Published On: Tue, May 14th, 2019

Defection: Court grants Sen Akpabio’s leave to personally challenge suit

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By Vivian Okejeme Abuja

Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court Abuja, has granted Senator Godswill Akpabio’s application to personally challenge a suit seeking his removal and 53 others from office over their alleged defection from one political party to another.
The former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, who was elected Senator in 2015 on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had in 2018, decamped to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The Plaintiff, An advocacy body, Legal Defense and Assistant Project (LEDAP) in a legal action asking to declare the seat of the affected national legislators vacant over their defection to the two major political parties in 2018.
At the last adjourned date, Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara and other lawmakers, in their response asked the court to dismiss the suit on the grounds that the suit lacked merit and an abuse of court process.
In their argument, they posited that the plaintiff, which instituted the suit against them has no locus standi to institute the case.
Justice Abang after listening to argument from parties had on April 30, adjourned till May 17 for judgment.
However, in a twist of an event, Senator Akpabio approached the Federal High Court, asking for leave to personally challenge the suit seeking their removal from office on grounds of their defection.
Akpabio had through his counsel, Sunday Ameh SAN, prayed the court for an extension of time to personally file his response before decision is taken in the originating summons filed by LEDAP.
He maintained that he was not consulted by the leadership of the National Assembly in defending the suit.
The Senator representing Akwa Ibom North-West, insisted that his attention was not drawn to the suit by the Clerk of the National Assembly, neither was he personally served with the suit.
The former governor, informed the court that he did not author the letter of engagement of Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mahmoud Magaji, who has been representing the 54 lawmakers in the suit.
Further in his argument, he posited that the suit was not a class action, maintaining that he has the right to use a counsel of his choice and to personally defend him.
In his response counsel to the plaintiff, Ede Uko, urged the court to discountence the application as it was meant to arrest judgment slated for May 17.
He argued that Apkabio was afforded time for fair hearing but refused to furnish the court with the facts of the case, adding that he cannot now turn around to seek leave of court to file any process after the matter has been heard and adjourned for judgment.
Justice Okon Abang, in his ruling held that the suit is not a class action. Allying with submissions of Akpabio’s lawyer, Sunday Ameh SAN, he held that the applicant is entitled to be heard before judgment is delivered.
He held that it would not be proper to shut the applicant out of the case, when he was not aware of the pendency of the case, adding that it is mandatory to hear all parties before a decision is taken.
“Serving of originating process on a person cannot be presumed, it cannot be waived”, he said, “ He must be heard, it is his fundamental right”.
He also held that the application was not an abuse of court process as submitted by the plaintiff, which is aimed at arresting judgment slated for May 17.
He subsequently adjourned the matter to May 14,(Today) for parties to adopt their processes.
Abang also added that the court may still go ahead with the judgment on the instance suit, May 17.

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