Alex Enumah in Abuja
Respite came the way of Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara and 56 others on Friday, as Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja, struck out the suit seeking their removal from office owing to their defection last year into different political parties other than the one on which they were elected as legislators.
Justice Abang struck out the suit for being incompetent and lacking in merit on the grounds that the plaintiff had no locus standi (legal right) to institute the suit.
The Legal Defence and Assistant Project (LEDAP) had approached the court with a suit seeking to declare the seat of the affected national lawmakers vacant over their defection to the two major political parties in 2018.
Delivering judgment yesterday in the suit filed by LEDAP, Abang held that although the plaintiff had a very good case against the defendants, however its lack of locus standi in the matter robbed the court of necessary jurisdiction to deal on the main issue.
The court agreed with counsel to Saraki and others, Mahmoud Magaji, SAN, that the advocacy body that filed the suit was not competent by law to do so.
“I am persuaded to hold that though the plaintiff has a good case, promoting the rule of law, regulating the unlawful defection of legislators amongst others, the plaintiff has no locus standi to institute the suit,” Abang held.
According to Abang, the plaintiff lacked the right to institute the suit because it is not a political party, it is not INEC that monitor and regulates political party, neither is it a member of the constituencies of the defectors nor a registered political party.
Moreso, the court held that the plaintiff did not place anything before it to show that the constituencies are aware of the suit or that it has a special interest far above that of the general public.
Abang further held that the plaintiff in filing the suit failed to involve necessary parties, such as the political parties of the defectors. Based on the forgoing, Justice Abang said, “I have no jurisdiction to determine the case on its merit because the plaintiff though has a good case but lacks locus standi in the case of the 1st, 2nd, 4th to 58th defenfants, the plaintiff case is incompetent, it is struck out.”
He added that to worsen the plaintiff case, it did not obtain the fiat of the Attorney General of the Federation that would conferred power on them to institute the legal action.
Abang held that because the plaintiff lacked locus standi, the court cannot invoke section 68 of the 1999 Constitution against the defectors and declare their seats vacant.
Earlier, while reviewing the submissions of lawyers in the matter, Justice Abang agreed with the plaintiff’s lawyer that the defectors violated the Constitution and ought to have vacated their seats, since there was no division of a kind that can warrant their defection.
Meanwhile, in the matter of Senator Godswill Akpabio, the 3rd defendant, the court held that the matter is subjudice because he ought not to have been joined in the first instance. According to him, the Senator representing Akwa Ibom North West in the National Assembly unlike the others did not defect but moved to another party after he was expelled from the PDP.
He held that haven been expelled from the PDP, he has right to join any political party of his choice in order to continue the good work he is doing for his constituencies.