The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, yesterday, declined to halt moves by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to declare the seats of all the fifty-one lawmakers that defected to the All Progressives Congress, APC, vacant
However, before striking out the suit that was filed before it by the lawmakers, Justice Ahmed Mohammed, stressed that in line with section 68(1) (g) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, only the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives, have the statutory powers to sack the plaintiffs from office.
Justice Mohammed delivered the judgment after he dismissed a fresh motion by the APC lawmakers, asking the high court to suspend its verdict sine-die (indefinitely), and await the outcome of a referral application they filed before the Appeal Court in Abuja.
The lawmakers had insisted that in view of section 295(2) of the constitution, the high court ought to allow the appellate court to give a clearer interpretation of section 68 (1) (g) of the constitution which bothers on the issue of defection.
Dismissing their application as unmeritorious, Justice Mohammed, accused the lawmakers of deliberately attempting to ‘arrest’ his judgment six months after hearing was concluded on the matter.
“Hearing has been concluded and the matter fixed for judgment. I do not know the procedure for an application to adjourn a ready judgment. In the final analysis, I find no merit in the application. The application is completely alien in the administration of Justice in Nigeria and it is accordingly dismissed”, the Judge held.
On the substantive matter, the high court, said it was convinced that the crux of the plaintiffs suit, bothered on alleged threat by the erstwhile PDP Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, to declare their seats vacant following their defection to the APC.
The court held that the fact that PDP does not have the powers to execute such threat reduced the suit by the lawmakers to a mere academic exercise.
Consequently, the court said there was no live issue for it to determine since PDP had filed two separate suits with a view to compel both the Senate President and the Speaker to declare the plaintiffs’ seats vacant, as well as, to compel the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to conduct fresh elections in their various constituencies.
Therefore, Justice Mohammed, yesterday, asked the APC lawmakers to await the outcome of the two pending suits, saying “It is the law and practice in civilised societies that parties who have submitted their dispute before a competent court, must allow the court to decide on it.
It will be recalled that the lawmakers had asked the court to determine whether considering the circumstances in the national and various state chapters of the PDP, there actually existed a faction or division within the party.
“Whether any of the Plaintiffs or other members of the PDP holding elective seats who desires to become a member of another faction of the party or any other political party is not saved by the proviso to section 68 (1) (g) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended. As well as, “whether 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 authority howsoever described, can declare the seats of any of the Plaintiffs or other members of the 4th Defendant that opted to join another political party vacant in the present peculiar and precarious circumstance of the 4th Defendant”.
Nevertheless, PDP, which yesterday hailed the judgment as “a victory for the nation and for our polity”, in a preliminary objection it filed against the suit, insisted that there was never a crisis in any of its chapters, saying there was only a minor disagreement among some of its members.
Relying on a previous court judgment that stopped the Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje led nPDP from operating in Nigeria, the party, further challenged the jurisdiction of the court to meddle into intraparty affairs, saying, “It is normal to have disagreements within a political party and that does not qualify as crisis”.
Besides, PDP told the court that the plaintiffs not only failed to disclose any reasonable cause of action, but also failed to utilize the internal dispute resolution mechanisms within the party before rushing to court.
More so, the APC lawmakers, had in their suit, also prayed the court for , “A declaration that the circumstances prevailing in the various state chapters of the party 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 simultaneously at another venue, followed up with the opening of a parallel National Head Office and release of the names of new parallel National Officers constitute and qualify as crisis and divisions anticipated under section 68 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended.