Court sacks 20 Cross River Lawmakers who defected from PDP to APC
The judge, who granted all the reliefs sought by the PDP, held that it was disheartening that politicians in the country treat citizens as if they do not matter once they get into office. “A day must surely come when elected officials, must ask the people who voted for them before defecting to other political parties, instead of defecting to another party without recourse to the law and the citizens.
A Federal High Court (FHC), Abuja, on Monday, ordered 20 lawmakers from Cross River to vacate their seats over their defection from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to All Progressives Congress (APC).
Justice Taiwo Taiwo, in a judgment, dismissed the defence argument that the PDP (plaintiff) had no locus standi (legal rights) to institute the case.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the PDP had filed the suit to challenge the lawmakers’ defection to another party.
Two members of the House of Representatives from the state; Michael Etaba and Legor Idagbor, and 18 other lawmakers from the House of Assembly, including the Speaker, Eteng Williams, were sacked in the judgment.
Justice Taiwo dismissed all the preliminary objections raised by the sacked lawmakers.
Justice Taiwo ruled that the argument of the lawmakers that there was rancour in the PDP which necessitated their defection to APC was a ploy to mislead the court.
The judge, who granted all the reliefs sought by the PDP, held that it was disheartening that politicians in the country treat citizens as if they do not matter once they get into office.
“A day must surely come when elected officials, must ask the people who voted for them before defecting to other political parties, instead of defecting to another party without recourse to the law and the citizens.
“We cannot continue in sin and expect grace to abound,” he held.
He noted that “the lawmakers wined and dined under the umbrella of the PDP,” but later pitched their tent with the APC, even when there was no justification for their action.
“The defendants’ documents were contrived and filed with loopholes. The papers are manifestly defective,” the judge said while granting all the reliefs sought by the PDP.
Taiwo held that despite the fact that major cause of action arose in Calabar, it had both “territorial and subject matter” jurisdictions to entertain the suit.
The defendants in the suit were the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Speaker, House of Representatives, the Clerk of the National Assembly, the Cross River House of Assembly, the Clerk of the State Assembly, the 20 lawmakers and the APC as 1st to 26th defendants respectively.
The PDP filed the suit on Aug. 27, 2021, following the lawmakers’ defection alongside the Cross River Governor, Ben Ayade, on May 20, 2021 to APC.
The affected lawmakers include Michael Etaba, Legor Idagbor, Eteng Williams, Joseph Bassey, Odey Agbe and Okon Ephraim.
Others are: Regina Anyogo, Matthew Olory, Ekpo Bassey, Ogbor Udop, Ekpe Okon, Hillary Bisong, Francis Asuquo, Elvert Ayambem, Davis Etta, Sunday Achunekan, Cynthia Nkasi, Edward Ajang, Chris Ogar and Maria Akwaji.
While Mr Etaba represents Obubra/Etung Federal Constituency of Cross River, Mr Idagbor represents Obudu/Obaliku/Bekwarra Federal Constituency of the state.
In arguing its case, PDP’s lawyer, Emmanuel Ukala, SAN, sought the court’s interpretation of the provisions of Section 109(1)(g) of the constitution, which prohibits a lawmaker from defecting to another political party without justifiable reasons.
Ukala also drew the court’s attention to the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Abegunde versus Ondo State House of Assembly (2015).
He contended that the lawmakers being persons whose election to the parliament was sponsored by the PDP and having become members of another political party, their seats should be declared vacant.
In the originating summons filed before the judge, the PDP prayed for “an order of injunction restraining the lawmakers from acting as members of parliament both in Abuja and Calabar, the Cross River capital.
The plaintiff also sought “an order of injunction restraining INEC, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, clerk of the National Assembly, the House of Assembly for Cross River State and the clerk of the State Assembly from according recognition to the dismissed lawmakers.”
In addition, the party urged the court to make “an order of mandatory injunction compelling INEC to accept from the PDP the list of candidates for the purpose of filling the vacancies created by the exit of the lawmakers from the parliament on account of their defections.”
Meanwhile, counsel to the sacked lawmakers, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, in an interview shortly after the judgment, said the court decision would be challenged at the Court of Appeal.
NAN reports that Justice Inyang Ekwo of a FHC, Abuja, had, on March 8, sacked Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi; his deputy, Kelechi Igwe, alongside 15 lawmakers in the state House of Assembly over their defection to APC.