March 5, 2024

Femi Falana, human rights lawyer and senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), says President Bola Tinubu “has no constitutional role” to resolve the political crises in Rivers and Ondo states.

In a statement on Tuesday, Falana said while Tinubu may intervene in the crises rocking the states, his intervention must always be grounded in the provisions of the constitution.

Falana said the president’s interventions ought to be “purely advisory” and described the reinstatement of the 27 assembly members of Rivers assembly who defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as “alien to the constitution”.

“The seats of the cross carpeting members have been declared vacant by the Speaker known to law. To that extent, the Independent National Electoral Commission is mandatorily required to conduct the by-election once the ex parte order issued by the Federal High Court last Friday is quashed,” the statement reads.

“The 27 members of the Rivers State House of Assembly who decamped from the PDP to APC have lost their seats because the PDP that sponsored them is not fictionalised or divided as stipulated by the Constitution.

“Even if all the cases in the Rivers State High Court and the Federal High Court are withdrawn in line with the advice of the President, it is submitted that all actions taken by the Speaker recognised by the Rivers State High Court, remain valid, including his pronouncement on the vacant seats of the 27 cross carpeting members of the House.

“In other words, only a court of law is constitutionally competent to set aside the pronouncement of the Speaker which is anchored on section 109 of the Constitution. Furthermore, as the Speaker has not been removed by the required number of legislators, a presidential directive cannot remove him.

“It is also necessary to point out that until a by-election is conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission to fill the 27 vacant seats, the remaining members of the House are competent to conduct legislative business except the impeachment of the Governor which can only be carried out by the two-thirds of the entire members of the House of Assembly.

“In view of the foregoing, the President and all the parties involved in finding political solutions to the crisis in Rivers State are advised to turn to the Constitution for guidance without any further delay.”

BACKGROUND

Over the past few weeks, there has been tension in Rivers over the feud between Siminalayi Fubara, governor of Rivers, and Nyesom Wike, his predecessor.

In the wake of the crisis, the Rivers house of assembly commenced impeachment proceedings against Fubara which the governor’s loyalists kicked against.

Thereafter, 27 lawmakers defected from the PDP to the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Subsequently, Edison Ehie, factional speaker of the Rivers assembly, declared the seats of the lawmakers who defected vacant.

On Monday, Fubara and Wike agreed to end the political feud between them after a meeting with Tinubu.

Among the resolutions reached at the meeting, all parties to the crisis agreed that all matters instituted in courts should be “immediately” withdrawn, while the 27 lawmakers who defected to the APC should be taken back as members of the assembly.

In Ondo, there were controversies around the need to hand over power to Lucky Aiyedatiwa, the deputy governor due to health issues faced by Rotimi Akeredolu, the state governor.

In November, Tinubu waded into the crisis in the state and sued for peace from all parties.

On December 13, the Ondo house of assembly declared Aiyetadiwa as acting governor of the state after receiving a medical leave letter from the governor.

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