Defections... Court tells 37 APC Reps to vacate seats
Lawmakers: This strange ruling can’t stand
A Federal High Court in Abuja yesterday asked 37 House of Representatives members to vacate their seats for defecting from the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC).
Delivering judgement in the case instituted by the PDP, Justice Adeniyi Ademola said the lawmakers no longer had any business in the legislature, having moved to another political party while their tenure had yet to expire.
The PDP filed the case in January, seeking to restrain the House from altering the composition of its leadership. The case was brought following the defection of 37 legislators on December 18.
Justice Ademola yesterday also issued a perpetual injunction restraining the defectors from effecting any leadership change in the House.
“Having perused the arguments of counsel and the
constitutional provisions, it is clear and unambiguous that the defendants were sponsored by the PDP and won the election on its platform,” he said.
“It is also the court’s opinion that their tenure has not expired and there is no division in the PDP.
“The defendants are, therefore, not competent to vote or contribute to any proceedings in the House of Representatives.
“An order of perpetual injunction is, hereby, ordered, restraining them from altering or attempting to change the leadership of the House of Reps.”
The 37 defectors affected by yesterday’s judgment include Nasiru Sule Garo, Ahmad A. Zarewa, Aliyu Sani Madaki, Bashir Baballe, Alhassan Ado Doguwa, Mannir Babba Dan-Agundi, Aminu Suleiman Goro, Abdulmumin Jibrin, Musa Ado Gezawa, Mustapha Bala Dawaki and Mukhtar Ciromawa, all from Kano.
Also affected are Sokoto lawmakers Kabiru Marafa Achida, Aminu Shagari, Isa Salihu Bashir, Abdullahi Moh’d Wammako, Sa’adu Nabunkari, Aliyu Shehu, Shuaibu Gobir, Musa Sarkin’adar, Abdullahi Balarabe Salake and Umar M. Bature. But Bature had later in January rejoined the PDP.
Defectors from Rivers are Andrew Uchendu, Asita Honourable, Sokonte Davies, Dakuku Peterside, Mpigi Barinada, Pronen Maurice, Dawari George and Ogbonna Nwuke.
Also affected are Ali Ahmad, Rafi’u Ibrahim, Aiyedun Akeem, Mustapha Mashood, Aliyu Ahman Patigi and Zakari Mohammed from Kwara, as well as Yakubu Dogara (Bauchi) and Nasiru Sani Zangon Daura (Katsina).
The PDP case was filed on January 7 following the defection of 37 of its lawmakers to the APC on December 18.
The defectors had claimed their new party was now in the majority and therefore the leadership of the House should be held by them.
In arguing the originating summons, PDP counsel Mr Yunus Usman, SAN faulted the defections, saying that the legislators defected during the dependency of a judgment.
He argued that by virtue of the October 2013 judgment of Justice Evoh Chukwu, which said there was no division in PDP, the matter had been laid to rest. The defectors had based their action on the premise that PDP was divided and they belonged to the faction that merged with the APC.
Usman said also that by virtue of the provision of Section 68(1)(g) of the 1999 Constitution, the lawmakers ought to have vacated their seats immediately.
Counsel to the defendants, Mr Mahmoud Magaji, SAN, had in his submission, argued that it was wrong for the PDP to have sought to restrain its former members from activities of the assembly for defecting.
Other defence counsel, Mr Niyi Akintola, SAN, Mr Sebastian Hon, SAN, Mr James Ocholi,SAN, Mr Abiodun Owonikoko, SAN, and Jibril Okutepa, SAN, had prayed the court to dismiss the suit.
The defected lawmakers yesterday said they would challenge the judgement at the Court of Appeal.
In the case, the PDP sued the House of Representatives and joined as defendants all the principal officers of the House and the 37 defected lawmakers.
During the hearing of the suit, Speaker of the House Aminu Tambuwal had joined the APC lawmakers in asking that the suit be dismissed for want of diligent prosecution.
Justice Ademola held that the Originating Summons is justiciable and hence the court has jurisdiction to entertain the suit. He said where the fundamental right of any person is at the stake, the court has the power to intervene.
He held that in view of the provision of Section 68(1)(g) of the 1999 Constitution, the defendants cannot effect changes in the leadership of the House.
Justice Ademola also said the defendants cannot vote to remove the leadership of the house and also cannot sponsor a motion to that effect.
The court therefore granted an order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants from effecting change in the House leadership.
Yesterday’s ruling represents another setback for the defectors and the opposition APC, which surged towards wresting control of the National Assembly from the PDP in December.
On Friday, a separate court had struck out their case in which they sought for a stop at attempts to declare their seats vacant. That court said, though, that the PDP had no powers to remove the defectors from their seats.
The ruling yesterday also has implications for the 11 senators who left the PDP for APC.
*Umar Bature from Sokoto State rejoined the PDP back in January, saying the anomalies that made him defect had been corrected.