House: Tambuwal, Defecting Lawmakers Tackle PDP Over Suit To Stop Leadership Change
SAN FRANCISCO, February 03, (THEWILL) - The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members of the House of Representatives who defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) as well as the Speaker of the House, Aminu Tambuwal, on Monday, tackled the PDP over its suit seeking to stop a change of leadership in the House.
Tambuwal, who was named as a defendant in the suit along with 52 others, queried the powers of a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja to hear the suit.
The PDP, in its originating summons, had prayed the court to determine whether, in view of the mandatory provision of Section 68(1)(g) of the Constitution, and in view of the pendency of an earlier suit by the defecting law makers, they (the defecting legislators) could participate in any proceedings to remove the House' principal officers.
The party also prayed the court to determine whether, in view of the provision of Section 68(1)(g) of the Constitution and the pending suit by the defecting legislators, they (the defecting law makers) could lawfully alter the composition or constitution of the House's leadership.
It prayed the court to declare that in view of Section 68(1)(g) of the Constitution and the pending case marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/621/2013 the defecting lawmakers "cannot lawfully vote and contribute to any motion for the removal or change of any of the principal officers" of the House.
PDP also wanted the court to declare that the defecting lawmakers, who were plaintiffs in the earlier suit before Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the same court, "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.
" It prayed the court for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants from "altering or changing the House's leadership.
The PDP equally filed an application for interlocutory injunction restraining the defendants from altering the leadership of the House pending the determination of the substantive suit.
But when the case came up for hearing on Monday, the defendants said the PDP not only lacked the locus standi to institute the suit , stressing that the suit itself constituted an abuse of court process, and also not justiceable since it seeks to interfere in the internal affairs of the House.
Tambuwal and the other defendants argued that the court lacked the jurisdiction to dwell into the internal affairs of the House, and that the case amounted to an academic or hypothetical exercise.
Their team of lawyers led by Adeniyi Akintola (SAN), Mahmud Magaji (SAN), Sebastine Hon (SAN), Abiodun Owonikoko(SAN) and Eric Apia asked presiding judge, Justice Adeniyi Ademola, to either dismiss or strike out the suit.
Magaji, who is representing the House, Tambuwal and Deputy Speaker, Emeka Ihedioha, in the suit, argued that the suit amounted to an abuse of court process because it was predicated on a similar suit pending before another judge of the same court.
He argued that the PDP lacked the locus standi to institute the suit because it was not a member of the House and could not interfere in the internal businesses of the House.
Magaji urged the court to dismiss the suit.
Akintola on his part stated that the defendants were challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear the case in view of the provisions of Sections 23 and 30 of the Legislative House's Powers and Privileges Act, Cap L12 Laws of Nigeria 2004.
He argued that by virtue of those provisions, all courts were barred from enquiring into how principal officers of a legislative house exercise their powers.
Akintola argued that the exercise of such powers could only be questioned if they were exercised in breach of constitutional provisions.
He contended that it was unlawful for the PDP to seek to preemptively restrain the principal officers of the House, and other defendants in the suit from exercising their constitutional powers.
He also noted the similarity in the suit and the earlier one before Justice Mohammed.
According to him, both cases were seeking primarily, the interpretation of Section 68 (1) (g) of the Constitution.
Akintola argued that the reliefs sought in both cases were intertwined and urged the court to strike it out on ground of abuse of court process.
Hon queried the plaintiff's right to sue on behalf of members of the APC, who are also principal members of the House.
He argued that even where the PDP could sue to protect the position of its members in the House, it could not act in similar manner in relation to other principal members who belonged to APC, without their consent.
Relying on the provision of Section 50(1)(b) of the Constitution, Hon queried the right of the PDP to bother itself about how members of the House of Reps organise themselves when it was not a member.
"In this case, PDP is an interloper and a busybody.
Section 50(1)(b) of the Constitution has created a vested interest that belongs to a certain class of people, who are members of the House.
PDP not being a member of the House, has no standing to institute this action," Hon said.
Relying on the provision of Section 60 of the Constitution, Hon argued that the House had the powers to regulate its own procedures.
He added that by virtue of the provision of section 60 of the Constitution, the "PDP lacks the powers to dabble into the internal affairs of the House.
" On his part, Owonikoko argued that the case was an abuse of the process of court because it was predicated on the existing case before Justice Mohammed.
He urged the court to dismiss the case.
Justice Ademola therefore adjourned to February 14 for the plaintiff to respond and argue its originating summons.