AN Abuja Federal High Court on Monday sacked 20 members of the Cross River State House of Assembly for defecting from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC).
Justice Taiwo Taiwo ordered the sack of the lawmakers while delivering judgment in a suit filed by the PDP.
He held that the lawmakers, having abandoned the political party that sponsored them to power, ought to vacate their seats.
The PDP had approached the court after the lawmakers defected to the APC in 2021.
Parties to the suit include the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the APC, Speaker of the State House of Assembly and Clerk of the State House of Assembly, among others.
Represented by its lawyer, Emmanuel Ukala, the PDP had asked the court to interpret the provisions of Section 109(1)(g) of the constitution, which prohibits a lawmaker from defecting to another political party without justifiable reasons.
The PDP asked the court to declare the lawmakers’ seats vacant.
In the suit, the party had prayed the court for an order restraining the lawmakers from acting as members of parliament both in Abuja and Calabar, the Cross River State capital.
It also asked the court to restrain INEC, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, clerk of the National Assembly, the House of Assembly for Cross River State and the Clerk of the State Assembly from recognising the lawmakers.
The party urged the court to compel INEC to accept from the PDP the list of candidates to fill the vacancies created by the exit of the lawmakers from the parliament on account of their defections.
In his ruling, presiding judge Justice Taiwo dismissed all the preliminary objections raised by the sacked lawmakers through their lawyer, Mike Ozekhome, SAN.
“A day must surely come when elected officials must ask the people who voted for them before defecting to other political parties,” the judge said.
He noted that the lawmakers wined and dined under the umbrella of the PDP but ditched the party even when there was no justification for their action.
“At the time the lawmakers defected from the PDP to the APC, the PDP did not have division in the party,” he added.
The judge declared the lawmakers’ seats vacant and restrained them from further parading themselves as members of the state house of assembly.
He also directed INEC to withdraw their certificates of return and accept new nominees from the PDP to fill the vacancies.
The judgment comes two weeks after Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja sacked Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State, his deputy, Kelechi Igwe, along with 15 lawmakers in the State House of Assembly, also for defecting from the APC to the PDP.