Governor Siminalayi Fubara has signed the Rivers State 2024 Appropriation Bill of N800bn into law.
Fubara, who presented the bill on Wednesday, December 13, to a four-member House of Assembly led by Speaker Edison Ehie, was said to have signed the budget on Thursday at the Government House, Port Harcourt.
Recall that Fubara, on Wednesday, presented the 2024 budget proposal of 800 billion naira to the State House of Assembly led by Edison Ehie.
The presentation was done at the Government House in Port Harcourt, following the demolition of the Assembly Complex by the state government and in line with a State High Court order that restrained Ehie’s contender, Martins Amaewhule, from using the Assembly Complex.
Fubara said the estimate was aimed at promoting economic development through inclusive growth and addressing socio-economic inequality in the state.
The Ehie-group had, before the arrival of the governor, met and declared vacant the seats of the 27 members that defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Ehie and Martins Amaewhule have been embroiled in a speakership tussle in court.
Present at the budget presentation on Wednesday are Ehie and four members of the House loyal to him. None of the members who recently moved from the PDP to the APC were in attendance.
Also present were a former Speaker of the House, Adams Dabotorudinma; and a former Deputy Speaker, Marshal Uwom.
The complex was demolished amid tight security about two months after a fire gutted the complex.
The demolition exercise started at about 6:45 a.m. with the state governor leading a convoy consisting of about 10 bulldozers carried on heavy-duty flatbed trucks into the Assembly premises.
Meanwhile, the faction of All Progressives Congress (APC) loyal to former Gov. Nyesom Wike, in Rivers State, has faulted Gov. Siminalayi Fubara’s 2024 budget presentation to four out of the 31 members of the state House of Assembly.
Fubara had on Wednesday presented the N800 billion 2024 budget to the four lawmakers believed to be loyal to him at the Government House in Port Harcourt, few minutes after the demolition of the House of Assembly Complex.
The Rivers State APC Caretaker Committee Chairman, Mr Tony Okocha, said in a statement in Port Harcourt that the action was unconstitutional.
Okocha said that Section 120(2) of the Constitution clearly states that no money shall be spent unless it is appropriated by the state House of Assembly.
‘’The presentation of a bill to four suspended members of the House of Assembly does not fulfil the requirements of the constitution for all the reasons stated,’’ he said.
Okocha cautioned that expenditure made by the state government on the outcome of such a presentation was an infringement on the constitution and, as such, sufficient grounds to commence impeachment.
He also said that Section 92(2)C prescribes that a speaker can be removed by a two-thirds majority of the House of Assembly.
Okocha alleged that there was no evidence to show that Mr Martins Amaewhule, the Speaker of the House, had been removed from office.
‘’Amaewhule remains the speaker of the House of Assembly; the lawmakers passed a vote of confidence in him,’’ he said.
Okocha also said that Section 96(1) of the constitution clearly states that the quorum of the House of Assembly shall be one-third of all members.
“One-third of 31 minus the deceased member is clearly 11, and as such, four members can never form a quorum.
“Section 99 states that any member who sits or votes in a House of Assembly of a state, knowing or having reasonable grounds for knowing that he is not entitled to do so, commits an offense and is liable on conviction to such punishment as shall be prescribed in a law of the House of Assembly.
“Section 101 gives the House of Assembly the power to regulate its procedures, including summons and recess of the House.
“Section 105(3) also defines the role of the governor of the state.
“The governor shall have power to issue a proclamation for the holding of the first session of the Assembly,’’ he said.
Okocha added, “This function the governor has performed. As such, the Assembly takes over to regulate its procedures, including summoning and recess of the House.” (NAN)