Thursday, 12 December 2013

Court Stops N’Assembly Takeover Of Rivers Assembly’s Functions

A Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday nullified the takeover of the functions of the Rivers State House of Assembly by the National Assembly.

The court, presided over by Justice Ahmed Mohammed, made an order of injunction restraining the National Assembly from assuming the legislative functions of the state assembly.
The court equally ruled that the National Assembly had no powers to order the Inspector-General of Police to redeploy the Commissioner of Police in Rivers State, Joseph Mbu.
The suit on which the court ruled on Wednesday was filed by two Rivers State indigenes – Tamunoteim Asobari and John Kpakol.
The plaintiffs had approached the court to challenge the decision of the National Assembly to take over the functions of the state assembly after a bloody clash between loyalists of Governor Rotimi Amaechi and his opponents in the assembly.
The National Assembly had also directed the IGP to redeploy the Commissioner of Police, who was accused of playing a partisan role in the crisis in the state.
The Senate, the Senate President, the House of Representatives, its speaker, the IGP and the Chairman of the Senate Committee on States and Local Government are part of the defendants in the suit.
Other respondents are the Attorney-General of Rivers State, the Rivers State House of Assembly and its speaker.
The plaintiffs asked the court to nullify actions taken by the National Assembly, and also make an order of injunction restraining the National Assembly from assuming the functions of the Rivers State House of Assembly.
But the defendants asked the court to dismiss the suit on the grounds that the subject matter could only be determined by the Supreme Court, and that the plaintiffs lacked the locus standi to file the action.
Justice Mohammed, had initially set November 27, 2013 to rule on the matter but the planned ruling could not hold after some of the defendants filed separate appeals at the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, in a bid to stay further proceedings in the matter.
The said appeals were dismissed by the Court of Appeal on Monday, with the appellate court ruling that the applications were merely a ploy to “arrest” the already prepared judgment of the Federal High Court.
With the coast cleared for him to deliver the verdict, Justice Mohammed, in his ruling on Wednesday held that the Abuja FHC had the jurisdiction to hear and determine the suit.
He equally held that the plaintiffs, who contended that they were indigenes of Rivers State and voted for members of the state assembly, had the locus standi to file the suit.
Determining the substantive issues raised in the suit, Justice Mohammed held that, although the National Assembly had the powers to assume the functions of a state legislature, it could only do so when the state assembly was no longer able to sit to perform its duties.
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