A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has stopped the National Assembly from performing the legislative functions of the Rivers State House of Assembly.
Ruling on a suit filed by two lawyers, Messrs Tamunotemi Asobari and John Kpakol but argued by Mr. Ade Okeaya-Inneh (SAN), Justice Ahmed Ramat Muhammed held that as at the time the National Assembly took over the affairs of the assembly, there were no facts that the house was unable to carry out its functions as provided under the constitution.
He also held that by provisions of section 11(4) and (5) of the constitution, the National Assembly could not assume the law making functions of the assembly when there were no facts that the said assembly was unable to carry out its functions.
The judge declared as unconstitutional and consequently nullified the resolution passed by the Senate mandating the Senate Committee on States and Local Government Areas to investigate the dire situation between the Rivers State Governor and the Commissioner of Police, Rivers State and the crisis rocking the Assembly.
"By the provisions of Section 215(2) and (3) of the constitution as amended the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Defendants do not have the powers to direct the 5th Defendant (Speaker of the House of Representatives) to re-deploy the Rivers State Commissioner of Police or any officer under the command of the Nigeria Police Force," the judge said.
The judge said there were no facts that the Rivers Assembly was unable to carry out its functions as provided under the Constitution.
Justice Mohammed upheld argument by the plaintiffs that after the July 9 fracas in the Rivers Assembly, the House reconvened under the former Speaker and passed the state's 2013 budget.
The judge held that his decision to believe the claim that the National Assembly still conducted some businesses after the purported impeachment of the Assembly's Speaker which resulted in the fracas, was based on the fact that the defendants failed to specifically deny this claim.
The judge rejected the defendants' objection challenging the plaintiffs' locus to institute the action.
He held thus: "The defendants raised an objection that the plaintiffs had no locus to institute the suit since they were not in any way affected by the action.
"It is possible for any person who is convinced that his right has been infracted to approach the court, any person who is subject to the law should see to it that he is governed by an acceptable law.
"The concept of locus has been broadened , the suit is about interpretation of the constitution, it is my view that the plaintiff has locus to institute this suit.
"The plaintiffs in this suit have a cause of action because if the claims succeed, the court would provide judicial remedy. Objection as to cause of action is dismissed."
After dismissing the objection, the judge then went on to consider the substantive suit.
He conceded the fact that the National Assembly had the power to assume law making for state Houses of Assembly but added that the power to do so has a caveat.
He said: "If the state House of Assembly meets and is able to transact business of law making, it will not be deemed to be unable to perform its functions."
The judge noted that the plaintiffs deposed to an affidavit to the effect that notwithstanding the fracas that took place in the house, the house sat to pass the amended 2013 budget.
His Lordship said: "This the defendants have not contradicted and when an affidavit is not contradicted, the court will have no option than to admit such.
"The court has not been shown the provision that empowers the National Assembly to re deploy the police, re deployment is mainly the duty of the executive." Meanwhile, the state assembly has filed a notice of appeal at the Court of Appeal in Abuja.
The assembly has also filed a motion for stay of execution of the judgment.
In the notice of appeal filed by Ahmed Raji (SAN), on behalf of the state assembly and the Speaker of the Assembly, Hon. Otelemaba Amachree, the appellants said they were dissatisfied with the judgment of the Federal High Court, stating that the court erred in its judgment as it did not take into cognisance the prevailing circumstance in the state as at the time the National Assembly took over the functions of the assembly.
In the five ground of appeal, Raji also said the trial judge erred when he accepted jurisdiction in the matter when the claimants were neither members of the assembly nor showed how they were greatly affected by the takeover of the assembly by the National Assembly.
In the same vein, Raji has written to the Inspector General of Police, informing him that he had already filed a motion for a stay of execution of the judgment of the court.
In the letter dated December 11, Raji said: “We are pleased to inform you that following the judgment of the court delivered in the matter today (yesterday), we have lodged an appeal against the said judgment on behalf of our clients.
“We have also filed a motion for stay of execution and injunction. The implication of the motion for stay and injunction is that effect cannot be given to the judgment of the court until the motion is disposed of.”
However, following the high court judgment, the five anti-Amaechi lawmakers were said to have hatched a plot to commence the impeachment of the governor yesterday.
A statement signed by the Chief Press Secretary the governor, Mr. David Iyofor, said the plan of the five lawmakers is to sit in the state assembly from today.
“They will be supported and led into the assembly complex by the Police. The members would also have their thugs who are mostly ex-militants in the assembly chambers.
“The five members would then illegally declare vacant the seats of 25 lawmakers under the guise that the 25 pro-Amaechi lawmakers have moved to All Progressives Congress (APC).
“Once this is done, they will now unconstitutionally move for the impeachment of Amaechi.”