In continuation of the legal saga surrounding the defection of 27 members of the Rivers State House of Assembly, the Federal High Court in Abuja has prolonged the interim order, preventing the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from conducting by-elections. This development stems from the lawmakers’ defection from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the subsequent power dynamics between Governor Siminilayi Fubara and his estranged political mentor, former governor Nyesom Wike.
The Rivers PDP had declared the seats of the defected lawmakers vacant on December 11, leading to a legal battle initiated by the legislators loyal to Wike. The suit, marked FHC/AB3/CS/1681/23, sought to restrain INEC, the PDP, and other respondents from taking any action against them in light of their move to the APC. The defendants included the Rivers State House of Assembly, the Clerk of the Rivers State House of Assembly, the Inspector General of Police, and the Department of State Services.
Justice Donatus Okorowo had initially issued the restraining order on December 15, preventing INEC from organizing fresh elections until the determination of the lawmakers’ substantive suit. During Thursday’s proceedings, the court extended this order following an application by the embattled lawmakers’ counsel, Steve Adehi (SAN).
Despite opposition from the PDP’s counsel, Adeyemi Ajibade (SAN), Justice Okorowo, invoking Order 26, Rule 10 of the Federal High Court, asserted his discretionary power to grant the plea in the interest of justice. The judge expressed agreement with the reasons presented by Adehi and Njemanze, paving the way for the continuation of the legal standoff.
The court further adjourned the matter until January 24, 2024, signaling a prolonged legal battle with the potential to shape the political landscape in Rivers State.