The Federal High Court in Port Harcourt has fixed March 18, 2024, as the date for the crucial hearing of a lawsuit seeking the removal of 27 legislators who defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Led by Speaker Martin Amaewhule, these lawmakers, staunch supporters of former Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike, made their switch amid a political showdown with the current governor, Siminalayi Fubara.
The lawsuit, filed by the Rivers State Civil Society Organisations, challenges the legality of the legislators’ defection, citing a violation of Section 109 of the 1999 Constitution. This section mandates the forfeiture of legislative seats when members depart from the party that sponsored their election into the assembly.
Initially slated for a recent Monday, the hearing was postponed due to the absence of Justice Stephen Dalyop Pam, who attended a judges’ conference, necessitating an adjournment.
In another legal development, the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt Division, has granted a motion by a group of Rivers elders, led by Chief Arabs Sara-Igbe, for substituted service of court documents on the leader of the pro-Wike legislative faction.
This group contests the legitimacy of a peace resolution brokered by President Bola Tinubu in December to reconcile the feud between Governors Wike and Fubara. They argue that the intervention and its outcomes, including concessions to the pro-Wike faction, were constitutionally unsound and biased against Governor Fubara.
Despite facing dismissal by the Rivers State High Court in January 2024 for lacking jurisdiction, the elders have persisted, appealing the decision. The Court of Appeal has expedited the case, scheduling the next hearing for April 8, 2024.