PDP insists on declaring 26 defected Rivers lawmakers’ seats vacant

Wike and Fubara
Wike and Fubara

…..PDP insists on declaring 26 defected Rivers lawmakers’ seats vacant

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Thursday insisted that the 26 Rivers House of Assembly lawmakers who dumped the party for the All Progressives Congress (APC) were no longer members of the state legislature.

PDP National Legal Adviser, Adeyemi Ajibade, SAN, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) shortly after Justice Donatus Okorowo of a Federal High Court, Abuja, adjourned the embattled lawmakers’s suit until Jan. 24, 2024.

Ajibade said though President Bola Tinubu might have intervened in the dispute between the Gov. Siminalayi Fubara and the FCT Minister, Nyesom Wike, the party stood on what the constitution says on defection.

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“PDP as a party, we are standing on the side of the constitution of the country.

“It is not about issues of an agreement because by the constitution, we all sworn to uphold.

“Tye governor himself sworn to uphold the constitution likewise the president.

“I am not against the president, calling for the resolution of the matter. He is the chief security officer of this country and he has every right to intervene in the issue.

“But besides that, we, as a political party, the PDP owns those seats and certainly we are interested in those seats.

“Whatever the governor is doing in this matter that concerns whether resolution on the issue, no resolution has been brought to Wadata Plaza on this matter.

“But as a political party, we cannot leave the seats and the votes willingly given to the party by people of Rivers State,” he said

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According to the senior lawyer, aside from that, the constitution of the country is very clear; Section 109 (1g) is clear as to issues of detection.

He said the affected lawmakers had not denied that they had not detected.

“Even  if you pick the writ of summon that was filed before this court, they said they actually defeated.

“So they are only stating while they defected, that they have the right to defect based on the reasons given by them.

“So it is not an issue as to whether there was a deflection or not and we cannot fold our hands. So we have to go to recover our seats,” he said.

Ajibade, who said they had challenged the jurisdiction of the court to hear the suit, said if the court ruled that it had jurisdiction, the PDP would appeal it.

“If at the end of the day, if this court decided to maintain and insists that it has jurisdiction, then we will do the needful.

“We will study the ruling and if possible, we have higher court,” he said.

On what transpired in court, he said though the case was adjourned for hearing of interlocutory injunction, the PDP filed an objection that the court had no jurisdiction to entertain the matter

He said though he opposed the plaintiffs’ application for the extension of the ex-parte order earlier granted by the court on Dec. 15, he said it was unfortunate that other defendants who were supposed to take side with them did not  oppose it, and the court granted the request.

“The court said based on the balance of probabilities, it decided to extend the order.

“The case has been adjourned to Jan. 24, 2024, and on that day, our application challenging the jurisdiction of this court will be taken to see whether this court has jurisdiction on the matter.

“And we equally have an application, asking the court to set aside the earlier ex-parte order granted by the court for lack of jurisdiction,” he said.

Also speaking, Mr Steve Adehi, SAN, lawyer to the 26 lawmakers (plaintiffs), said though they were in court with the hope of taking their interlocutory injunction, an issue regarding a change of counsel occured.

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He said the matter was adjourned to enable parties out their house in order.

He said the court, however, made an order extending the lifespan of the interim order pending the hearing of the motion on notice scheduled to come up on Jan. 24.

When asked why the suit was not withdrawn by his clients based on the resolution entered into by Fubara and Wike, Adehi said: “We have just informed the court today that the counsel (Mr Lukman Fagbemi, SAN) that withdrew said he had instruction to withdraw from the matter on the grounds that it is being settled.

“The other counsel who came in today requested for an adjournment to confirm that position with their client.

“So I think we are not averse to settlement; like the parties said they just want to confirm the position from their various clients which is what all of us have said.

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“If we confirm that information, we see how we can move forward .

“But then, the 2nd defendant (PDP) in the matter, by his own co duct, he has not shown any indication that there is going to be any settlement.

“The more reason why this adjournment was really necessary so that all the parties can go and actually confirm from their clients the position of the settlement initiative,” he said.

NAN earlier reported that upon resumed hearing on Thursday, Adehi informed the court that he had a motion on notice which originally was meant for hearing today, but sought an adjournment in view of the fact that Fagbemi had withdrawn appearance and a new counsel (Mr Ken Njemanze, SAN) had entered appearance in the matter for the Rivers House of Assembly, the 3rd defendant in the suit.

Justice Okorowo had extended the Dec. 15 interim order stopping the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and PDP from taking any action against the 26 lawmakers pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.

The judge extended the order following an application by counsel for the embattled lawmakers, Adehi and supported by Njemanze, who appeared for the assembly.

Although PDP’s lawyer, Ajibade, opposed the application, Okorowo agreed that based on Order 26, Rule 10 of the FHC, the court had the discretionary power to grant the plea in the interest of justice.

The judge had, on Dec. 15, granted the ex-parte motion filed by the 26 lawmakers who dumped PDP for APC.

The  court restrained INEC from conducting fresh election to fill the seats of the 26 assembly members.

It also restrained INEC, PDP and the house of assembly from declaring their seats vacant and withdrawing their respective Certificate of Returns pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.

The plaintiffs had, in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1681/2023/ dated and filed Dec 13, sued INEC, PDP, the assembly, clerk of the assembly, Inspector-General (I-G) of Police and Department of State Service (DSS) as 1st to 6th defendants respectively.(NAN)

By Taiye Agbaje

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