RIVERS: To retain your seats, you must renounce your defections, 27 pro-Wike lawmakers told

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A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Kunle Adegoke, has criticised the 27 pro-Wike lawmakers being pushed by their new political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), to impeach Governor of Rivers State, Mr. Siminalayi Fubara, as doing things that are alien to the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Adegoke stated this while speaking on an Arise News interview programme anchored by a panel of journalists including Reuben Abati and Rufai Oseni, on Monday May 13, 2024 and monitored by The DEFENDER.

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The lawyer, who described the Rivers State crisis as disturbing to all lovers of democracy, said Constitution is clear the matter point out that any member, who has defected from to another political party from the one on which platform he contested and won election to the House, has automatically lost his seat.

“The crisis in Rivers State is becoming quite disturbing to all lovers of democracy. It is unfortunate that when we felt that the gladiators were trying to resolve the issue and sheathing their swords, we discovered that it is an insurmountable crisis that is always reproducing itself. The constitution is very clear on the position if a member of the house of reps or house of Assembly, having defected to another political party different from the one in which he was elected, whether he could still keep the seat.

“The Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court have pronounced on the provisions of the Constitution with relation to section 109 to the effect that where a member of the legislative house decamps to another political party, he automatically loses his seat. In this situation, no matter how many they could be, whether they are the complete members of the house or just a few members; the implication is that they have automatically lost their seats.”

He said, “It is unfortunate that the beneficiary of this bad situation is my own political party. While politically it is a gain to us, legally, it is a disservice to democracy and developmental politics in any part of the world.

“Having made this clear, by the decisions of the Supreme Court on the impossibility of keeping the seat, the implication is that the 27 members have forfeited their seats. Any other interpretation that goes contrary to the decision of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal will be an aberration.  We must be loyal only to the Constitution.

“While we must maintain loyalty to our political parties and support what will bring progress to our political parties, we must not use loyalty to our parties to defeat the Constitution. Ultimately, if the Constitution is defeated and Nigeria is disintegrated, there is no way we can have a political party that would still be functioning. That is one thing that all the gladiators must realise in this situation. There is no other interpretation,” Adegoke said.

The barrister, who had exonerated President Bola Tinubu from the crisis, was asked to explain how, when Tinubu started the crisis in the first place by making Governor Fubara sign a peace accord with Wike inside his own Aso Rock against his own will.

He, however, spoke more on the intervention of the President, emphasising that any resolution must be in accordance with the rule of law, cautioning against political expediency at the expense of constitutional integrity.

He added that for the defected lawmakers to retain their seats in the House of Assembly, they would have to denounce their decamping and return to the party on which platform they were elected and given the mandate to serve as lawmakers.

“The road to hell, they say, is paved with good intentions. As good as the intention of Mr. President is, it is a political wrong, a constitutional error for the president to say the defected lawmakers should retain their seats.

“However, the president ought to take a step towards resolving the crisis. There are two ways the president can do this. Friendly and unfriendly. The friendly one is for him to seek to resolve the crisis as between the two parties, where the political resolution will amount to flouting the position of the law, which will amount to treating the constitution with disrespect. If they are going to keep their seat, then they have to denounce the decamping, the cross carpeting that they have done.”

Further speaking, the lawyer lamented the perpetuation of the crisis despite initial hopes for resolution, highlighting the clear pronouncements of the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court on the automatic loss of seats upon defection.

On the governor’s relocation of legislative sitting to the Government House, Adegoke kicked as he highlighted the fundamental principle that the House of Assembly must convene in its designated structure as prescribed by law, stating that any deviation from the established norm would undermine the sanctity of the legislative institution.

“The decision taken by the Rivers State governor Fubara, to take the House of Assembly to Government House may be said to be unprecedented because 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 been built for it.

“If the members of the House of Assembly that have defected are regarded as having forfeited their seats, there is no way they can continue parading themselves and that is where I am going to align myself with the decision of the Rivers State High Court declaring that they cannot continue parading themselves as members of the house.

“The move by the governor is simply political but completely unconstitutional. Assuming we have not had the benefit of a judicial pronouncement on a similar issue, we might be bantering on whether it is constitutional or not. The House of Assembly is an institution, the building in which they sit is also an institution too.

“To that extent, we cannot divorce the House of Assembly from where the Constitution has said it should be sitting. What exactly does he want to achieve by this? We have found ourselves in a situation where one illegality is begetting another illegality,” he said.

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