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Court sacks 2 Reps members, 18 Cross River lawmakers over Defection

The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Monday, sacked two federal lawmakers and 18 members of the Cross River State House of Assembly, following their defection from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC.

The court, in a judgement that was delivered by Justice Taiwo Taiwo, held that the lawmakers, having abandoned the political party that sponsored them to power, ought to vacate their seats.

The two members of the House of Representatives the court ordered to vacate their seats were; Hon. Michael Etaba (representing Obubra/Etung Federal Constituency) and Rt. Hon. Legor Idagbor (representing Obudu/Obaliku/Bekwara Federal Constituency).

While the 18 members of the Cross River State House of Assembly the court sacked on Monday, were; Rt. Hon. Eteng Jonah William, Rt. Hon. Joseph Bassey, Rt. Hon. Okey Peter Agbe, Rt. Hon. Okon Ephraim, Rt. Hon. Regina Anyogo, Rt. Hon. Mathew Olory, Rt. Hon. Expo Ekpo Bassey, Rt. Hon. Ogbor Ogbor Udop, Rt. Hon. Ekpe Charles Okon, Rt. Hon. Hillary Ekpang Bisong, Hon. Francis Asuquo, Hon. Elvert Ayambem, Hon. Davis Etta, Hon. Sunday Achunekan, Hon. Cynthia Nkasi, Hon. Edward Ejang, Hon. Chris Nja-Mbu Ogar, and Hon. Maria Akwaji.

Their sack followed a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/975/2021, which was filed by the PDP.

The court held that the Defendants, having decamped from the political party that sponsored their election before the expiration of the period for which they were elected, “have by virtue of the provisions of section 68(1) (g) and section 109 (1) (g) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) respectively, vacated their seats and are not entitled to continue to occupy the various seats or offices into which they were elected”.

It issued an order, restraining the Defendants from further parading themselves as House of Reps members or members of the Cross To State House of Assembly.

More so, the court, granted an order of injunction restraining the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Speaker of the House of Reps, as well as Clerks of both the National Assembly and the Cross River State House of Assembly, by themselves or by their servants, agents or privies, from according recognition to the sacked lawmakers, or in any manner, accept or relate with them as House of Reps members or members of the State Assembly.

It equally made an order of mandatory injunction compelling INEC to accept from the PDP, the list of its candidates for the purpose of filling the vacancy created by the exit of the lawmakers.

PDP had in an affidavit it filed before the court, averred that it sponsored and canvassed for votes that led to the victory of the Defendants in the House of Reps and Cross River State House of Assembly elections that held on February 23 and March 9, 2019, respectively.

It told the court that following the death of the member that hitherto represented Obudu State constituency, a by-election was held on December 5, 2020, where the 25th Defendant (Hon. Akwaji) was also elected on its platform.

“That the period for which the House of Representatives, of which the 6th and 7th Defendants became members as a result of the sponsorship and election of the Plaintiff, is for a period of four years beginning from 11th June 2019 and ending on 10th June 2019″, it averred.

Besides, PDP, maintained that INEC, “is liable to accept the list of candidates nominated by Plaintiff to replace them or in the alternative, to conduct an election to fill the vacancies”.

Justice Taiwo had earlier in his judgement, dismissed all the preliminary objections the sacked lawmakers and the APC which was cited as the 26th Defendants in the matter filed to challenge the competence of the suit and the jurisdiction of the court to hear it.

He held that request by the Defendants for the matter to be transferred to the Calabar Division of the court for the hearing, lacked merit.

The court waved aside the claim of the Defendants that they could not be regarded as valid members of the APC since they were yet to be issued their membership cards.

While accusing both the lawmakers and the APC of attempting “to pull a wool in the eyes of the court”, Justice Taiwo stressed that evidence before the court established that they defected from the PDP and were well received by the APC.

Moreover, the court noted that while the lawmakers claimed that they did not defect to the APC, however, in an affidavit they filed against the suit, they admitted that they exited the PDP owing to rancour in the party.

It held that the Defendants, by their own admission, confirmed that they actually dumped the political party that sponsored their election.

“Just like football, they appeared to have kicked the ball over the bar and the keeper cannot catch anything”, Justice Taiwo held, adding that PDP was the winner of the seats.

He went ahead to berate politicians for not taking into consideration the interest of the electorates before jumping to another political party.

“Politicians treat citizens of this great country as if they do not matter. It is time that they realize that power truly belongs to the people. We cannot continue to sin and ask that grace abound”, Justice Taiwo added.

Meanwhile, counsel to the Defendants, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, said his clients would appeal the judgement.

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