The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has dismissed the intervention of President Bola Tinubu, saying there is no remedy for the 25 members of the Rivers State House of Assembly who defected from the party to the All Progressives Congress.
Citing Section 109(1)(g) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), the PDP said the defectors’ seats have been lost and they cannot return to the House without passing through a fresh electoral process.
The PDP’s stance is against the resolution reached by the warring factions at a peace meeting in Aso Rock on Monday.
The opposition party emphasised that the only path back to the House for the lawmakers is through a fresh nomination and election under a new party banner, as per the Constitution and Electoral Act.
Umar Iliya Damagum, acting national chairman of the party, said these at a press conference held in Abuja shortly after the emergency meeting of the National Working Committee on the political developments in Rivers State.
Damagum dismissed the claim that there was a division in the party before the defection of the lawmakers.
The PDP said Ehie Edison, the factional speaker of the House, has officially declared their seats vacant, rendering any re-admission impossible without a fresh election.
It advised the former members to avoid misleading assurances from others claiming shortcuts to their return, saying that the Electoral Act, specifically Section 84(15), explicitly prohibits courts from interfering with the duty of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct elections in case of vacancies.
“For the avoidance of doubt, there is no division in the PDP at the national or any other level for that matter to justify the defection of the 25 former members of the Rivers State House of Assembly from the Party. They therefore vacated their seats for reasons best known to them and cannot return to the House of Assembly without passing through a fresh electoral process in accordance with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the Electoral Act, 2022,” Damagum said.
The PDP urged INEC to hold new elections in the 25 affected constituencies in accordance with the Constitution and Electoral Act.
The 32-member Assembly has been engulfed in turmoil since October, with two rival factions vying for control. The crisis stemmed from a rift between Governor Siminalayi Fubara and his predecessor, Nyesom Wike, the current minister of the Federal Capital Territory.
On one side is Martin Amaewhule, believed to be loyal to Wike, and on the other is Ehie, aligned with Fubara.
The rift has led to a series of chaotic events, including attempts to impeach both the governor.
Amaewhule led his loyalists from the PDP to the APC last week, further escalating the matter.
A high court in Port Harcourt confirmed Ehie as the legitimate speaker. The court also restrained the Amaewhule-led faction from accessing the Assembly complex until renovation ordered by the state government was completed.
The state government has also demolished the Assembly complex, saying it failed an integrity test following the explosion that occurred at the building in October.
Ehie declared the seats of the defectors vacant at a sitting held inside the State House. Fubara also presented the 2024 budget to the Ehie-led faction of the Assembly at the sitting.
The Amaewhule-led faction has also adopted their residential quarter as chamber following the demolition of the Assembly complex.
On Monday, Tinubu resolved the crisis in Rivers State during a meeting in Aso Rock that lasted for almost three hours.
Fubara; his deputy, Ngozi Odu; former Governor Peter Odili; Wike, the immediate past governor Nyesom Wike, and other stakeholders attended the peace meeting.
Vice-President Kashim Shettima; Nuhu Ribadu, the national security adviser; and Femi Gbajabiamila, the President’s Chief of Staff, were also present.
The parties involved in the crisis agreed to cease fire at the meeting and certain resolutions were reached. Some of these include the recognition of Martins Amaewhule as the authentic speaker of the Rivers Assembly and the reinstatement of the 25 defectors.