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Rivers State Budget Nullified by Court Ruling

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The Federal High Court in Abuja has declared the 2024 appropriation bill of Rivers State invalid, citing constitutional violations by the governor.

Justice James Omotosho presided over the court that ruled on Monday that the Rivers State House of Assembly did not properly present the budget as required by law.

The court also recognized Martin Amaewhule as the authentic Speaker of the Assembly, and faulted Governor Fubara for interfering with the legislative affairs of the state.

Governor Fubara had presented the 2024 budget to a faction of the Assembly loyal to him, led by Edison Ehie, while sidelining the Amaewhule-led faction, which was loyal to his predecessor and Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike.

The court held that the governor acted unconstitutionally when he redeployed the Clerk and Deputy Clerk of the Assembly, and ordered him to stop impeding or frustrating the operations of the Assembly under Amaewhule’s leadership.

The court also issued an injunction, restraining the National Assembly from taking over the legislative functions of the Rivers State Assembly, as requested by Governor Fubara.

The suit was filed by the Amaewhule-led faction of the Assembly, which had 23 members out of the 32-member House.

The defendants in the suit included the National Assembly, the Senate President, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Clerk to the National Assembly, the governor of Rivers State, the Attorney-General of Rivers, the Commissioner of Finance, the Accountant-General of Rivers, the Rivers State Civil Service Commission, the Inspector-General of Police, and Edison Ehie.

The court’s judgment is the latest development in the long-running political feud between Governor Fubara and Minister Wike, which had divided the state along party lines.

The two leaders had signed a peace pact in 2023, brokered by President Bola Tinubu, which included the recognition of Amaewhule as the rightful Speaker of the Assembly.

However, Governor Fubara had reneged on the agreement and refused to represent the 2024 budget to the Amaewhule-led faction for approval.

The opposition and civil society groups criticized the budget, which was estimated at N500 billion, for being unrealistic and lacking transparency.

Supporters of Minister Wike and the Amaewhule-led faction have hailed the court’s ruling as a victory for democracy and the rule of law.

They urged Governor Fubara to respect the court’s decision and cooperate with the Assembly to ensure good governance and development in the state.

However, Samuel Nwanosike, the governor’s spokesman, accused the court of bias and political motivation and vowed to appeal the ruling at a higher court.

He accused Minister Wike and his allies of influencing the judge and said that he would not succumb to any attempt to undermine his authority and mandate.

He also insisted that the 2024 budget was valid and in the best interest of the people of Rivers State.

The court’s ruling has raised uncertainty over the implementation of the 2024 budget and its impact on the state’s economy and social services.

It also poses a challenge to the peace and security of the state, which had witnessed several violent clashes and protests over the political crisis.

However, some analysts have expressed hope that the ruling could pave the way for a lasting resolution of the conflict and foster dialogue and reconciliation among the warring parties.

They urged the federal government and other stakeholders to intervene and ensure that they respect and enforce the court’s verdict, in order to uphold the constitution and the democratic process.

Source: Vanguard 

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