Purported Court Order Surfaces Ahead of Ruling, More Woes for Judiciary

*CUPP confirms development 

*Centre uncovers plot to halt by-elections

*Wike defies Fubara’s men, returns to state 

*Frank wants Rivers DPO’s death probed 

Chuks Okocha, Sunday Aborisade and Alex Enumah in Abuja

An order of a Federal High Court, allegedly, written by Justice Donatus Okorowo, halting the removal of 27 lawmakers in Rivers State House of Assembly, who recently defected from Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to All Progressives Congress (APC), has gone viral, a further embarrassment for the judiciary.
This is just as the opposition political parties under the aegis of Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP), yesterday, confirmed plans to validate defection of the 27 members of the Assembly from PDP to APC.

At the same time, the Centre for Africa Liberation and Socioeconomic Rights (CALSER) raised the alarm over an alleged plot by some members of the Rivers State House of Assembly to thwart the conduct of by-elections into the state legislature.
However, in spite of warnings and threats from loyalists of Rivers State Governor Siminalayi Fubara, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Nyesom Wike, landed in Port Harcourt on Saturday, to a tumultuous reception.

Nevertheless, political activist and former Deputy National Publicity Secretary of APC, Timi Frank, called for urgent investigation of Wike over alleged complicity in the killing of a Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in Ahoada Division in Rivers State, Bako Angbashim.
The purported ruling, which, according to the court document, would have been issued today, suddenly surfaced on the social media.

What is currently playing out in Rivers State seems to highlight the crisis of confidence that recently rocked the Nigerian judiciary, following inconsistencies discovered in the Certified True Copy (CTC) of the majority judgement of the Court of Appeal in the Kano State governorship election petition, which Chief Registrar of the Court of Appeal, Mr Mohammed Umar Bangari, described as mere clerical errors.
The three-member panel of the appellate court had in their majority judgement dismissed Governor Abba Yusuf’s appeal against the ruling of the Kano State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal for lacking merit.

But in the CTC released to lawyers, some contradictions appeared, which seemed to give verdict in favour of both the appellant and the first respondent, APC.
Many supporters of the appellant and some lawyers alleged that the judgement was in favour of Yusuf before it was manipulated to favour the APC candidate. They alleged that what the justices read in court was different from what was contained in the CTC, and insisted that the CTC, being a written document, was the original judgement.

But the appellate court’s chief registrar dismissed the contradictions as nothing serious, adding that even the lawyers and the politicians knew the truth, but were merely playing to the gallery.
Bangari stressed that what happened in the judgement was a clerical error, which happened from time to time. He said the courts had a way of addressing such errors through the instrumentality of the law.

The chief registrar further contended that the contradictions did not in any way invalidate the findings and conclusion of the court.
In the current Rivers State issue, according to a copy of the ruling due to be delivered today, Okorowo, in granting the order restrained the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), PDP, Rivers State House of Assembly, Clerk of Rivers State House of Assembly, the Inspector General (IG) of Police, and the Department of State Service (DSS) from taking any steps to remove the 27 lawmakers from office over their defection.

The purported ruling in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1681/2023, is dated Monday, December 18, 2023, although not signed by the judge.
Besides, the purported ruling did not state who filed the suit or moved the injunctive application on behalf of the plaintiffs/applicants.
The alleged ruling said, “By this urgent application, the Plaintiffs/Applicants are praying this Honourable Court for 5 (five) interim injunctive reliefs.

“I have carefully listened to the submissions of the learned senior counsel and also considered the affidavit of Rt. Hon. Honourable Martin Chike Amaewhule (the 1” Plaintiff) in support of the motion, the documentary evidence marked EXHBITS Al — A5, BiBS and C as well as the Written Address in support.
“The urgency of the subject matter of this suit is abundantly clear from the affidavit evidence and the supporting documents. This court is eminently vested with the requisite jurisdiction to consider an application of this nature in the circumstances having regard to the provisions of Order 26 Rule 5 of the Federal High Court.”

While observing that the court had a duty to intervene in really urgent situations such as this, the court held that it could not ignore the import of evidence tendered before it, which had affected the legal rights of the applicants and necessitated them to find refuge by defecting to the APC.
The court, allegedly, held, “In the circumstances, there is urgent need to protect the seats of the Plaintiffs/Applicants from being declared vacant by the Defendants or being hampered in the performance of their legislative function.

