That Fubara’s relocation of Rivers House of Assembly to Govt House


In this report, Ise-Oluwa Ige traces the background facts surrounding the fresh on-going political crisis in Rivers State with a survey of stakeholders including top lawyers on Governor Siminalayi Fubara’s relocation of the state House of Assembly to Government House and his declaration of the seats of 27 lawmakers loyal to his predecessor, Nyesom Wike, vacant, at a time multiple trial and appellate law courts are seized of the facts of the case.


On May 6, 2024, Rivers State Governor, Siminalayi Fubara, declared vacant the seat of 27 factional members of the Rivers State House of Assembly currently led by Speaker Martins Amaewhule.

Fubara spoke on the fate of the 27 lawmakers in the state when he received on courtesy visit the Bayelsa State delegation of political and traditional leaders, led by former Governor of the state, Senator Henry Seriake Dickson, at the Government House in Port Harcourt.

He said he had to take the decision after the peace pact offered by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, late last year, to reconcile warring parties in the state broke down irretrievably.

He explained that he had acted like the big brother in the crisis, not interested in destroying the ‘house’, so that meaningful development could continue to be engendered in the State while securing tenable political relationship but that the 27 lawmakers had serially frustrated him.

Specifically, he said that ordinarily, the 27 lawmakers by their defection from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on whose back they rode to the state House of Assembly had automatically lost their seats but that he allowed them to remain floating for more reasons than one but that the lawmakers were not interested in any reconciliation.

The Amaewhule faction of the state house of assembly is loyal to the immediate past governor of the state, Nyesom Wike who is now the minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) while the other faction led by the newly elected Speaker, Victor Oko-Jumbo is loyal to the incumbent governor, Siminalayi Fubara.

APC orders 27 factional lawmakers to impeach Fubara

Less than 24 hours after Fubara made his position known on the 27 lawmakers loyal to his predecessor, Nyesom Wike, the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State held a press conference in Port Harcourt during which it directed the embattled 27 factional members of the State House of Assembly to commence, with immediate effect, an impeachment process against Governor Siminalayi Fubara.

Vanguard Law & Human Rights reports that the same 27 lawmakers had set an engine in motion in October 2023 to impeach the governor from office but had to terminate the process in December last year after President Bola Tinubu intervened in the political crisis rocking the state.

The state APC Caretaker Committee Chairman, Tony Okocha, who gave the fresh directive to impeach the governor at a news briefing in Port Harcourt said Fubara has continued to disrespect President Bola Tinubu by refusing to implement all the eight-point peace agreement reached in Abuja on the political crisis in the state, to which he appended his signature.

The party said that the laissez-faire attitude of Fubara to the Tinubu peace pact was not acceptable, threatening to sanction the 27 lawmakers loyal to Wike if they refused to carry out its directive.

The directive to the 27 lawmakers has since sparked unending debate regarding whether or not the legislators, as they were, have the powers to impeach Governor Fubara from office.

Why 27 lawmakers cant impeach Fubara—PDP

First to react to the APC’s directive was the PDP which declared that the embattled lawmakers claiming to be APC members had since lost their seats after their defection from the PDP, the political party platform on which they were elected into the House.

Specifically, the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, who spoke the mind of the party at a news conference in Abuja said that the directive by the state APC chapter was made in vain.

Citing Section 109 (1) (g) of the 1999 Constitution, Ologunagba argued that a member of a House of Assembly shall vacate his seat in the House if being a person whose election to the House of Assembly was sponsored by a political Party, he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which that House was elected.

He argued that the provision of Section 109 (1) (g) of the Constitution is self-executory, implying that the members of the Rivers State House of Assembly, who defected, had since vacated their seat by reason of that defection.

Similarly, both the state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Warisenibo Joe Johnson and the Rivers Elders and Leaders Forum (RELF) also backed Governor Fubara for declaring vacant the seat of the 27 lawmakers.

