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Rivers: Confusion as Fubara, Wike supporters ‘claim’ Appeal Court ruling

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Factional Rivers Speakers Oko Jumbo and Martins Amaewhule

Published By: Ayorinde Oluokun

…As Appeal Court fixes hearing for June 20, 2024.

By Okafor Ofiebor/Port Harcourt

The ruling by the Court of Appeal on Friday that the “status quo” should be maintained on two motions filed by Martin Amaewhule-led Rivers lawmakers has been subjected to different interpretations as loyalists of Governor Siminalayi Fubara and his predecessor Nyesom Wike are arguing that the ruling was in their favour.

The two camps to the political crisis in Rivers had taken to social media to give their separate interpretations of the ‘status quo’ immediately after the ruling became public.

The pro-Wike camp claimed that the ruling indicated that Amaewhule remained the authentic Speaker of the Rivers House of Assembly.

However, the loyalists of Fubara said the judgment recognized Oko Jumbo who is leading a three-man Assembly the Governor has been doing business with.

The state government, in a statement by Joseph Johnson, its Commissioner for Information and Communications also toed this line as it acknowledged the Court of Appeal, Port-Harcourt ruling on two motions filed by Martin Amaewhule and the other defected lawmakers in case No. CA/PH/198/2024 challenging the order of injunction granted by the Rivers State High Court restraining them from acting as lawmakers.

The State government stated that the Court in Ruling on the first Motion, granted the Appellants’ prayers for leave to compile and transmit the Records of Appeal, deeming the Appellants’ Brief of Argument as filed, accelerated hearing, and a stay of further proceedings at the High Court.

Johnson however said that the “Court of Appeal refused to grant the prayer to set aside the various actions of RT. HON VICTOR OKO-JUMBO as their presumption of correctness of an order of a Court. It held that granting same would be tantamount to determining the appeal at this stage. The Court went on to order that the present status quo should be maintained pending the hearing of the Appeal.

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“Ruling on the 2nd Motion which was brought to set aside the Order of interlocutory injunction of the Lower Court, the Court of Appeal refused and dismissed the motion on notice to set aside the Order of Interlocutory Injunction by Honourable Justice C.N Wali decreed on the 29th day of May 2024 and reiterated that the ‘present’ status quo should be maintained contrary to the status quo before the filing of the Suit that was sought by the Appellants

“The Respondents are to file their Briefs within 72 hours of being served. The case has been adjourned to 20/6/24 for Hearing of the Appeal.

The information Commissioner urged the public to ignore the misrepresentation going on about the ruling of the Court of Appeal in some certain quarters of the media including social, print and electronic media.

However, in a swift reaction, Oraye St Franklyn, a lawyer and supporter of Nyesom Wike, the Minister for Federal Capital Territory and Martin Amaewhule lawmakers said “… status quo means “the position prevailing when the defendant embarked upon the activity sought to be restrained. He cited Fellowes v. Fisher (1976) Q.B.122. at 141B per Sir John Pennycuick.” Per ANTHONY IKECHUKWU IGUH, JSC (Pp 21 – 21 Paras F – G) Ayorinde v AG of Oyo State SC 1996 to back his claim.

St Franklyn further argued that ‘Status quo’ means the position of things before the crisis, arguing that Amaewhule and his colleagues were the Defendants in the lower court and the position of things before the crisis was that Amaewhule was Speaker.

“The Court of Appeal today said Status Quo should remain, meaning the position of things before Amaewhule was taken to court should remain as is.

“Oko Jumbo cannot therefore be seen in public to be presenting himself as Speaker as that immediately amounts to contempt of court.

“He cannot be recognized at State functions and not in brochures. It also means the illegal withholding of salaries of members of the Rivers State House of Assembly ceases forthwith.

“This is what Status Quo means. If they do not comply, they would be in contempt.”

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