The Federal Court of Appeal sitting in Akure, Ondo State capital, yesterday declared the seat of a member of the House of Representatives, Mr Ifedayo Sunday Abegunde, representing Akure South/North Federal Constituency vacant, following his defection from the Labour Party (LP) to the Action Congress of Nigeria, which is now part of All Progressives Congress (APC).
The five-man panel of the appellate court headed by Justice Garuba Mshelia, hinged its decision on the failure of the litigant to adhere to the constitutional process of defecting from one party to another.
Abegunde, popularly known as Abena, was first elected as a federal lawmaker on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In 2011, he defected to the LP and was given the mandate and ticket to contest under the party’s platform in that year’s general election.
However, after his re-election into the green chamber under the platform of the LP, Hon. Abegunde defected to the ACN a few months later, citing what he called division within the ruling LP in his home state.
It was following his defection that the LP went to court to seek an order declaring the seat of Hon. Abegunde vacant.
In order to prevent his recall, Abegunde through his counsel, Mr Yemi Osibajo (SAN), sought the protection of the Federal High Court. He asked the court to pronounce that the division within the LP facilitated the lawmaker’s defection to the APC.
However, the State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Eyitayo Jegede (SAN), filed a counter-claim, saying Abegunde should automatically vacate the seat having left the LP, which sponsored him into the National Assembly.
The trial court presided over by Justice Gloria Okeke in its ruling in 2012, upheld the position of the state Attorney General that the lawmaker should vacate his seat, as no candidate can contest an election without a political party.
Dissatisfied with the decision, Abegunde asked the appellate court to upturn the judgment.
On Monday, after an exchange of briefs and written addresses by the plaintiff and defendants, the Appeal Court dismissed the appeal filed by the lawmaker and upheld the decision of the lower court.
Abegunde said he would proceed to the Supreme Court to challenge the verdict.