The Federal High Court sitting in Ilorin and presided over by Justice Olayinka Faji yesterday declared that the defection of 22 members of the Kwara state House of Assembly under the leadership of the Speaker, Barrister Razaq Atunwa, elected on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party(PDP), who defected to All Progressives Congress (APC) was legal and constitutional.
Justice Faji noted that the defendants would not lose their seats for another re-election because there was indeed an established case of crisis in their party, which prompted their defection.
A legislator in the Assembly who refused to defect to the APC along others, Hon. Ibrahim Iliyasu from Oloru-Ipaye Constituency had dragged the defendants to court, on the grounds that they should vacate their seats and stand for another election having dumped PDP for APC.
The counsels for the plaintiff, Barrister Salman Jawondo, assisted by O.J Adeseko had observed that having left PDP for APC, the defendants’ seats should be declared vacant and that they must stand for another election for them to retain their seats.
However, counsels to the defendants, Wahab Bamidele, Tosho Yakubu, led by Bola Razaq Gold, argued that the defendants had the right to defect to any other party because of the prevailing crisis in their former party.
But Justice Faji, in his ruling, in suit no: FHC/IL/CS/6/2014, PDP, Iliyasu Ibrahim Vs Razaq Atunwa and twenty others and INEC, declared that the defection of the lawmakers was legal and constitutional.
The judge, who relied on the judgment of Justice Chukwu, which restrained Alhaji Abubakar Baraje from parading himself as the INEC recognized Chairman of PDP, explained that mere ruling that Bamanga Tukur was recognized as the official Chairman of the PDP and a restraining order filed for Baraje not to parade himself as the INEC recognized chairman showed indeed that there was a faction.
The judge explained that at the time of the defection by the Assembly members, there was indeed a faction in the PDP, which made the defection by the members legal and constitutional.
The Speaker of the kwara State House of Assembly, Barr. Razak Atunwa has described the judgement of justice Olayinka Faji of the federal high Court Ilorin that his defection and 19 other members of the State House of Assembly is legal and constitutional as a welcome development.
Atunwa, in his reaction to the judgment explained that with the judgment, the nation’s Judiciary had further demonstrated that it was the pivot of any sustainable democracy.
He noted that the nation’s hard-won democracy could be deepened through an impartial judiciary.
It will be recalled that the Speaker along with 19 other members of the House of Assembly had defected to the APC from the PDP due to what the Speaker described as act of impunity in the PDP.