Political Crisis in Rivers State: New Speaker Elected Amidst Turmoil

Amidst escalating political tensions, members of the Rivers State House of Assembly loyal to Governor Siminalayi Fubara have taken a decisive step by electing Victor Oko-Jumbo, the representative of Bonny constituency, as their Speaker.

File Photo: Victor Oko-Jumbo

The unexpected development unfolded during a plenary session on Wednesday morning, with Oko-Jumbo securing the speakership in accordance with the Standing Order of the House. Oko-Jumbo, who was previously aligned with Fubara, emerged as the new Speaker, representing the entirety of the 32-member Assembly.

This move follows a series of tumultuous events within the state’s political arena. Previously, in the midst of the crisis, Edison Ehie was elected as Speaker by the faction loyal to Fubara. However, Ehie later resigned from the State Assembly and assumed the role of Chief of Staff to the Governor, leaving a vacuum in the Assembly’s leadership.

The circumstances surrounding Oko-Jumbo’s election remain shrouded in uncertainty, with the exact number of lawmakers present during the plenary session undisclosed. Nonetheless, Oko-Jumbo was escorted to the plenary with the original mace of the Rivers State House of Assembly by the Sergeant-at-Arms, David Wariboko.

In his acceptance speech, Oko-Jumbo expressed gratitude to his colleagues for electing him as the new Speaker following Ehie’s resignation. He called upon the Executive, Judiciary, and the public to disregard any legislative actions purportedly enacted by the previous Assembly, led by Rt. Hon. Martin Chike Amaewhule, describing them as invalid.

“You will agree with me that after the House last sat on the 13th of December, 2023, and adjourned sine dine, there has been an avalanche of legislative rascality perpetrated by the 25 former members of the 10th Rivers State House of Assembly, led by the former Speaker, Rt. Hon. Martin Chike Amaewhule.

“These former members, being fully aware of the provisions of Section 109(1)(g) of the CFRN 1999, defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Party (APC) on the 11th of December, 2023.

“Consequently, the Rt. Hon. Edison Ogerenye Ehie-led Assembly, on the 13th of December, 2023, wrote to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), declaring the seats of the 25 lawmakers vacant in line with Section 109(1)(g) and (2) of the CFRN 1999.

“My distinguished colleagues, there are a plethora of cases pending in our courts further to the defection of the former lawmakers,” he said.

“All laws, plenary sessions and actions taken by the illegal House members are hereby declared void and a nullity in the eyes of the law by virtue of the judgment of Lord Denning in the celebrated case of MacFoy v UAC (1961) 3 All ER 1169.” Oko-Jumbo emphasised.

He said, “Furthermore, this House would want to most respectfully urge and call on His Excellency, the Governor of Rivers State, Sir Siminalayi Fubara, DSSRS, to desist forthwith from further dealings with the 25 former lawmakers, in whatever guise.

“Those members are merely floating and do not have any landing ground or anywhere to berth their ship since their defection to the All Progressives Congress on the 11th of December, 2023.

“This House is the legally and constitutionally recognised House of Assembly by virtue of the defection of the other members, and is ready to receive correspondences from and work with His Excellency, the Governor of Rivers State, Sir Siminalayi Fubara. Distinguished colleagues, let me thank you once again.

“I know I can count on your unalloyed and unwavering support as we work with His Excellency, Sir Siminalayi Fubara in moving our dear Rivers State forward in promoting the progress and welfare of the State.”

Asserting the legitimacy of the newly constituted Assembly, Oko-Jumbo emphasized the legal and constitutional grounds for its recognition. He cited pending court cases and legal precedents to justify the nullification of actions taken by the former Assembly members who defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Furthermore, Oko-Jumbo urged Governor Fubara to refrain from engaging with the defected lawmakers and affirmed the readiness of the Assembly to collaborate with the Governor in advancing the interests of Rivers State.

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