Rivers elders back Fubara

The spokesman of RELF, High Chief Anabs Sara-Igbe, on his own, argued that Governor Fubara could not have stated the facts of the case better than he did given the fact that a trial high court had earlier declared vacant the seat of the affected 27 lawmakers.

He however said that the matter had already moved to the Court of Appeal which itself has reserved judgement not only on the status of the affected 27 lawmakers in state assembly but also on the constitutionality of the eight-point presidential directive to resolve the issue politically.

The Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communication said the directive of the APC caretaker committee chairman was laughable, contending that he had no locus standi to issue such directive in the first place being not the substantive chairman of the party.

Section 109 of the 1999 Constitution on decampment not self-executory—APC

Joining issues with Fubara and his supporters, the APC argued that the House of Assembly is a creation of the Constitution, and vested with the legislative authority of the state and does not exist at the Governor’s pleasure or fanciful whims, adding that the 27 members who decamped from PDP to APC, contrary to their claims, never lost their seats.

APC contended that there is nothing homeostatic about Section 109(1)(g) of the Constitution which Fubara and his supporters are always eager to cite, the section being not self-executory simply because the proviso to the said Section 109(1) (g) established exceptional grounds to the applicability of Section 109(1)(g), arguing that only a court of law can make a determination as to whether a member of the House of Assembly has vacated his seat in accordance with that provision of the Constitution.

The party added that at the moment, no such judicial determination has been made, which is why the 27 APC members of the House of Assembly remain the constitutionally recognised and authorised members of the Rivers State House of Assembly.

Pro-Fubara lawmakers secure order to stop pro-Wike lawmakers from further sitting

Following the argument of the APC caretaker committee chairman, the newly elected factional Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Victor Oko-Jumbo, and two other pro-Governor Siminialayi Fubara lawmakers— Sokari Goodboy and Orubienimigha Timothy—ran before a Rivers State High Court sitting in Port-Harcourt with an application to stop the factional Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Hon Martin Amaewhule, and his 24 followers from further parading themselves as legislators in the state or conducting any legislative business as members of the House, their legislative seats having been declared vacant with effect from 13th December 2023 pending the hearing and determination of motion on notice.

Listed as defendants in the substantive suit are 25 lawmakers, the governor of Rivers State, the Attorney-General and the Chief Judge of the state.

The trial high court judge, Justice C.N. Wali, granted the interim order in favour of Jumbo group on May 10, 2024 after hearing out counsel to the Jumbo-led lawmakers.

Besides, the court also stopped the governor, the attorney-general and the Chief Judge from interacting with the affected lawmakers.

The court also ordered them to stop sitting at the auditorium of the House of Assembly Quarters located on Aba Road or any other place whatsoever to conduct the business as members of the House of Assembly.

Apart from Martin Amaewhule, others affected by the orders are Dumle Maol, Major Jack, Franklin Nwabochi, Christopher Ofiks, Azeru Okpara, Enemi George, Granville Wellington, Ngbar Bernard, John Iderema, Queen Uwuma Williams, Loolo Opuende, Abbey Peter, Igwe Aforji, Justina Emeji, Ignatius Onwuka, Chimzie Nwankwo, Lemchi Nyeche, Barile Nwakoh, Emilia Amadi, Nkemjika Ezekwe, David Okobiriari, Nwankwo Sylvanus, Gerald Oforji and Wami Solomon.

The interim injunction restraining the pro-Wike legislators from further sitting as legislators for the state was the latest in the long list of litigations triggered by the face-off between the Wike camp and the Fubara camp.

Meanwhile, Vanguard recalls that in January, 2024, Justice James Omotosho of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja had also restrained Fubara and the state government from invading, interfering or stopping the 27 lawmakers from holding meetings, or accessing the Rivers State House of Assembly complex just as it voided the presentation of the 2024 Appropriation Bill by Fubara before a four-member legislature then led by Edison Ehie.

