In response to the ongoing political unrest in Rivers State, legal expert Emmanuel Anele has asserted that the law does not grant the leader of one faction in the state assembly, Edison Ehie, the authority to declare the seats of 27 members from the opposing faction vacant.
During a live appearance on Thursday’s episode of Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily, the lawyer contended that Ehie’s proclamation is not in accordance with the provisions outlined in the 1999 Constitution.
Ehie, who leads a group of five members loyal to Governor Siminalayi Fubara, on Wednesday declared the seats of 27 lawmakers, led by Martin Amaewhule and loyal to former governor Nyesom Wike, as vacant.
This decision came after their defection from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The legal expert maintained that such an action does not conform to the specifications of Section 109, Subsection 1 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
“These members have not lost their seats unless the court now says that having defected from PDP to APC and the reasons you cited could not avail you of that defection, you hereby lose your seat.
“It’s on that ground that the speaker will now say, ‘In view of the judgement before me against the 27 lawmakers that defected, their seats have been declared vacant’,” Anele said.
“That section did not automatically empower the speaker to declare any seat vacant, unless the fact as to the issue of defection is determined by the court.”
“The provision of the section states that if there is a defection from party A to party B and that defection has not caused a division in the party that brought the member to power, then you can declare his seat vacant.”
The crisis within the 32-member Assembly stemmed from a conflict between Governor Fubara and his predecessor, Nyesom Wike. A Rivers High Court in Port Harcourt issued a restraining order against the Amaewhule-led group, preventing them from forcibly accessing the assembly complex until the case is heard.
The tension heightened when the governor presented the 2024 budget estimates of N800 billion to the Ehie-led group at the Government House. This coincided with the demolition of the Assembly Complex on Wednesday.
On Thursday, the governor gave his assent to the 2024 Appropriation Bill after it had been passed by the Ehie-led group in the Assembly.