Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila of the All Progressives Congress has described Monday’s ruling by the Federal High Court, Abuja as a strange judgment that turned law on its head. In reflecting on the judgment he said the judgment is a product of error of court the lawmakers would be willing to appeal at a higher court. The judgment is strange and will be appealed. No person can be compelled by law to stay in an association against his or her wishes.” Gbajabiamila also said that the judgment is an affront to right of association of the lawmakers. “It negates a fundamental right of association of every citizen that is inalienable. Section 68 of the constitution has been turned on its head and the error of the court is manifest. Section 68 was never argued in court by any of the parties. The judge gave an opinion he was never asked to give and an argument that was never canvassed in court,” said the minority leader.
The Federal High Court in Abuja held that lawmakers who defected from the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, to the opposition party, All Progressive Congress, APC, cannot lawfully alter the composition or leadership of the House of Representatives which is dominated by the PDP. The PDP which was rattled by the wind of defection that ravaged the party recently had instituted the suit at the court where it sought to stop its defected members from effecting any change in the leadership positions of the House of Representatives that will most likely affect any of the principal officers of the House of Representatives.
Justice Adeniyi Ademola held that in view of the mandatory provision of Section 68(1) (g) of the nation’s Constitution and in view of the pendency of another suit between Senator Bello Hayatu Gwarzo and 78 others against Alhaji Bamanga Tukur and 4 others on the same subject matter which is also before a sister court, that the defected lawmakers cannot lawfully alter composition or leadership of the PDP in the House of Representatives.
The court also held that the 12th to 53rd lawmakers elected under the platform of the PDP who defected to APC cannot under the provision of Section 68 (1) (g) of the constitution, “validly function as members of the House of Representatives or contribute to, or vote on any motion and or debate in the proceedings of the House of Representatives with a view to removing or sanctioning any of the Principal Officers, including the Speaker or Deputy Speaker. Justice Ademola observed that another Federal High Court had earlier on 8th October, 2013, held that there was no division in the PDP, stressing that the decision, “is clear, unambiguous and knowledgeable. The defected lawmakers were sponsored by the PDP and in accordance with provision of Section 68 (1) (g) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended, the period of their election is yet to expire. Therefore, it is the court’s opinion that there is no division in PDP in line with Justice Chukwu’s ruling” the judge stated.
He also noted that since the judgment delivered by Justice Chukwu which has taken eight months with no appeal from those that alleged there was division in the party, that it follows that there is indeed no division in the party. Furthermore, Justice Ademola remarked that the defected lawmakers ought to have resigned their seats honorably since they have left the party upon which their constituencies gave them mandate to represent them in the National Assembly noting that they have no business morally and legally staying in the House of Representatives. The court concluded by holding that the defected lawmakers cannot vote in any motion seeking to remove principal officers of the House and that they are not competent to sponsor, contribute or vote on any motion calling for the removal or change in the leadership of the House of Representatives or the removal of any of the Principal Officers of the House of Representatives and made an order of perpetual injunction restraining the defected lawmakers from participating in any plan to change leadership of the House of Representatives and restrained them from taking steps, actions or doing anything to effect any change in the leadership of principal officers of the House.