A Federal High Court, Abuja, on Monday, reserved judgment in a suit filed by the Rivers House of Assembly’s Speaker, Martin Amaewhule, against Gov. Siminalayi Fubara, National Assembly (NASS) and others until Jan. 22.

Justice James Omotosho adjourned the matter for judgment after counsel for the parties presented their arguments for and against the case.

According to reports, the Rivers House of Assembly and Amaewhule are 1st and 2nd plaintiffs in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1613/2023.

In the amended originating summons dated Dec. 7, 2023 but filed Dec. 11, 2023 by their team of lawyers including Ken Njemanze, SAN, Ferdinand Orbih, SAN, among others, the plaintiffs sued the NASS, Senate President, Deputy Senate President, Senate Majority Leader, Senate Minority Leader as 1st to 5th defendants respectively.

Also joined in the suit include House of Representatives Speaker, House Deputy Speaker, House Majority Leader, House Minority Leader, Clerk to NASS as 6th to 10th defendants.

They also sued Governor of Rivers, Attorney-General of Rivers, Commissioner of Finance, Accountant-General of Rivers, Rivers State Civil Service Commission, Inspector-General (I-G) of Police and Rt. Honourable Edison Ehie, who is also listed as Rivers Assembly’s Speaker in the suit, as 11th to 17th defendants respectively.

The plaintiffs sought an order of injunction restran‘ng 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 1* Plaintiff under the leadership of the 2” Plaintiff as the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly for the purpose of transacting the business of the 1% Plaintiff.

They sought an order of injunction restraining Gov. Fubara from impeding or frustrating the assembly under Amaewhule’s leadership as its speaker.

They equally sought 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.

Alternatively, they sought an order of injunction restraining them from denying the assembly of the due funds for running its affairs including the payment of salaries, allowances, emoluments and meeting its financial obligations no matter how described, among other 11 reliefs.

Upon resumed hearing on Monday, Justice Omotosho granted the application for joinder filed by Ehie.

Ehie, who also listed himself as speaker of Rivers Assembly, was joined in the suit as 17 defendants and the court made an order deeming all processes filed by him as being properly filed.

Plaintiffs’ lawyer, Njemanze informed the court that contrary to the insinuation, he did not file any motion of discontinuance of the case.

“We are ready to proceed on the substantive matter but we have a motion pending. It is a motion filed on 15 day of December, 2023. We are asking for the restoration of status quo as at November 29, 2023,” he said.

The senior lawyer said that pursuant to the order of the court made on Dec. 11, 2023, the plaintiffs amended the originating summons in the suit in which they sought 11 reliefs and raised six questions for determination.

He said the 26-paragraph affidavit was deposed to by Amaewhule, the 2nd plaintiff.

He also said that on Dec. 15, 2023, a motion on notice was filed, seeking an order to restrain Fubara, A-G, finance commissioner, and the accountant-general from continuing the demolition and destruction of the house of assembly complex in Port Harcourt.

“We are saying that they want to deter us from performing our constitutional duties despite the order my lord made ex-parte,” he said.

He said they ignored the order even after it was extended.

“In this situation, you have the power to discipline all the parties,” he said.

Justice Omotosho then said he read online that the issue had been settled.

But Njemanze responded this: “As at the time we came, the House of Assembly was performing its work, but now, they are being interfered with.”
The lawyer, who informed the court that only about four members passed the state’s budget, urged the court to grant their prayers

On his part, counsel for the 1st to 10th defendants (NASS), Dr Joshua Musa, SAN, said he filed a counter affidavit on Dec 14, 2023.

According to him, the counter affidavit is a counter by nomenclature because our position is that the circumstances for the invitation of National Assembly to take over the assembly has not arisen.

“We are not opposing the originating summons having regards to the documents presented.
“An invitation to take over at this stage is an invitation for constitutional mischief, which we will not support,” he said.

