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Factual Reportage

There is anxiety in Rivers State as people await the judgement of the Court of Appeal on the appeal brought before it by House of Assembly Speaker Martins Amaewhule and 24 lawmakers against the ruling of the state High Court.

The ruling would settle the protracted political tussle, claims and counter-claims and restore peace to the oil-rich state.

The outcome would also decide the fate of the two leaders at the centre of the protracted crisis, Governor Siminialayi Fubara and his estranged benefactor, Chief Nyesom Wike, Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, who are locked in battle for supremacy in Rivers Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

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There is tension over the interlocutory injunction of the High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, which recognised Victor Oko-Jumbo as speaker.

Justice Charles Wali of the State High Court also ordered Amaewhule and 24 others to stop parading themselves as speaker and members of the House of Assembly.

But Amaewhule and 24 other lawmakers approached.the Court of Appeal, praying it to vacate the order to allow them return to their functions as the state lawmakers.

The Court of Appeal in Port Harcourt, while refusing to stay execution of the order, decided to hear the matter and give judgement.

The three-member Appeal panel made up of Justice Jimi Olukayode Bada, Justice Hamma Akawu and Justice Balkisu Bello Aliyu, however, ordered the parties involved in the crisis to maintain the status quo.

However, armed with the interlocutory order, the governor has been conducting government businesses with the three-member House of Assembly, led by Oko-Jumbo.

The Oko-Jumbo-led Assembly screened and confirmed chairmen and members of the caretaker committees of local governments.

But the elected local government chairmen, whose tenure expired on June 17, refused to vacate their offices, citing tenure elongation law made by the Amaewhule-led lawmakers.

They contended that by virtue of the new local government law, they were entitled to remain in office for six months to enable the governor conduct fresh local government polls.

They said they would not obey the decision of the High Court, which scrapped the tenure elongation law because it was given against the status quo ante order by the Court of Appeal and an earlier judgement of the Federal High Court.

They recalled that Justice Omotosho of the Federal High Court has in a judgement barred the governor from interfering in the activities of the Amaewhule-led House of Assembly.

The legal imbroglio has created confusion and fuelled the tension in the state.

Following the status quo ante of the Court of Appeal, the police decided to take over the local government secretariats to stop a bloody clash between supporters of the caretaker chairmen and the elected chairmen.

The caretaker chairmen inaugurated by the governor have continued to operate from makeshift offices.

The protesting elected chairmen and their supporters have commended the police for maintaining peace, urging them to continue to barricade the secretariats, pending the decision of the Court of appeal.

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