Lawmakers’ Defection: Court Strikes Out Case Against PDP

A Federal High Court in Abuja on Friday declined to stop the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, from declaring the seats of all the 79 lawmakers that defected to the All Progressives Congress, APC, vacant.

Justice Ahmed Mohammed delivered the judgment after he dismissed a fresh motion by the APC lawmakers, asking the high court to suspend its verdict indefinitely and await the outcome of a referral application they filed before the Appeal Court in Abuja.

The trial judge, however, stressed that in line with section 68 (1) (g) of the Nigerian Constitution, only the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives had the statutory powers to sack the plaintiffs from office.

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The plaintiffs had prayed the court for an order restraining the defendants from declaring their seats vacant following their defection.

Joined as co-defendants in the suit, filed in September 2013, are the PDP National Chairman,  Senate President, David Mark, House Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

The lawmakers had insisted that in view of section 295 (2) of the Constitution, the high court ought to allow the appellate court to give a clearer interpretation of section 68 (1) (g) of the Constitution which bothers on the issue of defection.

But dismissing their application as unmeritorious, Justice Mohammed accused the lawmakers of deliberately attempting to ‘arrest’ his judgment six months after hearing was concluded on the matter.

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On the substantive matter, the high court said it was convinced that the crux of the plaintiffs’ suit bothered on alleged threat by the former PDP chairman, Bamanga Tukur, to declare their seats vacant following their defection to the APC.

The court held that the fact that PDP does not have the powers to execute such threat reduced the suit by the lawmakers to a mere academic exercise.

Consequently, the court said there was no live issue for it to determine since PDP had filed two separate suits with a view to compelling both the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives to declare the APC lawmakers’ seats vacant and compel the INEC to conduct fresh elections in their various constituencies.

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“The PDP cannot declare their seats vacant, having submitted itself in other pending suits seeking to compel the Senate President and Speaker, House of Reps to declare the seats vacant. This suit is an academic exercise. It has no life of its own, so there is no adjudication and is, hereby, struck out,” Mohammed said.

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