Appeal Court: 25 Rivers lawmakers have no legitimacy – Justice Ahiakwo


A legal expert, Justice Osai Ahiakwo has reacted to yesterday’s ruling by the nation’s appellate court restoring the sacked 25 lawmakers in the Rivers State House of Assembly to their previous seats.

In a statement released Thursday night, Justice Ahiakwo said that the ruling had not conveyed any form of legitimacy on the former lawmakers to perform their legislative duties, maintaining that it has not also warranted them to commence the impeachment proceedings against the Governor of Rivers State.

A High Court sitting in Port Harcourt had on May 30, 2024, restrained the 25 lawmakers who defected from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to the All Progressives Congress, APC, from parading themselves as lawmakers.

But, the Martin Amaewhule-led Assembly members approached the Appeal Court, seeking to set aside the High Court’s verdict.

Frowning at the Appeal Court ruling, Justice Ahiakwo said the situation was unfortunate and would only be resolved at the Supreme Court.

“There is indeed no course for alarm as considerable and conscientious efforts must be put in place by the respondents in approaching the Supreme Court, aimed at correcting the error of the Court of Appeal.

“This calls for grave concern as nothing seems to suggest a departure from the known norms and standards; hence, the Supreme Court should be the last resort.

“We are sure that the issue will be streamlined to address this anomaly as the Supreme Court is expected to give the correct interpretation of Sections 251, to determine the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court and 272 for the State High Court.

“This will once again put to test the viability of our constitutional law and, thereupon, afford the nation a good precedent to rightly define the provisions therein,” he said.

Ahiakwo said the Appeal Court had introduced additional lexicon into the legal system.

The legal expert said, “Jurisdiction is raised at any time whether at the pendency of the matter or at the appellate stage of the matter.

“The court is bound to determine whether the trial court had the constitutional right to preside over such a case.

“The exercise of jurisdiction is very important. The same Court of Appeal re-emphasised the importance of it that the lack of jurisdiction is detrimental, disastrous, devastating and without leverage for salvaging the situation, regardless of desirability of such a course of action.

“Rather referring to Section 251 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, (as amended) and properly interpreting it as conferring original jurisdiction on the Federal High Court as a specialist court, the Court of Appeal erroneously relied on Section 272 of the same 1999 Constitution to upturn the ruling of the High Court of Rivers State.”

It could be recalled that the National Democratic Coalition, NDC, had also expressed dissatisfaction with the Appeal Court judgement which reinstated the 25 lawmakers

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