Tambuwal, Ihedioha reject PDP in battle for House

By IAfrica
In Nigeria News Feed
Feb 4th, 2014
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Reps’ leaders urge court to dismiss suit to stop leadership change

The legal battle over the House of Representatives leadership took a new turn yesterday.

Speaker Aminu Tambuwal, other principal officers and members, who defected to the All Progressives Party (APC), objected to the suit by the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), seeking to prevent leadership change in the House.

Tambuwal and 52 others, named as defendants, queried the jurisdictional powers of a Federal High Court in Abuja to hear the suit, which primarily seeks to restrain the defendants from effecting any changes in the composition of the House’s leadership.

To Tambuwal and others, the PDP lacks the locus standi to institute the suit, which, in their view, is an abuse of court process. Besides, to them, it is also not justiceable as it touches on the internal affairs of the House, over which the court lacks jurisdiction.

It is also their contention that the case amounts to an academic or hypothetical exercise.

The above formed the core of submissions by the defence team, who argued the objection at the resumed hearing of the case yesterday before Justice Adeniyi Ademola.

The team, which includes Adeniyi Akintola (SAN), Mahmud Magaji (SAN), Sebastine Hon (SAN), Abiodun Owonikoko (SAN) and Eric Apia prayed the court to either dismiss or strike out the suit.

Magaji (for House of Reps, Tambuwal and Deputy Speaker, Emeka Ihedioha) argued that the suit amounted to an abuse of court process because it was predicated on a similar suit pending before another judge of the same court.

He argued that the PDP lacked the locus standi to institute the suit because it is not a member of the House of Representatives and could not interfere in the internal businesses of the House.

Magaji urged the court to dismiss the suit.

Akintola said the defendants were challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear the case in view of the provisions of Sections 23 and 30 of the Legislative House’s Powers and Privileges Act, Cap L12 Laws of Nigeria 2004.

He argued that by virtue of those provisions, all courts are barred from enquiring into how principal officers of a legislative house exercise their powers.

Akintola argued that the exercise of such powers could only be questioned if they are exercised in breach of constitutional provisions. He contended that it was unlawful for the PDP to seek to preemptively restrain the principal officers of the House, and other defendants in the suit from exercising their constitutional powers.

He also noted the similarity in the suit and the earlier one before Justice Mohammed. He argued that both cases were seeking primarily, the interpretation of Section 68 (1) (g) of the Constitution.

Akintola argued that the reliefs sought in both cases were intertwined and urged the court to strike the suit out on grounds of abuse of court process.

Hon queried the plaintiff’s right to sue on behalf of members of the APC, who are also principal members of the House.

He argued that even where the PDP could sue to protect the position of its members in the House, it cannot act in a similar manner in relation to other principal members who belong to APC, without their consent.

Relying on the provision of Section 50(1)(b) of the Constitution, Hon queried the PDP’s right to bother itself about how members of the House organise themselves when it is not a member.

“In this case, PDP is an interloper and a busybody. Section 50(1)(b) of the Constitution has created a vested interest that belongs to a certain class of people, who are members of the House. PDP, not being a member of the House, has no standing to institute this action,” Hon said.

Relying on Section 60 of the Constitution, Hon argued that the House has the powers to regulate its procedures. He added that by virtue of the provision of section 60 of the Constitution, the “PDP lacks the powers to dabble in the internal affairs of the House”.

Owonikoko argued that the case was an abuse of the process because it was predicated on the existing case before Justice Mohammed.

He urged the court to dismiss it.

Justice Ademola adjourned till February 14 for the plaintiff to respond and argue its originating summons.

The PDP, in its originating summons, urged the court to determine whether, in view of the mandatory provision of Section 68(1)(g) of the Constitution, and in view of the pendency of an earlier suit by the defecting lawmakers, they (the defecting legislators) can participate in any proceedings to remove the House’ principal officers.

The party would like the court to determine whether, in view of the provision of Section 68(1)(g) of the Constitution and the pending suit by the defecting legislators, they (the defecting lawmakers) can lawfully alter the composition or constitution of the House’s leadership.

It is praying the court to declare that in view of Section 68(1)(g) of the Constitution and the pending case marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/621/2013 the defecting lawmakers “cannot lawfully vote and contribute to any motion for the removal or change of any of the principal officers” of the House.

PDP also urged the court to declare that the defecting lawmakers, who are plaintiffs in the earlier suit before Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the same court, “are not competent to sponsor, contribute or vote on any motion calling for the removal or change in the leadership of the House or the removal of any principal officers of the House”.

It prayed the court for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants from “altering or changing the House’s leadership.

The PDP filed an application for interlocutory injunction restraining the defendants from altering the leadership of the House, pending the determination of the substantive suit.

 

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