House Leadership: Defected Lawmakers Want Stay Of Execution On Court Judgment
SAN FRANCISCO, April 04, (THEWILL) - As controversy continues to surround the recent judgement of Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja over the case involving members of the House of Representatives who defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the ruling PDP, the 37 lawmakers have asked the court to stay execution on the judgment.
The lawmakers in their application on Friday said that the House had started making moves to compel them to vacate their seats as members of the House of Representatives following the pronouncement of Justice Ademola.
They are therefore asking the court to stop the PDP from taking advantage of the judgment pending the determination of their appeal to the Court of Appeal.
They also asked the court for an interlocutory injunction restraining the House, the Speaker of the House, the Deputy Speaker and the Clerk of the House from stopping them from entering and coming out of the National Assembly Complex and Chambers pending the determination of their appeal.
In the application for stay of execution of the judgment filed on their behalf by Sebastine Hon (SAN),the lawmakers asked the court to stop the leadership of the House from stopping them from participating in the business of the House.
Last Monday, Justice Ademola had ruled that the lawmakers having defected to APC from PDP, they had no reason to remain in the House as honourable members , asking them to vacate their seats honorably.
Counsel to the lawmakers, Hon , said that an arguable appeal had been filed and that the appeal raised special circumstances which the court should consider and grant an order staying the execution of the judgment.
An affidavit deposed to by Mr.
Simon Udu of Sebastine Hon Chambers said that if the judgment was not stayed and the appellants were prevented from participating in the plenary or the process to amend the constitution, the process might be truncated.
He warned that irreparable damages would be caused the appellants if their appeal turned out to be successful only after the lapse of their tenure as he urged the court to bear in mind that appeals at the Court of Appeal take time to determine, which might even drag beyond the tenure of office of the appellants.
Justice Ademola had in his judgment granted an order of perpetual injunction restraining the lawmakers from either initiating or participating in effort to alter the leadership of the House.
He particularly restrained 'the 12th to the 53rddefendants (the defecting law makers), their agents and privies, servants from taking any steps or further steps or seating, starting or doing anything to alter or remove or change the leadership of the 1stdefendant.
(House of Reps.
)' He also granted a further order of perpetual injunction, restraining the defected lawmakers from "altering or participating in the altering or changing the leadership of the 1stdefendant.
' The judge declared that in view of provision of Section 68(1)(g) of the Constitution and the case marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/621/2013 filed by the defecting lawmakers ( which was decided by Justice Ahmed Mohammed and in which they admitted defecting) they "cannot lawfully vote and contribute to any motion for the removal or change of any of the principal officers" of the House.
He also declared that the lawmakers, who were plaintiffs in the earlier suit decided by Justice Mohammed, "are not competent to sponsor, contribute or vote on any motion calling for the removal or change in the leadership of the House or the removal of any principal officers of the House.
Or removal of any of the principal officers of the 1st defendant.
" Justice Ademola held that, in view of the mandatory provision of Section 68(1)(g) of the Constitution, they (the defecting legislators) can participate in any proceedings to remove the House' principal officers.
He also held that, in view of the provision of Section 68(1)(g) of the Constitution, they could not lawfully alter the composition or constitution of the House's leadership.
According to Section 68(1), ' A member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives shall vacate his seat in the House of which he is a member if ; (g) being a person whose election to the House was sponsored by a political party, he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which that House was elected; Provided that his membership of the latter political party is not as a result of a division in the political party of which he was previously a member or of a merger of two or more political parties or factions by one of which he was previously sponsored.
' After going through the evidences before the court, Justice Ademola observed that there were undisputed facts that the defecting lawmakers were sponsored by the PDP; that the period of their membership had not expired, but that the contention among parties was whether there was a division in the party as contemplated in the provision to section 68(1)(g).
Relying on the definition of 'division' in the Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary (8th edition of the International Student edition), the judge held that from evidence before him, including the October 2013 judgment by Justice Evoh Chukwu of the same court, there was no division in the PDP to have allowed the law makers to retain their seats.
The court finds, as an undisputed fact, that the period for which the 12 to the 53 respondents were sponsored by the plaintiff has not expired in the 1st defendant (House of Reps).
And as earlier stated, there is no division in the plaintiff, and they, that is, the 12th to the 53rd respondents have decamped to another political party - the APC.
'And as such, they either vacate their seats or resign honourably and relinquish their constituents' mandates.
They have no basis, morally and legally in staying in the1st defendant (House of Reps) a day longer,' the judge noted.
However, he did not order any of the law makers to yield their seats as that was not part of the four reliefs sought by the plaintiff.
Before deciding the substantive suit, the judge dismissed the preliminary objections by the defendants.
He held that the suit was well instituted; that it was justiciable; that it was not an abuse of court process; that the plaintiff possessed the locus standi to institute the action and that the originating summons filed by the plaintiff was competent.