By Ojukwu Emmanuel Chiadikaobi
The federal high court in Abuja has invalidated and annulled the passage of the 2024 budget for Rivers State, declaring it null and void. The judgment, delivered on Monday by James Omotoso, the presiding judge, directed Siminalayi Fubara, the governor of Rivers State, to resubmit the budget to the officially constituted House of Assembly, led by Speaker Martin Amaewhule.
Governor Fubara had initially presented the budget, titled ‘Budget of Renewed Hope, Consolidation, and Continuity,’ amounting to N800 billion, to only five out of the more than 30 lawmakers in the state house of assembly in December 2023.
This legal development transpired following the defection of 25 lawmakers from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC), resulting in the declaration of their seats as vacant.
Judge Omotoso’s ruling not only mandates Governor Fubara to release all funds allocated to the Rivers House of Assembly but also prohibits any interference by the governor in the assembly’s activities. The court further nullified the redeployment of the clerk and deputy clerk of the state assembly by the state’s head of civil service, emphasizing that such appointments fall within the purview of the speaker as per the Rivers State Assembly Service Commission law.
Additionally, the court declared that the Inspector-General of Police and the Nigeria Police Force are obligated to continue providing security for all Rivers citizens, including members of the state assembly. A temporary halt was ordered on the planned demolition and reconstruction of the Rivers State Assembly complex.
In a notable restriction, the national assembly has been barred from assuming control of the Rivers assembly or entertaining any requests from the state governor, marking a pivotal moment in the state’s legislative and executive dynamics.