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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Court Adjourns Rivers LGs Suit against Rivers Government, AGF, Police, DSS, Others to May 22

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Justice James Omotosho of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on Thursday adjourned hearing in the suit seeking to stop the Rivers State Government from withholding the financial allocations of the 42 Local Government Councils in the state, to May 22.

The judge adjourned the matter to enable parties already served with the court’s documents respond accordingly, just as he ordered service on the 1st to 4th and 6th respondents who were neither in court nor represented by any lawyer.

It will be recalled that Justice Omotosho, while ruling in an ex-parte application last week refused to issue an interim order against the Rivers State government and other respondents pending the hearing of the main suit.

The judge who ordered the plaintiffs to put the respondents on notice however, ordered all parties to maintain status quo by not doing anything that would render the suit nugatory.

When the matter was called on Thursday, while the 1st – 4th and 6th were absent in court, M. N. Umoh, Olumide Fusika, SAN, Damian Okoro, SAN, and Sammie Somiari, SAN, appeared for the 5th, 7th, 8th and 9th respondents respectively.

The four lawyers all admitted service of court order to maintain status quo and asked for time to respond, adding that they are still within the time allowed by law to file their responses.

When asked by the judge if they were also served with the court’s order directing all parties to maintain status quo, all but the 5th defendant admitted service.

Justice Omotosho told the respondents that he had declined to grant the interim order but after plaintiffs’ counsel, Clement Ijom stated that salaries of teachers, primary health workers and other local government staff depend on the allocation, he then ordered parties to maintain status quo pending the hearing and determination of the matter.

Subsequently, the judge ordered the respondents to file in their responses, while the suit is served on the remaining respondents.

The Inspector General (IG) of Police, Commissioner of Police (CP) Rivers, Director General (DG) State Security (SSS), Director SSS Rivers, Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Chairman Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission, Rivers State Government, AG Rivers State and Finance Commissioner in Rivers are 1st to 9th respondents respectively.

The plaintiffs on the other hand include; Dr Chidi LLoyd, Chairman, Emohua Local Government, Hon Alwell Ihunda Chairman, Port Harcourt Local goyvernment, Dr Nwanosike Samuel, Ikwerre Local Government, amongst others.

They are sueing the respondents over the financial allocation to the council as well as their personal security.

Pending the hearing and determination of their motion on notice for interlocutory injunction, the plaintiffs had filed an ex-parte application seeking to restrain the Rivers State Government from withholding their financial allocation.

They had also prayed the court to restrain the security agencies from withdrawing the security personnel attached to them.

In the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/537/2024, and filed by their lawyer, Aliyu Hussein, the local government Chairmen, also sought an order prohibiting the defendants from preventing the enforcement or implementation of the newly amended Rivers State Local Government Law N:5 of 2024 pending the determination of the motion.

In a 33 paragraph affidavit in support of the application deposed to by Dr Chidi LLoyd, Chairman of Emohua Local Government, the applicants claimed to have been duly elected in a democratically conducted election for a term of three years under the provisions of the Rivers State Local Government Law.

They asserted that they are autonomous and constitutionally recognized as one of the tiers of the government and that Rivers State House of Assembly Enacted Rivers State Amended Law to guide their affairs and activities.

They claimed that Rivers State Government, AG and Finance Commissioner who are not happy with the amended law have approached the IGP, CP, DG SSS and Director SSS seeking the withdrawal of policing and other security services from them in order to frustrate the implementation of the amended law.

The Chairmen alleged that the Police Commissioner in the state who has the responsibility to advise the IG on the policing and security needs of Rivers State is under substantial control of Rivers State Government and would implement the directive of the state government.

They further asserted that it would be impossible for them to carry out their respective functions and duties without the policing and security services of the IG.

The Council chairmen asked the court to restrain the defendants especially the Rivers State Government from taking the law into its hand.

They promised to undertake to pay for damages if their suit turns to be frivolous.

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