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Crisis in the Rivers Assembly: INEC has 48 hours to start replacing legislators who have resigned

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The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has been given a 48-hour ultimatum by a civil group called the Center for Reform and Public Advocacy to start holding bye-elections to fill the vacancies left by the 27 Rivers State House of Assembly members who defected from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to the All Progressives Congress, APC.

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The group based its demand on Section 109(1)(g) of the 1999 Constitution, which it said prohibits MPs from holding office after leaving the party that nominated them, in a letter dated December 11, 2023 and written to the INEC chairman.

Citing a court ruling from 2022, the organization threatened to file a lawsuit against the commission if the electoral umpire did not start the bye-election process within the next two days.

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The legal adviser for the group, Agu Kalu, signed the letter, which read, “Notice of Defection of Twenty Seven People’s Democratic Party’s members of the Rivers State House of Assembly to the All Progressives Congress and Demand for Conduct of a Bye Election to Fill the Vacancy in the Rivers State House of Assembly Created by the Defection of Twenty Seven PDP Members.”

It says, “The subject matter mentioned above refers.” As a non-governmental organization, our goal is to promote good governance. It is with great respect that we notify you of the departure of twenty-seven (27) PDP members from the Rivers State House of Assembly to the All Progressives Congress. With all due respect, sir, the following are the legal ramifications of the aforementioned defection:

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“That the aforementioned Twenty-Seven (27) PDP Members of the Rivers State House of Assembly have forfeited their membership in the Rivers State House of Assembly according to Section 109(1)(g) of the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution (as amended);

“That the Independent National Electoral Commission shall hold a bye-election to replace the Vacancies Created by the abovementioned defection in accordance with the ruling in OGBUOJI VS. UMUHA (2022) 8 NWLR (PT 1832), 323. In light of the aforementioned, we humbly request that you start the process of holding a byelection in Rivers State to fill the aforementioned positions.

“Be advised that we will file a lawsuit to force you to abide by the terms of the 1999 Constitution if you do not respond to our demand within 48 hours of receiving this letter. We sincerely hope you will comply with our request to let good judgment win out.

The issue plaguing the Rivers State Assembly took a turn for the worst when 27 lawmakers defected from the PDP to the APC, allegedly out of loyalty to the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and former governor of Rivers State, Nyesome Wike.

Due to suspected misbehavior, the decamped lawmakers are adamant about impeaching Governor Siminalayi Fubara.

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