Reps leadership change: Court delivers judgment today




Today is judgment day at the Federal High Court in Abuja, in the suit instituted by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) against House of Representatives Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, his Deputy, Emeka Ihedioha, and other members of the house who defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The PDP, in the suit filed on January 7, 2014, is seeking to restrain the House of Representatives from altering the composition of its leadership.
At the last resumed hearing of the matter, Tambuwal, Ihedioha and other 37 members of the house who defected to the APC, had prayed the court to dismiss suit.

The defence’s legal team, which includes six Senior Advocates of Nigeria, faulted the competence of the suit.
While adopting their final addresses in relation to their counter affidavits to the plantiff’s originating summons, the lawyers described the suit as a pre-emptive step, abuse of court process and an attempt by the PDP to dabble into, and control the internal affairs of House of Reps.
Lawyer to House of Representatives, Tambuwal and Ihedioha, Mahmud Magaji (SAN) argued that it was wrong for the PDP to seek to restrain its former members from participating in the activities of the House on the ground of their defection.

Relying on Supreme Court’s decisions in the cases of FEDECO vs Goni, Nigerian Supreme Court Cases (NSCC) 1983 Volume 14, page 481 and Aneke vs Oloye NSCC 1983 Vol 14 at pages 315 and 317, Magaji further argued that the court has the sole powers to decide when a legislator’s seat was vacant where he decamped when there is a division in his old party, and there is a dispute of fact as to whether there is actually a division in the old party.
Magaji referred to pages 72 and 75 of the Justice Chukwu’s judgement to support his position. He added that the suit was not about whether or not the party was divided, but to resolve the dispute over which should control the party between the Tukur faction and that New PDP led by Abubakar Baraje.

Other defence lawyers, Niyi Akitola (SAN), Sebastine Hon (SAN) Abiodun Owonikoko (SAN), James Ocholi (SAN) and Jibril Okutepa (SAN) prayed the court to dismiss the suit.
They argued among others, that it constituted an abuse of court’s process because a similar suit was pending before Justice Ahmed Mohammed (another judge of the same court).

Akintola, particularly faulted the legitimacy of some of the averments in the affidavits supporting the plaintiff’s originating summons, arguing that such depositions offended the provision of the Evidence Act.
While arguing his originating summons, plaintiff’s lawyer, Yunus Usman (SAN) faulted the defection of the 37 former PDP members.
He argued that by virtue of the judgment by Justice Chukwu, there was no division in the party. He observed that the 37 defecting law makers defected despite the pendency of the judgment.

Usman submitted that in view of the judgment, “those defectors cannot initiate, move or support any motion to remove members of the PDP, who are principal officers of the House of Representatives.”
He argued that in view of their defection to another party, while there was no division in the PDP, the defecting 37 members of the House of Reps cannot, by virtue of the provision of Section 68(1)(g) of the Constitution, continue to participate the House’s legitimate businesses.
“They do not have the constitutional locus to participate in the removal of those principal officers, who constitutionally and legitimately hold offices,” he said.

Usma argued that until Justice Mohammed decides the question of whether or not they could still maintain their seats in spite of their defection, they can no longer participate in the business of the House.
After listening to parties’ arguments, Justice Ademola Adeniyi adjourned to March 25 for judgment.
But the judgment was not delivered for any obvious reasons.
The PDP, in a suit, wants the court to among others, restrain Tambuwal, other principal officers of the House and its defecting members in the House from taking any step “to alter or change the leadership of the 1st defendant (PDP).”

.The plaintiff, in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/2/2014 raised two questions for the court’s determination and sought for four reliefs.
The PDP wants 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) can participate in any proceedings to remove the House’ principal officers.

The party equally wants 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) can lawfully alter the composition or constitution of the House’s leadership.
It is praying 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.

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