N'Assembly: PDP Can't Declare Your Seats Vacant Now, Court Tells 79 Lawmakers
BEVERLY HILLS, CA, March 28, (THEWILL) - The 79 legislators seeking to stop the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the leadership of the National Assembly from declaring their seats vacant following their defection to the All Progressives Congress (APC) were on Friday told not to exercise any fears.
A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja gave them the assurance as it struck out the suit they filed over the matter,saying the ruling PDP could not give effect to its threat to declare the lawmakers' seats vacant in view of the pendency of two cases on the issue.
In his judgement, Justice Ahmed Mohammed held that the PDP and its Chairman, having filed two separate suits, seeking that the seats of the law makers be declared vacant, could no longer proceed with their threat to ensure that the legislators' seats were declared vacant while the cases were still pending.
The law makers, made up of 22 Senators and 57 members House of Representatives had filed the suit following threat by the PDP to declare their seats vacant following their defection to APC.
Justice Mohammed ruled that since the kernel of the suit by the legislators was the threat by the PDP to declare their seats vacant, the threat no longer exist because the party and its Chairman had realised they have no such powers and have submitted the issue before the court for determination.
He held that since the issue of whether or not the seats of the defecting law makers could be declared vacant was yet to be resolved in the pending cases, the suit by the law makers was no longer necessary.
Justice Mohammed held that the suit by the law makers was now without any life issue and had become an academic exercise since the threat that forced them to file it no longer existed with the pendency of the two suits by the PDP.
He said the legislators would have the opportunity of arguing their position in the pending cases as he struck out their case.
He had earlier dismissed a motion brought by the lawmakers for an indefinite adjournment, in view of their pending application before the Court of Appeal, Abuja.
The plaintiffs had referred a portion of the case, concerning the interpretation of Section 68(1)(g) to the Court of Appeal for interpretation and urged the trial court not to deliver its judgment, but await the decision of the appellate court.
In dismissing the application, Justice Mohammed held that it was strange that a party would seek an adjournment over 60 days after the court had concluded trial in a case and was ready to deliver judgment.
In the two suits by the PDP, which are now pending before Justice Mohammed, the party is seeking to, among others, compel the leaders of both chambers of the National Assembly to declare vacant the seats of the defecting legislators.
The first of the two marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/65/2013 has the Senate President, David Mark, 12 defecting Senators and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as defendants.
The second marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/57/2014 has Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, 40 defecting Reps members and INEC as defendants.
The PDP, in the suit against Mark and others posed three questions for the court's determination: *Whether the 1st defendant (Mark) by virtue of the provisions of the Constitution (as amended), does not owe a legal duty to declare vacant the seats of the 2nd to 12 defendants, members of the Senate who decamped to the All Progressives Congress (APC) without satisfying the conditions stipulated under Section 68(1)(g) of the Constitution.
*Whether the 2nd to 12th defendants, having been elected to the Senate on the platform of the 1st plaintiff (PDP), can in view of the provisions of Section 68(2) of the Constitution and having failed to meet the conditions laid down in Section 68(1)(g) of the Constitution, validly decamp to the All Progressives Congress (APC) and retain their seats.
*Whether having regards to questions 1 and 2 above, the 13th defendant (INEC) are not obliged to conduct elections to fill the vacant seats in the affected senatorial districts The party sought the following reliefs: "A declaration that the 1st defendant owes a legal duty by virtue of Section 68(2) of the Constitution to declare vacant the seats of the 2nd to 12th defendants, members of the Senate who decamped to the All Progressives Congress (APC) without satisfying the conditions stipulated under Section 68(1)(g) of the Constitution.
*A declaration that the 2nd to 12th defendants, having been elected to the senate on the platform of the 1st plaintiff cannot in view of the provisions of 68(2) of the Constitution and having failed to meet the conditions laid down in Section 68(1)(g) of the Constitution cannot validly decamp to the All Progressives Congress (APC) and retain their seats.
*An order declaring the seats of the 2nd to 12th defendants vacant, the 2nd to 12th defendants having decamped to the APC without satisfying the conditions stipulated under Section 68(1)(g) of the Constitution.
Alternatively, it is praying for an order of mandamus directing the 1st defendant to declare the seats of the 2nd to 12th defendants vacant, having allegedly decamped to the APC in the absence of any factionalisation of the 1st plaintiff" .
*An order of the court directing the 13th defendant (INEC) to immediately organise and conduct elections into the senatorial districts to fill the vacant seats.
Similar prayers are equally contained in the other suit and both suits have been adjourned to April 17.