By Alex Enumah
Justice Okon Abang of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court on Monday abridged time in the hearing of a suit seeking the sack of the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, over his defection to the All Progressives Congress (APC) last year.
Dogara was in 2019 reelected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to represent Dass, Tafawa Balewa and Bogoro Federal Constituency of Bauchi State at the National Assembly.
He however in 2020 defected from the PDP to the APC, thereby resulting to the court action instituted against him by his former party.
In the suit filed by the PDP and its Bauchi State Chairman, Hamza Akuyam, the plaintiffs are contending, among others, that by virtue of section 68(1)(g) of the Constitution, Dogara ought to vacate the seat for defecting from the party that sponsored him to the ninth National Assembly before the expiration of his tenure.
At the last proceeding in December last year, the court had scheduled the case for hearing for March 5, 2021.
However, at the resumed hearing on Monday, the lawyer to the plaintiffs, Mr Jibril Jibril, prayed the court to abridge the time for the hearing of the suit claiming that Dogara is already enjoying legislative privileges as a member of the House of Representatives.
In a short ruling, the judge granted the application and fixed February 4, 2021 for hearing.
Those sued alongside Dogara included the House of Representatives Speaker, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the APC.
The Chairman of the Bauchi State PDP, Akuyam, in a supporting affidavit, stated that there was no crisis or division in the PDP, the political platform through which Dogara was elected as a serving member of the National Assembly in the last general election.
He also stated that there were no mergers involving the PDP from which Dogara defected.
He averred that having defected from the PDP before the expiration of his tenure, Dogara “has lost his seat/office as a member of the House of Representatives and is no longer entitled to participate in the legislative proceedings and other businesses of the National Assembly and/or entitled to salaries and allowances as a member of the National Assembly”.
The PDP state chairman further submitted that given the facts and circumstances of the case, the Speaker of the House of Representatives “is under legal obligation” to declare Dogara’s seat vacant and allow INEC to conduct a by-election for his replacement.
They therefore asked the court to, among others, declare that Dogara has ceased to be a member of the National Assembly from the date he defected to the APC.
They also prayed the court to direct the speaker of the House of Representatives to give effect to section 68(1) of the Constitution to forthwith declare Dogara’s seat vacant and for INEC to conduct a by-election for his replacement.