“For the avoidance of doubt, an interim order of injunction is hereby made restraining: The 1 and 3 Defendants, either by themselves, their officials, officers, servants, agents, staff or privies from declaring vacant or taking any steps whatsoever to declare vacant the seats of the Plaintiffs/Applicants at the Rivers State House of Assembly; from withdrawing the Plaintiffs/Applicants’ respective Certificates of Return and from conducting fresh elections to fill in the seats of the Plaintiffs/Applicants at the Rivers State House of Assembly, pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice.
“The 1st Defendant from conducting fresh elections to fill in the seats of the Plaintiffs/Applicants in Rivers State House of Assembly, pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice.”

Besides, the court restrained the defendants from interfering with or impeding in any way or attempting to interfere in any way with the performance of the plaintiff’s official and legislative functions as Speaker, Deputy Speaker, and members, respectively, of the Rivers State House of Assembly, pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice.
The judge subsequently fixed Wednesday, January 17, 2024, for hearing.
CUPP, while confirming the development, alleged that the plot was to pave the way for the impeachment of Fubara.

CUPP made the allegations at a news conference addressed by its National Secretary, Mr. Peter Ameh, in Abuja
The group claimed that it had intercepted credible intelligence and draft ruling that was purportedly written by a judge.
Ameh further alleged that the purported draft verdict was currently in circulation on the web and would be delivered on Monday (today) or within the week in a secret application filed in court after the close of business between Thursday and Friday last week.

CUPP vowed to drag any judge that delivered such ruling to the National Judicial Council (NJC), even as it asked heads of security agencies to steer clear of the political crisis and ensure that the institutions of government, especially the Rivers State government, were protected.
Meanwhile, CALSER raised the alarm over an alleged plot by some members of the Rivers State House of Assembly to thwart the conduct of by-elections in the state.

At a parley with newsmen, the centre claimed that the lawmakers planned to approach the courts to challenge the legality of the letter sent to INEC to conduct by-elections to fill the vacuum created by the 27 members’ defection to another political party.
Convener of the group, Princess Ajibola, urged the lower courts not to allow themselves to be used to undermine the stability of the country by rejecting any overtures from the 27 defected lawmakers in the Rivers State House of Assembly.

Wike Defies Fubara’s Men, Returns to Rivers

Despite warnings and threats from Fubara’s loyalists, Wike landed in Port Harcourt on Saturday, to a tumultuous reception.
Honourable Boma Goodhead, a member of the House of Representatives, and other protesters, had dared Wike to step foot into Rivers State, vowing not to allow him disturb the state’s peace.

They called on President Bola Tinubu to intervene, warning Wike to stay away.
But Wike, accompanied by Senator Barry Mpigi, Senator Allwell Onyesoh, Minister of State, Petroleum, Heineken Lokpobiri, Rivers State House of Assembly members, and local government chairmen, returned to Rivers State, defying the warnings.
As Wike defied threats and returned to Rivers State, THISDAY reported a video of Fubara being hailed by a live band in the same way Wike was idolised months ago.
Months ago, the live band and hype men, who accompanied Wike to occasions, interspersed his speech with words of adulation to him and mockery of his political foes.

A similar form of adulation emerged on Friday as Fubara commenced the construction of a 20,000 housing project, which provided the same platform Wike almost regularly used to “pepper” his political enemies with the reprise of the live band.
In a related development, Frank called on the Inspector General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, and Director-General of DSS, Yusuf Bichi, to urgently investigate Wike over alleged complicity in the killing of a DPO, Bako Angbashim, in Ahoada Division, Rivers State.

The activist insisted that all federal lawmakers whose names were mentioned by Goodhead in the killing must also be investigated. He also called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate the alleged diversion of $300 million from Rivers State’s IGR.
 Angbashim, a Superintendent of Police, had led his men to raid criminal hideouts in the Odemude community in Ahoada West Local Government Area of the state on September 8, when a dreaded cult group led by Okpara ambushed them, opened fire and eventually captured Angbashim, decapitated his body and filmed their action.

His killing attracted nationwide condemnation, with the police high command, the Federal and the Rivers State governments ordering an investigation and immediate arrest of the suspects.
 Frank, in a statement in Abuja, had reacted to the allegation by Goodhead, representing Asari-Toru Federal Constituency of Rivers State, that Wike had a hand in the killing of the DPO.

Goodhead had at a protest rally in Rivers State in support of Fubara, accused Wike and some federal lawmakers of masterminding the killing of the DPO.
She also claimed that the governor had caused the diversion of $300 million given by Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) for Ogoni clean-up and N9 billion from the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of Rivers State.
Frank said the investigation had become necessary to determine the veracity or otherwise of the claims by Goodhead against Wike and two federal lawmakers from the state.
 He called on Tinubu to set up a judicial panel of inquiry to unravel the killing of the DPO in order to ensure justice for the dead.

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