Defection: PDP asks court to dismiss lawmakers’ suit

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The Peoples Democratic Party [PDP] has asked a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja to throw out the suit filed by 22 senators and 57 members of House of Representatives to stop the declaration of their seats vacant in view of their defection or intention to defect to the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC). The party argued that the subject matter of the case is an intra-party matter and hence, the court lacks the jurisdiction to entertain it.

Besides, PDP said the suit was anchored on a non-existing cause of action as there is no faction in the party as alleged by the plaintiffs, a development which it said robbed the court of its jurisdiction.

In a preliminary objection filed by a team of lawyers anchored by Joe-Kyari Gadzama (SAN) with Dr. Ameachi; Nwiwu (SAN) and Paul Erokoro (SAN), PDP attacked the legal rights of the plaintiffs to file the action because it is not justiciable and there is no dispute between the contending parties.

The party said the various events alluded to by the plaintiffs in their originating summons “have either been settled or are in the process of being settled either internally or by the courts of the land. Why then have they not tabled their grievances before the party as stipulated by law?

“It is therefore, our contention that this is an intra-party matter and hence, this honourable court lacks the jurisdiction to entertain same.

It is the contention of the party that the suit is non-justiciable as the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives who are joined as respondents are immune from civil or criminal suits for acts carried out on the floor of the Senate or House.”

On this point, the party referred to Section 30 of the Legislative Houses [Powers and Privileges] Act Cap L12, LFN which states thus;

“Neither the President or Speaker, as the case may be, of a legislative house nor any officer of a legislative house shall be subject to the jurisdiction of any court in respect of the exercise of any power conferred on or vested in him by or under this Act or the standing orders of the Legislative House, or by the Constitution.”

However, the notice of preliminary objections by the PDP could not be taken as the court held that the non-service of some process of courts on the Speaker affected the proceedings.

Earlier, counsel to the Senate President, Ken Ikonne, applied for extension of time to file his defence. Although, the application was not opposed to by other counsel, the court held that having not been served on the Speaker (third fefendant), the application was not ripe for hearing.

It was the turn of counsel to the plaintiff, Mohammed Magaji (SAN), who also applied for extension of time to respond to the first and fourth respondents’ motion on notice. But since the said motion was also not served on the Speaker, the court held that it was not ripe for hearing.

The court now adjourned to January 29 to commence further hearing on the multiple applications pending before it.

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