Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dr. Yakubu Dogara have asked the Abuja division of the Federal High Court to dismiss a suit brought against them and 52 others on account of their defection from their various political parties in 2018.
Meanwhile, Justice Okon Abang has fixed May 17, to deliver judgment on the suit.
The suit was instituted by an advocacy body, Legal Defence and Assistant Project (LEDAP).
However, in their separate defence, Saraki and Dogora have challenged the locus standi of the group to file the suit.The defendants have equally challenged the jurisdiction of the court to adjudicate on the defection suit.
LEDAP has through its counsel Jibrin Okutepa, SAN, approached the Federal High Court to invoke Section 251 of the 1999 constitution to declare the seats of the defecting national lawmakers vacant on the grounds that their action was a breach of the law.
The plaintiff in the originating summon also asked the court to order the lawmakers to refund all monies they collected from the Federal government since their defection.However, Saraki and 16 other senators in their preliminary objection against the suit urged Justice Okon Abang to dismiss the suit in its entirety because it discloses no cause of action.
In the preliminary objection argued by their lead counsel, Mahmoud Magaji, SAN, the senators averred that the plaintiff being a mare non-governmental organization, lack the requisite power to institute the suit as it did.
Magaji submitted that the case of the plaintiff had no basis in law because it is not a political party, not a voter and not a member of the constituencies where the senators were elected by their people.
The senior counsel insisted that the plaintiff apart from being an NGO did not disclose what it suffered by the defection of the lawmakers other than what other Nigerians sufferers, adding that in all the processes they filed the plaintiff never claim or exhibit any documents to show that it is a political party or representing any political party or a voter and therefore failed to disclose what prompted it to embark on the court action.
Magaji, therefore, prayed the court to hold that the plaintiff is a meddlesome interloper, busy body and a stranger in the affairs that led to the defection off the lawmakers.
In his own submission Professor Joash Amupitan SAN, who stood for the House of Reps members drew the attention of the court that the defecting lawmakers came from different states of the federation to establish the fact that the division in their party which led to their defection from their various parties were fundamental and nationwide.
Amupitan also held that the plaintiff had no locus standi to have filed the case against the lawmakers and that the failure to join the political parties were fatal to the case.
He faulted the case of the plaintiff on the grounds that the conditions precedent for instituting such case were not met because the plaintiff did not ask the offices of the Senate President and that of the Speaker to declare the seats of the defectors vacant before rushing to court.
He also drew the attention of the court to the large-scale crisis and the division in the parties especially the APC, saying that it was so large that the party could not field a candidate in Zamfara and Rivers states and therefore urged the court to dismiss the suit of the plaintiff whom he accused of wasting the precious time of the court.
However, counsel to the plaintiff, Jibrin Okutepa, asked the court to discountenance the submission of the national lawmakers adding that the court has constitutional powers to invoke Section 251 of the 1999 constitution to sack the lawmakers on account of being federal lawmakers.
Okupeta insisted that the lawmakers cross-carpeted for selfish reasons other than the alleged division in their party and that the court should invoke the law by declaring their seats vacant without fear or favour, adding that heaven will not fall if the defecting lawmakers were relieved of their offices.
Justice Abang after listening to arguments from the parties fixed judgment for May 17 and directed the lawyers to make available to the court photocopies of cited authorities through the registrar of the court.
It would be recalled that Saraki, Dogara and 52 others had in 2018 cross-carped from one party to another on account of alleged crisis and division rocking their parties during the period.