Court Declares Gov. Fubara’s N800bn 2024 Budget Illegal

A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has recognised Hon. Martins Amaewhule as the authentic Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly.
The court headed by Justice James Omotosho also nullified the N800 billion 2024 budget signed into law by the Governor Siminalayi Fubara.

The development is coming less than one week after the Amaewhule-led House screened and cleared nine commissioner-nominees sent to it by the governor.
Amaewhule had approached the court to seek an order of injunction restraining the governor from frustrating the House of Assembly under his leadership as speaker, among others.

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, and Clerk to the National Assembly were joined in the suit as 1st to 10th defendants, respectively.
Also, the governor of Rivers State, the state attorney-general, commissioner for finance, accountant-general of the state state, Rivers State Civil Service Commission, inspector-general of police and Edison Ehie, were listed as the 11th to the 17th defendants, respectively.

The verdict comes barely six weeks after Fubara sent the 2024 Appropriation Bill to the Hon. Edison Ehie-led House of Assembly, which approved it on the same day.
Counsel for the plaintiffs Ken Njemanze had 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.

They also sought an order of mandatory injunction compelling the Inspector General of Police, whether by himself or his proxies, to provide and continue to provide adequate security and protection for the House of Assembly under his leadership for the purpose of transacting the business of the House, amongst 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.

The trial judge, Justice James Omotosho, while delivering judgment, first observed that the 17th defendant, Ehie, having said through his lawyer, Oluwole Aladedoye, that he had resigned from the River State Assembly, 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.

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

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

The trial Judge however 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 issue of the National Assembly taking over the functions of the state assembly, the trial 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.

Justice Omotosho also declared null and void and invalid in the face of the law the removal of the clerk of the Rivers State House of Assembly, Emeka Amadi who was redeployed by the Rivers State Head of Service, stating 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 lawmakers, and that their appointment and remuneration are governed by the Rivers State House of Assembly Law, even though they are civil servants.

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

Finally, Justice Omotosho 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.

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