Defection: Court stops INEC from conducting elections to replace 26 Rivers lawmakers

 


A federal high court in Abuja has restrained the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from conducting fresh elections to fill “vacant” seats in the Rivers state house of assembly.

 

Donatus Okorowo, presiding judge, gave the order on Friday.

 

On December 11, 27 members of the Rivers house of assembly loyal to Nyesom Wike, former governor, defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC).

 

Consequently, Edison Ehie, speaker of the Rivers assembly, declared the lawmakers’ seats vacant.

 

The party also asked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct elections in the affected constituencies.

 

However, 26 affected lawmakers approached the court seeking to stop their replacement.

 

INEC, PDP, Rivers assembly, clerk of the state assembly, inspector-general of police and the Department of State Services (DSS) were the first to sixth defendants in the suit.

 

Delivering a ruling on the ex parte motion, Okorowo barred all six defendants in the case from interfering with the activities of the plaintiffs.

 

“An interim injunction is hereby granted restraining the 1st defendant (INEC) from conducting fresh elections to fill the seats of the plaintiffs (the 27 lawmakers) in the Rivers State House of Assembly, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice,” the judge held.

 

Okorowo restrained the IGP and DSS “from denying or refusing to provide security to the plaintiffs or withdrawing their security details.”

 

Over the past few weeks, Siminalayi Fubara, governor of Rivers, and Wike have been at loggerheads over control of the political structure of the state.

 

The feud between the duo snowballed to the Rivers house of assembly, causing factions in the state’s legislature.

 

At least nine commissioners have resigned from Fubara’s cabinet amid the political crisis.

 

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