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HomeNationalCourt refuses to declare seats of 27 pro-Wike lawmakers vacant in Rivers...

Court refuses to declare seats of 27 pro-Wike lawmakers vacant in Rivers assembly

A high court in Rivers state has declared that Martin Amaewhuke, speaker of the House of assembly, and 26 other lawmakers are still members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Delivering judgment on Monday, Okogbule Gbasam, the presiding judge, held that the claimants failed to prove that Amaewhule and the 26 lawmakers had defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Gbasam noted that defection cannot be established through newspaper publications, radio announcements, or online publications, as tendered by the claimants.

The judge held that membership in a party is only proven by being listed on its register or by a membership card, and such members must fulfill all requirements of their membership in the party.

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Consequently, the judge ruled that the lawmakers have not lost their seats, noting that the Rivers state government is bound to obey all laws passed by the assembly.

Gbasam’s judgment comes less than a week after Charles Wali, another state high court judge, issued an interim order restraining the lawmakers from carrying out legislative functions over defection claims.

In a ruling delivered on May 30, Wali stopped the lawmakers from conducting legislative sittings anywhere, including within the legislative quarters, pending the determination of the suit.

The Rivers assembly has been polarised since 2023, following the rift between Siminalayi Fubara, state governor, and Nyesom Wike, minister of the federal capital territory (FCT).

In December 2023, 27 members of the assembly defected from the PDP to the APC.

The Rivers assembly has 32 seats. One of the lawmakers, Dinebari Loolo, died in September 2023.

In October 2023, Ehie Edison was elected speaker of the factional assembly after his removal as house leader by members led by Amaewhule amid the plot to impeach Fubara.

Edison later resigned as a lawmaker to become chief of staff to the governor.

The lawmakers in the Amaewhule-led faction are loyal to Wike.

Recently, Victor Jumbo, the lawmaker representing the Bonny constituency, was elected factional speaker.

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