By Lawrence Olaoye & Umar Mohammed Puma
Mixed reactions followed the Monday declaration by an Abuja court which faulted the defection of 37 members of the House of Representatives from the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC).
Justice Adeniyi Ademola of a Federal High Court in Abuja given an order restraining the defected members from effecting leadership change in the House.
Some members of the PDP who reacted to the court ruling had counseled their affected colleagues to honourably vacate their seats m the strength of the court order.
But the APC caucus in the House at a press briefing yesterday insisted that every other pronouncement by the Judge as to the status of 37 members of the House were his personal opinions, adding that the judgment was given in vain and in ignorance of the House rules which govern the appointment of party leaders in the parliament.
The APC alleged that It was also an attempt by the court to meddle in the internal affairs of the parliament. “This certainly is not the import of the doctrine of judicial review. As we speak our colleagues have appealed the vexatious ruling and we hope to get justice soon.”
The APC Caucus, which was led by its Deputy Minority Leader, Samson Osagie, blamed the judge for misleading the public saying “For us in the APC, we were not surprised because in the course of the proceedings the same judge had earlier issued a preservative order as soon as the arguments against his jurisdiction in the case was taken
“This was our first apprehension of the commencement of the case. Our fears were further confirmed when the judge, after granting the reliefs sought in the suit, went ahead to render an opinion on issues that were not before him nor solicited by the plaintiffs.
“It said a section of the media and indeed the public have been misled by the court ruling into believing that the said judgment has effectively terminated the tenure of office of the affected members.
“This is not only untrue, but also a mere obiter dicta expressed by a judge who veered off the course of the case before him in order to do the bidding of the ruling party. At best the judgment has turned law on its head and cannot stand”.
Continuing, the APC said it has taken steps to appeal the judgment and “we are confident that justice will prevail”.
The Caucus however maintained that there is no court judgment before the House, directing any member of the APC to vacate his or her seat.
“In any event, section 68 (2) of the 1999 Constitution makes it clear that satisfactory evidence must be presented to the House before any of the provision of S.68 (1) can become applicable.
“At the moment the APC in the House remains strong and focus on the need to provide necessary checks and balances to the rudderlessness of the ship of State as being piloted by the ruling party in this country today”.
However, some lawmakers on the platform of the PDP including Ogoriba Warman (Bayelsa, PDP) said “as a member of PDP, I think its a welcome development. I also believe that those that defected from PDP to APC would have known the position of the law before they defected and the court has come out to say that they don’t have the right to do that.
“The court held that there was no division in PDP before they left. I think that the Speaker should do the needful. I believe that very soon, the issue will come before the House and the burden will be on the Speaker to decide”.
On his part, Kingsley Chinda (Rivers, PDP) said “let me make it clear not just as a member but as a lawyer, that the judgment is sound. What Justice Ademolaa ruled is the clear position of the constitution.
“As parliamentarians, we have been together with our colleagues for years, so there could be that sentiment. But I must state clearly that you are elected by your people based on the manifesto of a political party, if at any time you are leaving that political party, you must comply with the provision of the constitution.
“The court has ruled that there was no division in PDP and INEC also said this. If that is the case, the only honourable thing my colleagues can do is to resign from their seat”, he said.