K. A. Imafidon, who appeared for Gov. Fubara, told the court that his client instructed them to withdraw all that they filed in the suit.

“We have a motion on notice seeking to dismiss the plaintiffs’ suit dated on 11 and filed 12 Dec. 2023. We also filed a motion on notice dated and filed on Dec. 11 to set aside the interim.orders made in this suit on the Nov 30.

“We have a counter affidavit in opposition to the plaintiffs’ motion on notice for interlocutory injunction dated Dec 12 and filed same day, etc
“We sought to withdraw them and urge the court to grant our prayer,” he said.

M. O. Ojo, who appeared appeared for Ehie (17th defendant), however prayed the court to stand down the matter on the grounds that the information he had was that the parties had settled their differences.

He pleaded with the court to grant his request to allow his senior take over the matter.

The judge, however, cautioned counsel against drawing conclusion based on what is read or seeing on social media.

“it is the fact before the court that the court will place its decision on. It is the way parties conduct thier matter that will determine the position of the court.

“This is a court of record. It is this record that will be transmitted to Appear Court and Supreme Court. I.must based my decision on what you are doing here,” he warned.

Omotosho, who said he had gone through the court file and I had not seen any notice of discontinuance of the case, however granted Ojo’s plea.

Upon resumed hearing, Oluwole Aladedoye, SAN:, who now announced appearance for Ehie, said he did not come earlier because of the information that the matter was to be withdrawn since President Bola Tinubu had intervened.

“I owe my lord that duty to inform my lord that the understanding they have is that the 2nd plaintiff, in particular, is to withdraw the action,” he said.

Aladedoye notified that the 2nd plaintiff even attended the meeting convened by the president where the decision was taken.

The judge then asked if there was a term of settlement before the court.

“If that was the position, why did you move the motion for joinder,” he said.

Moving his motion, Aladedoye said a notice of preliminary objection challenging the jurisdiction of the court was filed on Dec 18, 2023.

According to him, the preliminary objection prays for an order striking out the suit for want of jurusidction.

Besides, he said a counter affidavit was also filed We also filed on Dec 18 in response to the amended originating summons with one exhibit.

The lawyer urged the court to dismiss the suit.

“I have a question for plaintiff. Do you think we can stil continue with this matter in view of the submission of counsel for the 17th defendant that the president had settled the issue?” Justice Omotosho asked Njemanze.

Responding, Njemanze said he was aware that President Tinubu invited all the parties, excluding the NASS and its members (1st to 10th defendants), to a meeting.

“And at that meeting, it was agreed that the 11th defendant (Fubara) and his supporters shall withdraw all pending suits.

“Secondly, it was also agreed that the plaintiffs shall withdraw the notice of impeachment against the governor.

“The notice of impeachment has been withdrawn and the assembly is sitting fully but the governor has failed to withdraw the suit he, as governor, filed at Rivers State High Court.

“What we are supposed to do under the agreement, we have done. If tomorrow, I am instructed to withdraw, I will do so. We are for peace,” he responded.

Then the judge asked Aladedoye: “Who is the 17th defendant and on what capacity did you file this suit?”

The senior lawyer responded thus: “As at the time your lordship adjourned on 7th day of Dec., 2023, and up until Mr President convened the meeting, the 17th defendant was the speaker of Rivers Assembly.

“It was after the intervention of the president and the stakeholders in Rivers that it was resolved that the parties should restore status ante bellum.

“And it was in line with that that the 17tj defendant resigned, even as member of the house of assembly on the strength of the understanding they had.

“That resignation was based on the agreement parties had and he ceased to be the speaker on the basis of the understanding they had with President of Nigeria.”

The judge, who was unhappy with the development, said: “The motion for joinder was moved on 8th of January, 2024 as speaker, even when he (Ehie) has ceased to be.”

He described the act as move to mislead the court.
Aladedoye, however, clarified that when Ojo appeared before the court on the last adjourned date, he did inform that the parties had settled the matter.

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