An Ilorin Federal High court has declared as legal and constitutional, the defection of 22 members of the Kwara State House of Assembly elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress.
In a landmark judgment delivered on Thursday, Justice Olayinka Faji said that the defendants would not lose their seats for another re-election, adding that there was an established case of crisis in their party (PDP) which made them defect.
The ruling was sequel to a suit filed by a member of the state assembly, Ibrahim Illiyasu, who remained in PDP, asking the court to declare the lawmakers’ seats vacant having dumped their party (PDP) for APC.
Counsels for the plaintiff, Mr Salman Jawondo, assisted by O. J. Adeseko, had urged the court to declare the seats of the speaker and others vacant in view of the fact that they were elected on the platform of PDP, but defected to APC.
Jawondo stated that having defected, the defendants’ seats should be declared vacant and that they must stand another election for them to retain their seats.
But counsels to the defendants, Wahab Bamidele, Tosho Yakubu, led by Bola Razaq Gold, argued that the defendants had the rights to defect to any other party because of the prevailing crisis at the time in their former party.
However, Justice Faji, in his ruling in suit no FHC/IL/CS/6/2014, PDP, Illiyasu Ibrahim Vs Razaq Atunwa and 20 others and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), declared that the defection of the lawmakers was legal and constitutional.
The judge relied on a judgement by Justice Evoh Chukwu of the Federal High Court, Abuja, which restrained Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje, from parading himself as the INEC recognised chairman of PDP.
Justice Faji noted that merely ruling that Bamanga Tukur was recognised as the official chairman of PDP and a restraining order was filed for Baraje not to parade himself as the INEC recognised chairman, showed indeed, that there was a faction.
The Judge further explained that at the time of the defection by Kwara Assembly members, there was indeed a faction in PDP which made the defection by the lawmakers legal and constitutional.
Reacting to the verdict in a statement issued in Ilorin, Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Justice, Rep. Ali Ahmad (APC, Kwara) described it as a landmark judgment which laid to rest the constitutionality of their defection.
He said, “Justice Faji’s judgment has laid to rest the constitutionality of defection by the legislators. It is a landmark judgment on the issue of defection. This is the first and final judgment compared to various conflicting interlocutory orders by the Federal High court in Nigeria”.