Court ruling and morality of 37 defectors’ stay in House
Last week’s court ruling on the 37 members of the House of Representatives who defected from the PDP to the APC on December 18, 2013 did not go down well with those affected, while some have advised that they should comply with the ruling. Which way to go
The court ruling delivered by Justice Adeniyi Ademola of a Federal High Court Abuja, said the 37 lawmakers who defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC) should have no business in the House of Representaives having left the party that sponsored them to win elections to the House.
While giving the ruling, Ademola said, “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.
“The 12th to 53rd defendants in this suit have no business staying in the House of Representatives and ought to resign or relinquish the mandate of the 4th defendant or resign honourably.
“In view of the provision of Section 68 (1)(g) of the 1999 Constitution, the 12th to 53rd defendants cannot effect leadership change in the House. The 12th to 53rd defendants cannot lawfully vote to remove the leadership of the House. They cannot also sponsor motion to that effect.
“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,” he said.
Penultimate Friday, a separate court had ruled that the PDP had no powers to remove the defectors from their seats and struck out the case.
The ruling may have presented a setback for the defectors and the opposition APC, but the party and its lawmakers quickly rose to the occasion, alleging that it was a “black market order” and subsequently appealed the matter.
APC caucus in the House also addressed a press conference on Tuesday in Abuja where it said the matter has been appealed.
Minority whip, Rep Samson Osagie, who spoke on behalf of the caucus, said none of the affected lawmakers would vacate his seat as the court ruling only restrains them from making leadership change in the House.
He said Justice Ademola went out of his mandate to grant an opinion that was never sought in the suit, which calls for a lot of concern.
“For the avoidance of doubt, let me state unequivocally on behalf of our members that the import of yesterday’s (Monday’s) ruling was that our 37 members cannot participate in the removal of Principal Officers of the House; nothing more, nothing less.
“Every other pronouncement by the Judge as to the status of our 37 members of the House were mere opinion. In any event, this judgment was given in vain and in ignorance of the House rules which governs the appointment of party leaders in the parliament,” Osagie said.
He said their initial fears and loss of confidence on the process “were further confirmed when the judge after granting the reliefs sought in the suit went ahead to render an opinion on issues that were not before him nor solicited by the plaintiffs.”
“For us in the APC, we were not surprised because in the course of the proceedings, the same judge had earlier issued a preservative order as soon as the arguments against his jurisdiction in the case was taken. This was our first apprehension of the commencement of the case,” he said.
The appeal letter obtained by Daily Trust read: “In view of the judgment/ruling of the court in the above suit delivered by Justice Ademola, on the 31st of March, 2014, our clients instructed us to proceed with an appeal.
“Consequently, we filed a Notice of Appeal dated 1st of April, 2014 challenging the judgment of the court in the above suit,” it said.
The letter added that once an
The ruling may have presented a setback for the defectors and the opposition APC, but the party and its lawmakers quickly rose to the occasion, alleging that it was a “black market order” and subsequently appealed the matter
appeal is filed on any particular case, all matters related to the case must await the appeal judgment.
But the question many Nigerians are asking is whether the lawmakers will based on the moral issue raised, do what the court opined, that is to “resign honourably,” or they will stay put to ensure the Constitution is followed to the letter.
One of the affected members, Asita Honourable, who responded to a question on the matter said they have the right both morally and constitutionally to remain on their seats.
“There is no issue here. All that the court did was to stop any leadership change in the House. No judge has the right to say we don’t have the moral or constitutional right to remain. The judge went into a matter that was never canvassed before him. In fact, I’ll ask, and I’m indeed asking, that before anybody is appointed as a judge in this country, his mental capability should be tested first,” said.
Minority leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, had in the wake of the ruling described it as a “strange judgment that turned law on its head.”
He said in a statement that “the judgment is a product of error of court as. No person can be compelled by law to stay in an association against his or her wishes.”
He said, “Section 68 was never argued in court by any of the parties. The judge gave an opinion he was never asked to give and an argument that was never canvassed before him.
“It negates a fundamental right of association of every citizen that is inalienable. Section 68 of the Constitution has been turned on its head and the error of the court is manifest,” he said.
The affected lawmakers also said the judgment would ridicule the reputation of the Nigerian judiciary, saying the judge “erred” in giving the order.
Rep Ali Ahmed from Kwara State, said the judgment could not withstand an appeal, saying if such continues, there would be more turbulence in the judiciary.
“As a party to the matter, I may be partisan. But I am sure every Nigerian must be alarmed at this judgment. Of course it cannot withstand an appeal, but the issue is if trial courts continue to behave this way, I hope we should be prepared for more turbulence in the judiciary,” he said.
Another affected lawmaker, Rep Aliyu Sani Madaki (APC, Kano) said the judgement was delivered in bad taste to ridicule the Nigerian judiciary.
“This is what we’ve been saying. We’ve seen this even before now. It’s a black market judgement that cannot obtain anywhere. It will surely ridicule the Nigerian judiciary. You can’t have such a ruling when another court said last Friday that the PDP doesn’t have anything to do on the matter.
“Besides, the judge went outside the prayers contained in the original suit, which shows that it is purely a black market order to favour PDP. PDP is desperate and the judges are not helping matters. This kind of judgement shouldn’t have come from any learned person. We will appeal it,” he said.
Similarly, counsel to the 37 lawmakers, Mahmud Abubakar Magaji (SAN), told our reporter on phone last night that the judge “dabbled into another matter that was never sought in the suit.”
He said “We have 30 days to appeal, but we’ll do that within this week. The judge erred. In fact, it was after he gave the ruling that was never sought for that he realized what he did and quickly turned to say that the lawmakers could not effect any leadership change in the House, which was the prayer of the suit.”
However, deputy majority leader of the House, Leo Ogor, said the 37 lawmakers should not “waste their resources on appeal” as they have already lost the matter.
“The seats they occupy belong to PDP. It is not an individual seat but that of the party. We were more than convinced that the court will do the right thing because you do not need a rocket scientist to interpret Section 68 of the Constitution.
“My colleagues should not bother to waste their time and resources on appeal. I’ve always emphasised this position that you cannot reap where you did not sow, our party has demonstrated that it respects the law of the land,” he said.
As things continue to unfold, it is left to be seen if the lawmakers will follow the path of constitutionality or morality to stay put or resign as opined by the court.