The court had also declared invalid the reposting and redeployment of the clerk and deputy clerk of the state House of Assembly just as it ordered that the governor was not entitled to invite the National Assembly (NASS) to take over the Rivers State House of Assembly and that the NASS lacked powers to do so in the instant case.

The two courts which are of coordinate jurisdiction appeared to have fuelled the confusion in the state with the conflicting decisions on the status of the 27 lawmakers on the one hand and the powers of Governor Fubara, to direct the relocation of the State House of Assembly to the Auditorium, Admin Block of the Government House in Port Harcourt by an executive order.

Fubara issues constitutional order relocating Rivers Assembly to Govt House

In the meantime, Fubara, relying on the decision of the Rivers State High Court had directed the implementation of the executive order earlier made in 2023 for the relocation of the state assembly sitting following the current state of the Assembly Complex which he described as unsafe and constitutes a threat to the lives of the staff and the lawmakers.

The governor consequently directed that pending the renovation of the Assembly complex, all proceedings and business of Rivers State House of Assembly shall temporarily take place at the Auditorium, Admin Block, Government House, Port Harcourt contrary to the January order of the Federal high court Abuja.

The decision by Fubara to declare vacant the seat of the 27 lawmakers and relocate the state House of Assembly to the Government House have not only divided the stakeholders in the country but also raised live constitutional issues.

PDP chieftain, Bode George, calls for urgent elders intervention in the Rivers crisis

A politician and former Deputy National Chairman of the party, Chief Olabode George, has advised elders and other stakeholders in the country to immediately intervene in the conflict  between Governor Fubara and the 27 lawmakers in Rivers State before it becomes a national conflagration.

He recalled that the ‘Operation Wetie’ started gradually in the defunct Western Region like the instant Rivers crisis and eventually consumed the nation and ended the First Republic in 1966, warning that except all the gladiators consider the collective interests of Nigerians, the Rivers crisis might truncate the on-going Republic.

“Whether we are members of PDP, APC or other parties, we should stop issuing provocative statements to increase the tension in Rivers. Any move that can truncate this democracy must be stopped immediately. Enough is enough,” Bode George added.

Tinubu wont take sides in Rivers crisis—Presidency

But the Presidency has said that unlike what Tinubu did in December 2023 to bring peace to Rivers by making parties to enter into a peace pact, he will not take sides between the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Nyesom Wike and Governor Siminalayi Fubara over the ongoing political crisis rocking Rivers State.

Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to President Tinubu, Ajuri Ngelale who spoke for the presidency said President Tinubu won’t allow any attempt to frustrate the Rivers government from conducting its affairs in a way that it would benefit the Rivers people.

Fubara has no powers to dictate sitting venue for Rivers lawmakers—Falana, SAN

A prominent human rights activist and Lagos lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, SAN has however faulted Governor Fubara to halt the implementation of his executive order relocating the state assembly to the Government House in Port Harcourt.

He argued that the state House of Assembly is independent of the executive and therefore, the governor cannot tell the house where to conduct its proceedings, adding that if there is any need for a sitting elsewhere, the members of the House of Assembly, properly constituted, will have to decide where to carry out their meeting, saying after all, “There is a separation of powers under the Constitution and each organ of the government must recognise its own powers and limitations.”

He however said that the 27 lawmakers, having defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC), have automatically lost their position.

Fubara wrong on his purported relocation of Rivers Assembly to Govt House—Kunle Adegoke, SAN

Another respected silk, Mr Kunle Adegoke, SAN has also faulted the decision of the Rivers State Governor, Siminalayi Fubara to move the House of Assembly sitting to the Rivers State government house, saying that the move was highly ‘political and unconstitutional.’

He said although he is in agreement with the May decision of the Rivers State high court which declared that the 27 lawmakers having failed to return to their party (PDP) cannot continue to parade themselves as members of the state house of assembly, he nonetheless said the governor cannot dictate to the valid lawmakers where they should sit.

He said if there is a particular structure, a place that is built for the house of Assembly to sit, the House of Assembly cannot sit in any other place other than where the law has built for it.


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