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The Federal High Court in Abuja has stopped the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, from organising by-elections to replace 27 members of the Rivers State House of Assembly whose seats were declared vacant.Justice Donatus Okorowo, who gave the order on Friday, also ordered the Inspector General of Police, the SSS and other actors not to interfere with the applicants from carrying out their duties as lawmakers.A factional speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly, Edison Ehie, last Wednesday declared the seats of 27 lawmakers who defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC).While Mr Ehie is being backed by the Rivers State Governor, Siminalayi Fubara, the 27-member faction led by Martin Amaewhule is backed by the FCT minister, Nyesom Wike, who is a former governor of the state.Fubara and Wike are currently engaged in a make or mar political battle, and a struggle over the control of Rivers State political structure in the PDP.Ehie had secured an interim order through an ex-parte application from the Rivers State High Court in Port Harcourt, enabling him and three of his colleagues who are loyal to Governor Fubara to do legislative business without interference from the Amaewhule-led faction.An ex-parte application is one that does not require the participation of all sides before a decision can be taken by the court.However, in a bid to forestall any by-elections from being held to fill their seats, the Wike-backed faction of the lawmakers through their lawyer, Peter Onuh, in an ex-parte request filed on 13 December, urged the Federal High Court in Abuja to restrain the Rivers State House of Assembly, INEC, and the PDP from taking actions that could undermine their rights.Also, Mr Amaewhule and his group who are the applicants in the suit, prayed the court to restrain the State Security Service (SSS), the Inspector General of Police and the Clerk of the Rivers State House of Assembly from depriving them of their rights as lawmakers, including withdrawal of police security.In the interim ruling Justice Okorowo restrained INEC and the Rivers parliament “from declaring vacant or taking any steps whatsoever to declare the seats of the plaintiffs at the Rivers State House of Assembly.”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 barred the six defendants in the case from interfering with the 27 members of the Rivers State House of Assembly from conducting their legislative duties as speaker, deputy speaker and members of the parliament.Justice Okorowo restrained the Inspector-General of Police and the SSS “from denying or refusing to provide security to the plaintiffs or withdrawing their security details.”Thereafter, the judge adjourned the suit until 28 December for hearing.The crisis erupted after Wike and Fubara who were political allies, fell apart over what is believed as a power structure over the running of affairs in the state.Wike is believed to have helped Fubara emerge as governor in the last election.In October, the assembly split into two factions because of an attempt by some lawmakers to remove Governor Fubara from office.In the ensuing power tussle, a section of the State House of Assembly complex was bombed by suspected hoodlumsSome of members of the state cabinet were forced to resign for being loyal to Wike.As hostilities increased, Governor Fubara, last week at the Government House in Port Harcourt, the state capital, presented the state’s 2024 appropriation bill to a four-member faction of the parliament.The state High Court had paved the way for the four lawmakers when it restrained the Amaewhule-led group from interfering with the responsibilities of the Governor Fubara-backed legislators.Martin Amaewhule is the speaker of the 27-member faction which is loyal to Mr Wike.Mr Ehie, a former leader of the assembly who was removed for refusing to endorse Governor Fubara’s impeachment, later emerged speaker of the faction loyal to the governor.The two factions have held parallel plenary sessions at different locations in Port Harcourt.

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