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It’s An Aberration For 4 Out Of 32 Rivers Assembly Members To Conduct House Business, Says Chuks Uguru

Liborous Oshoma, however, said that the 27 defectors ceased to be members of the Rivers House of Assembly once their seats were declared vacant.

Nigerian lawyer, Chuks Uguru, has said that the Rivers State Assembly holding plenary to discuss state matters and deliberate on issues with only about four members after 27 lawmakers defected from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to the All-Progressives’ Congress (APC) is an aberration and should not have happened.

Uguru, however, was countered by another lawyer Liborous Oshoma, who said that if the seats of the 27 lawmakers had been declared vacant before the presentation of the 2024 appropriation bill, then, the members who were present at the House meeting are the only ones who currently make up the Rivers State House of Assembly.

In an interview with ARISE NEWS on Thursday, Uguru spoke regarding the ongoing controversy in Rivers State, saying that while it was well within the rights of the speaker to declare the seats of the 27 defector lawmakers empty, there was no order that was given by the few people left in the house to conduct state business before the issue is sorted in the courts.

Uguru said, “I have gone through that order with the microscopic thoroughness of a scientist searching for an invincible jam, and I am not able to see where the court gave it in promoter of authority to four members of the House of assembly to sit and legitimately transact the business of the house.

“I am aware that by the majestic provision of the constitution, in section 96 of the 1999 constitution, that the forum of the state house of assembly must be one-third of all the members. How four or five members can be equated to one-third in a house where you have over thirty members is an aberration, and as far as I am concerned, it cannot be justified.”

However, Oshoma, who was alongside him in the interview, said that did not matter, explaining that if the seats had been declared empty before the House meeting was held, then the defector lawmakers ceased to be a part of the House of Assembly immediately.

Oshoma said, “If these seats had been declared vacant before the presentation of the budget, what now becomes the interpretation you will give to section 96? What is the quorum of the house as at that time if 27 members’ seats have been declared vacant? So, if we say you have four members here, and two, their seats have been declared vacant, so what it means is that you are no more members of the house. So, that is it, because you can’t take one section and read it in isolation, it must be read wholistically. And also, there is no provision in the law where it says where members seats have been declared vacant, other members shall not do the business of the house until the issue is determined by the court. There is no provision in our constitution in as far of that is concerned.”

He went on to say, “Except someone is showing me a contrary position in the constitution that where members’ seats are declared vacant, and then the business of the assembly should not be conducted until the court rules on it, then that’s where I will fault, if you like call it kangaroo presentation or the laughable presentation of budget that happened in the assembly in Port Harcourt.”

Oshoma further expanded on the controversy within the state as he said, “The Supreme court had copiously consistently interpreted what crisis in a political party means, and the crisis that the supreme court had interpreted means crisis at the centre, at the national level of the political party, because what politicians usually do is to orchestrate crisis at their ward level and now use that as a basis, as a yardstick to defect.

“I think, this section of the constitution, what we need to do is completely leave out that section of if there is a merger or if there is a crisis. If you want to defect from a political party, you should automatically lose your seat and go and recontest that seat if you must remain in the house or in the senate. This issue of creating a loophole provided there is a crisis has given a lot of politicians the opportunity to use that as a yardstick to defect.”

Another lawyer sat in on the interview, Chetam Thierry, then said that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should start the process of conducting elections to replace the 27 seats that have been vacated so that there will be representation for those constituencies.

Thierry said, “It is still within the rights of these lawmakers whose seats have been declared vacant as at today to actually exercise their rights before the courts, to reach out to the courts and appeal or actually bring up an issue over the declaration that is being made.

“But whilst they are even doing that, or even before they do that or even before they do that, we expect INEC to at this point, start up the process of conducting fresh elections within Rivers State, because these people represented various constituencies which they have now forfeited that their position or the constituencies they represent because of their current action. So, we now expect that INEC should actually go ahead, conduct election in these offices pending whatever court decisions that may come up there from.”

Ozioma Samuel-Ugwuezi

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