Defection: Court okays Matawalle, others to be joined in suit



By Taiye Agbaje

A Federal High Court, Abuja, on Thursday, granted the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)’s plea to joined Gov. Bello Matawalle of Zamfara as defendant in a suit seeking his removal.Justice Inyang Ekwo, in a ruling, also granted the PDP’s reliefs to joined members of the national and state’s assemblies that defected, alongside Matawalle, from the party to the All Progressives Congress (APC) as defendants.

Justice Ekwo, in addition, granted the prayer to join the Zamfara Deputy Governor, Mahdi Gusau, as second plaintiff in the suit. He noted that the determination of an application for joinder is at the discretion of the court.He said since the application was about the parties sought to be joined, “the court can exercise discretion whether the party ought to be joined can be joined.”Therefore, he said, trial court has prerogative to exercise discretion for the justice of the case.“I must examine the essence of the joinder irrespective of the arguments of parties and relevance of persons sought to be joined.“

It is pertinent to examine whether the persons sought to be joined have any thing to defend,” he said.The judge held that by the averment in support of the application filed by the PDP, the defection issue cannot be effectively determined without joining the parties sought to be joined.

Ekwo, who ordered that the deputy governor be joined as second plaintiff, directed that other parties sought to be joined as eight to 38th defendants be added in the suit.While ordering the PDP (applicant) to amend its application and served all the defendants, the judge directed the defence, including the parties sought to be joined, to file their counter affidavits within seven days of being served.No sooner had the judge delivered the ruling than counsel to the PDP, Emmanuel Ukala, SAN, informed that despite the restraining order of the court, the defendants had planned to impeach the deputy governor.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Matawalle, alongside the three senators, six members of the House of Representatives and the 24 members of the Zamfara House of Assembly had, on June 29, 2021, defected from the PDP to APC.While the governor defected to APC, the deputy governor, Gusau, did not.Ukala told the court that on Feb. 4, he got an information that the defendants had commenced the process of removing Gusau as deputy governor in violation of the court order.“There is a recent development which we need to inform your lordship,” he said.The senior lawyer said after receiving the information, he wrote to Ahmed Raji, SAN, and Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, on the development.Besides, he said he also wrote a letter to the chief judge of the state and the speaker of the House of Assembly, both of who were defendants in the suit.“

On Feb. 7, the speaker of the House of Assembly, who is also the 5th defendant, issued a notice of impeachment and this has been served on the deputy governor,” he said.Ukala said though he would have asked Raji and Ozekhome why their clients would not respect the court order if they were in court, “but they are not here today.”He reminded that a motion on notice had been filed with an affidavit of urgency to the regard.Ukala, who prayed the court for a short adjournment to take the motion, urged the court to make an another order stopping the defendants from carrying out their plan.

The judge then asked rhetorically, “The speaker of the House of Assembly is a party in this case?“The chief judge is a party and so is the political party which they all belong?“By the joinder, I believe members of the House are also a party? Even without members not a party. the speaker is a party?”He said though he had not seen Ozekhome, he would want all the parties to come back.Justice Ekwo, who said he was minded to give a short adjournment on the matter, fixed April 15 for the hearing of the PDP’s motion on notice.

NAN reports that the PDP had, earlier, sued INEC, APC, President of the Senate, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Speaker of House of Assembly, Governor of Zamfara and Chief Judge of Zamfara as the 1st to 7th defendants respectively.But the party, in a motion for joinder marked: FHC/ABJ /CS /650/2021 on Oct. 30, 2021, asked the court to join Matawalle, the three Zamfara senators and 27 other lawmakers who defected from the party to the APC in the lawsuit.The PDP had sought to join Matawalle as a person and not only his office in the amended application.The PDP is specifically asking the court to sack Matawalle, the three senators, six members of the House of Representatives and all state House of Assembly lawmakers who dumped the party for the APC.

The PDP sought the court order, joining Matawalle as the 8th defendant since only his office had been sued in the earlier request.The party, which urged the court to join its deputy, Gusau, as the second plaintiff, also called on the court to join the senators, members of the House and the 24 state lawmakers as the 9th to 38th defendants.

The PDP, in an originating summons dated and filed on July 8, 2021, requested the court’s interpretation of Articles 1 (2), 188, 287, 221, 177 (c), 106 (d) and 65 ( 2) (b), among other provisions of the 1999 Constitution as amended for the determination of four main issues as set out in the petition.

It asked the court to determine whether Matawalle and all lawmakers are eligible to continue to hold the various political offices in which they were elected on the plaintiff’s platform.“This part of the plaintiff’s complaint in the originating summons also concerns the attempts of the 5th to 7th defendants to initiate impeachment proceedings against the 2nd party (Gusau).“That the parties requested to be joined have been named in the originating summons and that their actions and inactions form part of the material facts which gave rise to the cause of action and to the object of the originating summons proceedings and are therefore persons whose interests may be affected by the outcome of this case ”, among others.The party stated that the request was made in the interest of justice to join said persons as co-plaintiff and defendants.It said the ruling was intended to ensure that “the ends of justice are not overcome by mere technical objections to the joinder of the parties.” Matawalle became governor of the state, following a Supreme Court ruling on March 24, 2019, which overturned the CPA primaries in the state.(NAN)