A State High Court in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, has dismissed a suit seeking to restrain Governor Siminalayi Fubara from presenting a new 2024 budget to the Rivers House of Assembly.
Governor Fubara, amidst the political crisis in the state, signed into law the N800 billion budget for 2024 after presenting it to a four-member assembly loyal to him.
But President Bola Tinubu, in an effort to end the crisis, brokered a controversial peace deal between the two main actors in the crisis, Governor Fubara and his predecessor, Nyesom Wike, who is now FCT minister.
Following the peace agreement, Fubara will present the 2024 budget and forward the names of pro-Wike commissioners who resigned from the State Executive Council to the assembly for consideration and approval.
But a group in the state, Rivers Elders, which had described the peace agreement as a violation of the constitution, last week asked the court to invalidate it and prevent Governor Fubara from presenting a new budget and submitting the names of resigned commissioners to the state. assembly.
The assembly is led by Wike-backed legislators, who seniors said had lost their seats after his defection to the APC.
The plaintiffs in the suit, on behalf of Rivers elders, include Victor Jumbo, Bennett Birabi, Andrew Uchendu, Anabs Sara-Igbe, Ann Kio-Briggs and Emmanuel Deinma.
When the suit came up for hearing on Tuesday, Judge Chiwendu Nworgu denied hearing a motion for substitute service to some parties, but instead issued a ruling, declining jurisdiction to hear the suit, the Punch newspaper reported.
Citing the earlier ruling by Justice James Omotosho of a Federal High Court in Abuja that set aside decisions made by the four-member assembly, Justice Nworgu dismissed the suit.
One of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, Emmanuel Rukari, expressed disappointment in the judge’s decision, according to the Punch report.
He said “If you ask me as an attorney for My Lord’s ruling, it will appear that he has delved into matters for which the parties have not been fully notified.
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“The only thing we came to court this morning to do is request an ex parte order for substituted service because most of the parties have already been served, others we have not been able to serve.
“That is why we went to court to file an ex parte application to allow us to notify the remaining parties, only for him (the judge) to delve into jurisdiction where no one from the other party had entered to object or challenge his jurisdiction.
“He also went ahead to cite the Omotosho case, which was handed over within a week. I don’t know if there is a certified true copy that he investigated because we spent over an hour waiting for his decision when he apologized and walked in.
“So, he probably called all the Toms, Dicks and Harrys to help him with what to say. “It is quite shameful, I will say, that we have reached this level where the judiciary is no longer the hope for the common man.”
The lawyer promised to inform his clients about the court decision, after which he will take “appropriate measures to promote the course of justice.”