17th defendants, respectively.

Ken Njemanze, counsel for the plaintiffs, accused the governor of interfering with the performance and functions of the state lawmakers contrary to the doctrine of the separation of powers.

He therefore sought an “order of injunction restraining the 1st to 10th defendants (NASS) from entertaining any request from the 11th defendant (Fubara) to take over the performance of the functions of Rivers 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.

“An order of mandatory injunction compelling the Inspector General of Police (whether by himself or by officers and men of the Nigeria Police Force under his command) to provide and continue to provide adequate Security and protection for the 1st Plaintiff under the leadership of the 2nd Plaintiff as the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly for the purpose of transacting the business of the 1st Plaintiff.

“An order restraining Fubara including the 12th, 13th and 14th defendants from withholding any amount standing to the credit of Rivers 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,” the plaintiff’s prayed among other reliefs.

In the alternative, the plaintiff sought an order of injunction restraining the respondents from denying the assembly the due funds for running its affairs including the payment of salaries, allowances, emoluments and meeting its financial obligations no matter how described.

First, Justice James Omotosho, observed that the 17th defendant, Ehie, had said through his lawyer, Oluwole Aladedoye, that he had resigned from the River State Assembly.

Omotosho said Ehie lacked the capacity to sue or be sued in the case as he is no longer the speaker or a member of the Rivers State House of Assembly.

On the preliminary objection challenging the jurisdiction of his court, Omotosho held the suit was properly constituted before him.

Omotosho disagreed with the plaintiffs on the powers of the governor, noting that the power to make laws in a state are shared between the executive, the state house of assembly and local government areas.

On the National Assembly taking over the functions of the state assembly, the judge said that can only happen, when the state lawmakers are no longer sitting and transacting business as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution and other relevant laws.

“There is nothing before this court showing that the River state house of assembly is unable to carry out its functions,” Justice Omotosho said the issue is resolved in favor of the plaintiffs.

On the removal of the clerk of the Rivers State House of Assembly, Emeka Amadi who was redeployed by the Rivers State Head of Service, Justice Omotosho, declared it null and void and invalid in the face of the law.

Omotosho noted that  the constitution is clear that the appointment of a clerk and deputy clerk is done by the Rivers State Speaker and is subject to confirmation by the lawmaker, and that their appointment, remuneration is governed by the Rivers State House Of Assembly Law, even though they are civil servants.

The judge ruled that  the first plaintiff is entitled to funds or amount standing to the credit of Rivers Assembly in the state’s Consolidated Revenue Fund, including salaries and emoluments and that same cannot be stopped by anyone including the governor.

Omotosho said the court is against any plan to jeopardize democracy,  and warned that a governor should not “exceed his power.”

“The claim of the plaintiff succeeds substantially,” Omotosho said.

The judge thereby declared that the governor of Rivers state, by himself or by members of the staff of the Rivers State public service are not entitled to take steps aimed at interfering into the affairs of the River state House of Assembly, the Speaker, in the performance of their duties.

The judge said the governor cannot withhold the due funds of the lawmakers in the state’s Consolidated Revenue Fund.

The judge subsequently restrained the national assembly from accepting any requests from the governor.

The judge also observed that the governor’s legal team had withdrawn all his processes in the matter, adding that it means that he admits all the facts stated by the plaintiffs.

The judge held that based on facts before his court, Amaewhule remains the valid Speaker of the Rivers State Assembly.

The judge said the purported sitting of Ehie and four other lawmakers who sat to pass the budget of the state is null and void.

“This court finds it strange that the governor” would destroy the Rivers State Assembly building as well as present an appropriation bill to four lawmakers.

He declared that the presentation of the bill to the four lawmakers was void.

The judge granted the order setting aside the purported appropriation bill signed, despite the interim order of his court, restraining him.

The judge also granted the order restraining the governor from continuing the demolition or construction of the Rivers State building.

The court said all the acts of the governor with four lawmakers is a nullity and he should go through the lawmakers presided by Martins.

 

Share this Article
Leave a comment