FRESH TROUBLE FOR 27 RIVERS LAWMAKERS: President Bola Tinubu has no constitutional power to reinstate them, they remain sacked — Femi Falana ( SAN

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Amid the controversy trailing the intervention of President Bola Tinubu in the crisis rocking Rivers State, human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, has said that the President cannot reinstate 27 cross carpeting members of the Rivers State House of Assembly.

In a statement yesterday, Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), said that presidential interventions must always be grounded in the provisions of the constitution.

“With respect, the presidential reinstatement of the 27 cross carpeting members of the Rivers State House of Assembly by the Presidency is alien to the Constitution in every material particular,” Falana said.

Rivers State has been a theatre of the absurd in the last three months with the state House of Assembly serving as the “boxing ring”. The rift between Governor Siminalayi Fubara and his predecessor, Nyesom Wike, split lawmakers in the House with 27 of them decamping from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), a party in whose central government Wike currently serves as minister.

President Bola Tinubu
President Bola Tinubu

The feud also saw the emergence of parallel sittings, an impeachment plot against the governor, the demolition of the Assembly complex, and a gale of resignations of pro-Wike commissioners in Fubara’s cabinet.

The president had on Monday met with Fubara and Wike at the Aso Villa in Abuja.

After Monday’s meeting, the President directed that the warring parties withdraw all matters instituted in the courts by Fubara, and his team, and that the leadership of Martin Amaewhule in the Rivers State House of Assembly be recognised, and not that of Edison Ehie.

Amaewhule and his 26 allies were also said to have been reinstated in the House following the presidential directive.

However, Falana said, “The seats of the cross carpeting members have been declared vacant by the Speaker known to law. To that extent, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is mandatorily required to conduct the by-election once the ex parte order issued by the Federal High Court last Friday is quashed.”

The senior lawyer said the cross carpeting legislator can only retain their seats if they can prove that the political party that sponsored them is divided into two or more factions.

“Even if all the cases in the Rivers State High Court and the Federal High Court are withdrawn in line with the advice of the president, it is submitted that all actions taken by the Speaker (Ehie) recognised by the Rivers State High Court, remain valid, including his pronouncement on the vacant seats of the 27 cross carpeting members of the House.

“In other words, only a court of law is constitutionally competent to set aside the pronouncement of the Speaker which is anchored on section 109 of the Constitution. Furthermore, as the Speaker (Ehie) has not been removed by the required number of legislators, a presidential directive cannot remove him,” Falana stated.

The senior lawyer further asked INEC to conduct a by-election to fill the 27 vacant seats, adding that “the remaining members of the House are competent to conduct legislative business except the impeachment of the governor which can only be carried out by the two thirds of the entire members of the House”.

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