FG Moves Against Defecting Lawmakers, Wants Court To Strip Them Of Privileges
SAN FRANCISCO, April 24, (THEWILL) â€' The Federal Government on Wednesday moved against the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lawmakers who defected to All Progressives Congress (APC) in the House of Representatives, asking a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, to strip them of all privileges of the House.
In moving against the lawmakers, the Federal Government is relying on an earlier pronouncement of the same court on the lawmakers.
In the current move, the Federal Government is seeking an order of injunction restraining the House of Representatives from further allowing the 41 defecting members from further participating in all the activities of the House.
In a suit filed by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for Justice, the Federal Government is asking the court to declare that in the light of the combined effects of sections 68(1)(g), 68(2) and 49 of the constitution and the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Oloyo V Alegbe (1983) SCNLR 35 as well as the decision of Justice Adeniyi Ademola in Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/4/14, the House of Representatives is not properly constituted and lawfully composed as envisaged by Section 49 of the Constitution.
The Federal Government is also asking the court to declare that the House, in view of the authorities cited above, is not properly constituted or composed as envisaged by section 49 of the Constitution to lawfully exercise its general legislative powers and functions under section of the constitution as distinct from proceedings.
It is also praying the court to declare that â€Ž the House and the Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, in view of the authorities cited above, cannot lawfully count the votes or presence of the persons affected by the said decision of the Federal High Court, for purposes of determining if a bill is carried or not, and for purposes of quorum of the House or its committees under section 62(2) of the constitution respectively.
The Federal Government is also relying on the authorities cited above, and is asking the court to declare that the Speaker should not continue to accord to the persons affected by the said decision of the Federal High Court, the rights and the privileges of the members of the House of Representatives.
In the suit, only the House and Speaker Tambuwal were listed as the defendants in the Originating Summons filed on behalf of the Attorney General of the Federation by â€Žthree Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN), namely Ade Okeaya-Inneh, Dr Fabian Ajogwu and Solomon Umoh.
The Federal Government also wants the court to answer four questions all of which border on whether the defecting lawmakers could continue to sit in the House in view of the pronouncement by Justice Ademola.
In an 18-paragraphed affidavit deposed to by one Kenechukwu Nomeh, a lawyer in the chambers of Ade Okeaya-Inneh and Co., the Federal Government â€Žsaid despite the ruling of Justice Ademola, the Speaker, 'has failed, neglected, or refused to give effect to the decision of the Federal High court by declaring the seat of the affected members of the House vacant contrary to the provisions of Section 68(2) of the constitution.'
It said that unless the court compels him, the Speaker would not comply with section 68(2) and declare the seats of the defecting lawmakers vacant.
â€ŽJustice Ademola had on March 31 granted an order of perpetual injunction restraining the 41 former PDP members of the House of Representatives, who defected to the APC from either initiating or participating in effort to alter the leadership of the House.
PDP had in the suit, sought primarily, to frustrate the move by the defecting law makers to initiate changes in the leadership of the House.
Justice Ademola particularly restrained 'the 12th to the 53rd defendants (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 1st defendant.'
He also granted a further order of perpetual injunction, restraining the defecting law makers from 'altering or participating in the altering or changing the leadership of the 1st defendant.'
The judge declared that in view of the 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 defecting lawmakers, who are 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, the defecting legislators cannot 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, the defecting lawmakers cannot lawfully alter the composition or constitution of the House's leadership.
Section 68(1) provides 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 ; (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.'
Justice Ademola, after analysing evidences before the court observed that there were undisputed facts that the defecting lawmakers were sponsored by the PDP; that the period of their membership has 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 â€' the APC.'And as such, they either vacate their seats or resign honorably and relinquish their constituents' mandates. They have no basis, morally and legally in staying in the 1st defendant (House of Reps) a day longer,' the judge noted.
However, Justice Ademola did not order any of the lawmakers to vacate their seats, as that was not part of the four reliefs sought by the plaintiff.