Defection: Court Moves To Fast-track Lawmakers' Suit Against PDP


Tambuwal to get service through court's bailiff SAN FRANCISCO, January 29, (THEWILL) -   A  Federal High Court sitting in Abuja Wednesday decided to fast-track the case brought before it by some defecting Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members of the National Assembly against the ruling party and its leadership.

This is to ensure that the refusal of  of the Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon.

  Aminu Tambuwal, to be joined in a case  against his party -  PDP   does not stall further hearing in the case.

Presiding judge of the court, Justice Ahmed Mohammed, therefore ordered parties, in the suit instituted by the lawmakers, majority of who were PDP members, to hand all "processes (court documents) yet to be served on the third defendant (Tambuwal) to the court's bailiff, who shall ensure that he is served between now and Friday.

" The judge's order was informed by complaints from counsels in the case, including the plaintiffs' lawyer, Mahmud Magaji (SAN) , that they had difficulties serving Tambuwal with court processes.

Counsel  to the Senate President, David Mark (2nd defendant), Ken Ikonne, frowned on  Tambuwal's refusal to either attend the court or sent a representative, even after he (the lawyer) went the extra step to personally effect service of processes on the Speaker.

The court was told that the inability of other parties, particularly the plaintiff, to serve Tambuwal stalled move by Joe Kyari Gadzama (SAN), lawyer to PDP and its ex-Chairman, Bamanga Tukur to argue his application seeking the reversal of the defection of some former PDP law makers to All Progressives Congress (APC).

Gadzama had applied to the court to nullify the defection,  hinging his argument  on the premise that the defection of the members took place after the court had ordered parties to maintain status quo pending the determination of the case.

Gadzama said he filed his application last December  to protect the court's dignity because its order had been flouted by the PDP members of the House of Representatives, who allegedly defected to the APC after the court ordered parties to maintain status quo.

Gadzama argued that the constant threat by some Senators, who are parties in the case, to also defect, was because the court failed to take action against those who defected after its order for the maintenance of status quo.

Plaintiffs' lawyer, Magaji, objected to the hearing of Gadzama's application on the ground that his inability to serve Tambuwal with his motion for extension of time has denied him the opportunity to properly respond to Gadzama's application.

Magaji said he has filed a counter affidavit to the application and had equally filed a motion for extension of time, having filed out of time, but that his inability to serve the third defendant (Tambuwal) has made it impossible for the court to hear Gadzama's application to which he was responding.

In his ruling, Justice Mohammed upheld Magaji's submissions, noting that should the court proceed to hear Gadzama's application, without hearing the plaintiffs' motion to extend time, they would be denied the right to respond to the application.

He held that the court could but deny the plaintiffs' right to respond.

The judge also held that the court could not proceed without all the parties properly served.

The judge, who ensured that one of the court's bailiffs was in court to hear his pronouncement, ordered parties to hand all processes intended for Tambuwal to the bailiff , who shall serve the Speaker between now and Friday.

He therefore adjourned   to February 5 for hearing of Gadzama's application.

The suit was instituted late last year by some members of the National Assembly, including  22 PDP Senators and 57 members House of Representatives, including those who have defected to APC.

They are among others, seeking to restrain the PDP and the leadership of the National Assembly from declaring vacant the seats of those who have defected to the APC.

Defendants in the suit are Tukur, Mark, Tambuwal, PDP and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The plaintiffs are, in the originating summons, seeking the following reliefs: 'A declaration that the circumstance prevailing at the national level and various state chapters of the PDP (4th defendant) which led to factions/ divisions as witnessed at the Special National Convention of the 4th defendant held on 31st August 2013 and holding of a parallel convention simultaeneously at Shehu Musa Yar'Adua Centre, followed up with the emergence of new National Executive Committee constitute and qualify as crisis, faction and division anticipated under Section 68 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended.

'A declaration that any of the plaintiffs or other members of the PDP who pursuant to the crisis that led to factions/divisions in the 4th defendant, joined new faction of the 4th defendant or desires to join it or another political party (individually or as a group) is/are saved by the proviso to Section 68(1) (g) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended without losing his/their elective seats.

'A declaration that in view of the proviso to Section 68 (1) (g) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended, the 1st defendant or any other officer of the 4th defendant or any person or authority whatsoever cannot declare vacant the seats of any of the plaintiffs or others members of the 4th defendant that joined or who may desire to become members of another political party in view of the present crisis that created factions/divisions in the 4th defendant vacant.

The plaintiffs want  an order, 'restraining  the 2nd and 3rd defendants from conducting any proceedings in their respective chambers aimed at declaring the seat (s) of any the plaintiffs or other members of the 4th defendant who joined or intended to become members of another political party vacant in view of the present circumstance in the 4th defendant as vacant.

'An order restraining the 5th defendant (INEC) from accepting nominations of any purported candidate and conducting by-election aimed at filling the seats of any of the plaintiffs or other members of the 4th defendant who joined or may wish to become members of another political party in view of the present circumstance in the 4th defendant'.

The defendants, particularly Tukur and PDP, have opposed the suit, praying  the court to dismiss it on several grounds.

They argued that the substance of the case "is an intra-party matter for which the 4th defendant (PDP) has various administrative and legal mechanisms which are yet to be exhausted by the plaintiffs.

" The party and its ex-Chairman urged the court to dismiss the suit on   further grounds that the plaintiffs "lacked that requisite legal standing to institute and sustain this suit;" that the suit amounts to an abuse of court process, that it was wrongly commenced and that there is no reasonable cause of action that lies against the defendants.