Speaker of the House of Representatives Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, his Deputy, Emeka Ihedioha and other principal officers of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday urged a Federal High Court in Abuja to dismiss a suit by the party.
In the suit, PDP is seeking to restrain the House of Representatives from altering the composition of its leadership.
Tambuwal, Ihedioha and others prayer for the suit’s dismissal is supported by 37 other former PDP members of the House of Reps, who defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC). They are all sued by the PDP.
Yesterday, the defence’s legal team, which included 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, Mahmoud 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 the Supreme Court’s decisions in the cases of FEDECO vs Goni, Nigerian Supreme Court Cases (NSCC) 1983 Volume 14 at page 481 and Aneke vs Oloye NSCC 1983 Vol 14 at pages 315 and 317, Magaji further argued that the court had the sole powers to decide when a legislator’s seat was vacant when he decamped on account of a division in his old party.
He said the two decisions by the apex court were based on the provision of Section 64(1(g) of the 1979 Constitution, which was the same with Section 68(1)(g) of the 1999 Constitution.
Magaji contended that, as against the position of the PDP, the existence of an earlier suit between the Bamaga Tukur-led PDP and the New PDP, decided by Justice Evoh Chukwu, was an evidence of a division in the party.
The PDP had exhibited Justice Chukwu’s judgment on the suit to support its claim that there was no division in the 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 averrments in the affidavits supporting the plaintiff’s originating summons, arguing that such depositions offended the provision of the Evidence Act.
He observed that the deponent failed to state the source of the facts he deposed to, and urged the court to disregard the affidavits.
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 can not 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 could not, by virtue of the provision of Section 68(1)(g) of the Constitution, continue to participate the 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.
Usman argued that until Justice Mohammed decided the question of whether or not they could still maintain their seats in spite of their defection, they could no longer participate in the business of the House.
Referring to some newspaper reports threat to change the House’ leadership, Usman argued that there were real threat exist to justify his client’s apprehension of move to alter the House’s leadership before Justice Mohammed would decide the sister case.
He urged the court to grant his client’s claims and reliefs.
After listening to parties’ arguments, Justice Adeniyi Ademola adjourned to March 25 for judgment.
The PDP, in the suit, wanted 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).”
An officer of the PDP, Nanchang Ndam, stated in a supporting affidavit that while the defection of some of the defendants was still a subject of litigation before Justice Mohammed, the defendants, particularly the Minority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila have issued threats to change the leadership of the House.
He stated that unless the defendants were restrained, they could carry out the threat and thereby prejudice the earlier suit, cause a breakdown of law and other and parallel the activities of the House.
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 wanted 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 wanted 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.
He maintained that most of the issues as resolved and adopted by the Assembly â€œwill not fly at the National Conference in Abuja, they are in the Nigerian context, dead on arrival, and as such will not get across the Lokoja end of the River Niger on its way to Abuja for considerationâ€ he stated.
Ajulo said he spoke as â€œCitizen Olukayode Ajulo a Yoruba from the South West of Nigeria who has in the past 25 years lived in the North, (North East, North West and North Central) and the South (South South and South East) and whose inalienable right to speak out is guaranteed by our extant Constitution as amended and other statutes of the realmâ€.
He further stated that he raised the alarm as someone who has followed among others, the late Sadauna of Sokoto, Premier Ahmadu Bello’s wise counsel, that â€œwe need not forget our differences but should understand them to build a united Nigeria.â€
He stated that the Yorubas need not hide behind one finger while our body is exposed to all.
He said â€œA partisan and parochial position on an issue such as defence and military commands would mean that instead of bringing proposals that are forging Nigeria ahead in terms of a united and nationalistic agenda, we are receding backwards into ethno-centric, rationalistic and divisive formulae in key policy areas.â€
â€œYorubas and other ethnic nationalities need to understand the modalities of the Conference before throwing punches as resolutions can only be arrived at by consensus or by 75 per cent majority within a national platform.