Court Declines to Sack Saraki, Dogara, 52 Other Lawmakers for Unlawful Defection

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SWITZERLAND, MAY 17 – A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on Friday, struck out a suit seeking for the removal of 54 lawmakers who had decamped from their parties ahead of the 2019 elections.

The Legal Defence and Assistance Project, LEDAP, had asked the court to declare the seats vacant, comprised of 17 Senators and 37 House of Reps members. The Defendants included both members of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP

Those the court declined to sack from the National Assembly over the contention that their defection was in violation of section 68 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, included the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, former Minority Leader of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara.

Earlier, the court had declared that the defection of 53 of the lawmakers, including Senator Bukola Saraki, Speaker Yakubu Dogara and 51 federal lawmakers was illegal. Senator Akpabio’s defection was declared to be lawful since he was expelled from the PDP before joining the APC.

In a judgment that was delivered by Justice Okon Abang, the court held that the Defendants, aside Akpabio, acted in breach of the constitution by dumping political parties that sponsored them, it, however, held that the Plaintiff was bereft of the locus-standi to institute the action.

The court agreed with the Plaintiff that the Defendants apart from Akpabio failed to adduce any evidence to establish that there was division in their political parties before they defected.

Nevertheless, Justice Abang noted that neither the APC nor the PDP was joined as a party in the suit.

He held that though the Plaintiff presented a very good case, it, however, failed to prove how the defection of the lawmakers affected its rights and obligations, above that of the general public.

The court stressed that the matter could not be classified as a public interest litigation suit since the Plaintiff did not secure FIAT of the Attorney General of the Federation to institute the action against the lawmakers.

On Akpabio’s case, Justice Abang held that there was evidence before the court that he joined the APC after he was expelled by the PDP.

He held that having been expelled, Akpabio was no longer a member of any political party as at the time he “moved” to the APC to exercise his constitutional right under section 40 of the constitution.

Among Senators the Plaintiff had asked the court to declare their seats vacant included Senators Dino Melaye, Rabiu Kankwaso, Lanre Tejuoso, Shaaba Lafiagi, Rafiu Ibrahim, Barnabas Gemade, Abdulazeez Nyako, Monsurat Sunmonu, Usman Nafada, Suleiman Hunkuyi, Ibrahim Danbaba, Ubale Shittu, lsah Misau, Suleiman Nafif.

While the House of Reps members included Hon. Zakari Mohammed, Hon. Aminu Shagari, Hon Ooker-Jev, Hon. Rufai Chanchangi, Hon. Abdulsamad Dasuki, Hon. Sani Zoro, Hon. Benjamin Okolo, Hon. Bode Ayorinde, Hon. Sani Rank, Hon. Dickson Tarkighir, among others.

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