HomeNewsRivers Budget Crisis: Court Dismisses Suit Against Governor Fubara

Rivers Budget Crisis: Court Dismisses Suit Against Governor Fubara

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A federal high court in Abuja has dismissed a suit seeking to stop Gov. Siminalayi Fubara from re-presenting the N800 billion 2024 budget of Rivers state. The court also set aside an earlier interim order that had restrained the parties from taking any further steps in the matter.

Six elders of the state filed the suit, expressing dissatisfaction with the budget’s passage by a faction of the state assembly and its subsequent signing into law by the governor. They also challenged the constitutionality of a peace agreement that they alleged President Bola Tinubu made the governor enter into with his predecessor and current Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike.

The plaintiffs alleged that the agreement, signed on December 18, 2023, violated the relevant provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

However, Justice Joyce Abdulmalik, who issued the ruling on Tuesday, determined that the lawsuit constituted an abuse of court process and duplicated a similar case already decided by a sister court on the same day the interim order was granted.

 

A similar suit

Justice James Omotosho, a brother judge, had, in the judgment delivered on Jan. 22, set aside the Rivers’ N800 billion 2024 budget passed by the five members of the house and signed into law by Gov. Fubara on Dec. 14, 2023.

Justice Omotosho also restrained Gov. Fubara from frustrating the house of assembly, under Martin Amaewhule-led leadership, from sitting or interfering in its constitutional and legislative functions.

The judge equally barred the National Assembly, the police and any member of the state executive arm from interfering in the assembly’s affairs.

 

A lost opportunity

Justice Abdulmalik asserted that the plaintiffs’ counsel, David Maduka, missed the chance to present arguments regarding the appropriateness of the current lawsuit, despite a prior judgment in a similar case.

She stated that, at the time the interim order was granted, a judgment existed concerning a matter similar to the present suit.

The judge then ordered Maduka to address the court on the judgment which had already settled the case brought before her.

Responding, the lawyer said he was unaware of the judgment.

“I have not been able to see that judgment my lord. If I had seen it, I would have been able to address the court,” he said.

Maduka prayed the court to stand down the matter to enable him get the judgment so he could properly address the court.

However, Justice Abdulmalik asserted that the current suit pertained to a Rivers’ assembly issue already resolved by a sister court.

She held that Maduka had lost the opportunity to afford him fair hearing.

She said: “Therefore, I hold that the plaintiffs/applicants are privy to that judgment,” which barred the parties from acting contrary to the decision of the court.

According to the judge, the plaintiffs/applicants are at liberty to study that judgment to know which way to go.

 

A final verdict

Therefore, she held that the motion ex-parte filed on Jan. 25 had been overtaken by event. Justice Abdulmalik, who vacated the earlier interim order, dismissed the suit in its entirety.

Although Maduka stood up to explain that he was not deliberately avoiding addressing the court, the judge did not give him a listening ear.

The ruling means that Gov. Fubara can now re-present the 2024 budget of Rivers state to the house of assembly for proper consideration and passage.

The governor has also expressed his commitment to work with all stakeholders, including the assembly, the judiciary, the federal government and the opposition, to ensure peace and development in the state.

Source: Vanguard 

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