Defecting PDP Senators Must Vacate Their Seats Now - Senator Enang
We Shall Do The Needful , Says Mark BEVERLY HILLS, CA, January 09, (THEWILL) - The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Business, Senator Ita Enang, on Thursday provided the legal implications of the defection of senators from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
He warned that the law is very clear and has provided that the defecting members of the National Assembly elected on the PDP platform must have to vacate their seats.
In a related development, the President of the Senate, David Mark declared ahead of the forthcoming National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the PDP that the leaders of the party will unite to save the party from its current crisis.
"We will arrest the current situation and save our party from further disintegration.
some Nigerians are talking about tsunami in the PDP because of the defection by some members of our party holding elective and non-elective positions.
"But as leaders, we will not sit by and continue to allow this drift.
We shall do the needful and ensure that we save our great party," he said in a statement.
It could be recalled that 22 Senators before the Christmas holiday were listed as plaintiffs in a suit filed by the aggrieved lawmakers to prevent the National Assembly leadership from declaring their seats vacant in the event that they defected.
However, Senator Enang (Akwa Ibom/PDP), said at a media briefing that defecting lawmakers must vacate their seats if relevant sections of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) are anything to go by.
According to him, the 1999 Constitution (as amended) prohibits independent candidates to participate in any elections, therefore, to participate in any election, one must begin by joining a political party.
He said when legislators are elected into the National Assembly, they are voted in on the basis of the political party to which they belong and not on individual grounds.
"It is the political parties which win the elections, and as such the seat belongs to the political party and not the individual," Enang declared.
Enang further stated that: ".
while it may be acceptable for politicians to defect from one party to another, is it acceptable for them to retain their mandate from the parties from which they have defected? The answer is no.
It should be noted that there are consequential laws guiding such defections.
" Citing Section 68 (1)(g) of the Constitution (as amended), Enang stated that 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: 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 faction by one of which he was previously sponsored.
Enang said the provisions of Section 68 (1)(g) of the Constitution are explicit in matters which concern the legislature.
He said it clearly mandates that any member of the legislature, who intends to defect to another party, must prove that division exists in the party of which he was a member, or that his party has merged with two or more parties or factions.
"Attention should be drawn to a precedent from 2012 where a State lawmaker, a member of the Federal House of Representatives, Mr.
Ifedayo Abegunde, representing Akure North/Akure South Constituency, that defected from the Labour Party, in Ondo State, lost his seat.
"The court upheld the contention that the lawmaker did not prove a division (or faction) within the Labour Party.
It is also relevant that in reaching its decision, the court relied on the Supreme Court's pronouncement in Amaechi v.
INEC (2008) 1 MJSC 1 at 207, that - ".
if it is only a party that canvasses for votes, it follows that it is a party that wins an election.
A good or bad candidate may enhance or diminish the prospect of his party in winning, but at the end of the day it is the party that wins or loses an election.
" Senator Enang noted that the Constitution is superior as interpreted in judgements of the Supreme Court and, as such, the first consideration of any court should be whether or not a division exists within the party.
He insisted that there was no division in PDP.
"On Friday, October 18, 2013, a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja and presided over by His Lordship, Justice Elvis Chukwu had ruled that there was no division in PDP.
Arising from this, any member of any party who defects to another political loses his seat as it is the sponsoring party that won the election and not the individual, " he explained.
Enang reminded defecting lawmakers that it is the name of the political party that is on the ballot paper.
And because the National Assembly has not passed any law or amendment that allows independent candidacy, independent candidates are not allowed in elections in Nigeria.
"Another question that demands an answer is this: does a legislator who represents a people who are in support of a particular party have the right to defect to another party with the right of his people when he ought to be speaking the mind of his people? "Therefore, if a candidate came on the basis of political party and wants to leave the party, he is leaving the seat; he is not leaving with the seat because it is the party that won the election, which is speaking based on the law.
Individuals did not contest election.
The defecting members of the National Assembly elected on the PDP platform have to vacate their seats.
Doing so is mandatory if the relevant sections of the Constitution are anything to go by.
"The legality of cross carpeting at both arms of government, that is the legislative and executive arms of government, was determined by the Supreme Court in the celebrated case of AG FEDERATION V ATIKU ABUBAKAR (2007) 4 SC (PT.
11) 62, from which we can make the following proposition that cross carpeting by any member of the legislature at both Federal and State levels i.
Senate, House Representatives and State House of Assembly automatically makes the seat of such member vacant except where such persons come within the exceptions provided in sections 68 (1) (g) and 109 (1) (g) of the constitution," he said.
Meanwhile, the Senate President, Mark, in a statement issued by his Special Adviser Media and Publicity, Kola Ologbondiyan, has admitted that the development (defection) is a challenge, promising that genuine efforts would be made to reconcile party men and women and bring peace and unity in the PDP.
Mark was optimistic that the Senate remains a united family, saying what affects the welfare and well-being of Nigerians would be the interests of the Senate.
EMMA UCHE, ABUJA