Following the refusal of the speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, to appear in a case against his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja, yesterday ordered all the parties to hand all “processes (court documents) yet to be served on the third defendant (Tambuwal) to the court’s bailiff, who shall ensure that he is served between now and Friday.” The suit was instituted late last year by some members of the National Assembly, including 22 PDP senators and 57 House members, including those who had defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC). They were among others, seeking to restrain the PDP and the leadership of the National Assembly from declaring vacant the seats of those who have defected to APC. The defendants in the suit are the then PDP National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur; Senate President David Mark, Tambuwal, PDP and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The judge’s order was informed by complaints from most lawyers in the case, including the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Mahmud Magaji (SAN), that they had difficulties serving Tambuwal with the court processes. Mark’s lawyer, Ken Ikonne, frowned on Tambuwal’s failure to either attend court or send a representative, even after he (the lawyer) went the extra step to personally effect service of processes on the speaker. The inability of other parties, particularly the plaintiff, to serve Tambuwal had stalled moves by Joe Kyari Gadzama (SAN), lawyer to PDP and Tukur to argue his application seeking the reversal of the defection of some former PDP lawmakers to APC. Gadzama’s application, seeking the nullification of the defection, was hinged on the argument that the defection took place after the court had ordered parties to maintain status quo pending the determination of the case. Gadzama had argued that the application he filed last December was intended to protect the court’s dignity because its order had been flouted by the PDP House members, who allegedly defected to the APC, after the court had ordered parties to maintain status quo. He argued that the constant threat by some senators, who were parties in the case, to also defect was because the court had failed to take action against those who defected after its order for the maintenance of status quo. Magaji objected to the hearing of Gadzama’s application on the grounds that his inability to serve Tambuwal with his motion for extension of time had denied him the opportunity to properly respond to Gadzama’s application. Magaji said he had filed a counter affidavit to the application and had equally filed a motion for extension of time, having filed out of time, but that his inability to serve Tambuwal had made it impossible for the court to hear Gadzama’s application to which he was responding. Ruling, Justice Ahmed Mohammed upheld Magaji’s submissions, noting that should the court proceed to hear Gadzama’s application, without hearing the plaintiffs’ motion to extend time, he (Magaji) would be denied the right to respond to the application. He held that the court could not deny the plaintiffs’ right to respond and could not proceed without all the parties being properly served. The judge, who ensured that one of the court’s bailiffs was in court to hear his pronouncement, ordered parties to hand all processes intended for Tambuwal to the bailiff , who shall serve the speaker between now and Friday. He adjourned until February 5 for hearing of Gadzama’s application. The plaintiffs are, in the originating summons, seeking the following reliefs: “A declaration that the circumstance prevailing at the national level and various state chapters of the PDP (fourth defendant) which led to factions/ divisions as witnessed at the special national convention of the fourth defendant held on 31st August, 2013 and holding of a parallel convention simultaneously at Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre, followed up with the emergence of new National Executive Committee constitute and qualify as crisis, faction and division anticipated under Section 68 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended. “A declaration that any of the plaintiffs or other members of the PDP who pursuant to the crisis that led to factions/divisions in the fourth defendant, joined new faction of the fourth defendant or desires to join it or another political party (individually or as a group) is/are saved by the proviso to Section 68(1) (g) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended, without losing his/their elective seats. “A declaration that in view of the proviso to Section 68 (1) (g) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended, the first defendant or any other officer of the fourth defendant or any person or authority whatsoever cannot declare vacant the seats of any of the plaintiffs or others members of the fourth defendant that joined or who may desire to become members of another political party in view of the present crisis that created factions/divisions in the fourth defendant vacant. The plaintiffs want an order, “restraining the second and third defendants from conducting any proceedings in their respective chambers aimed at declaring the seat (s) of any the plaintiffs or other members of the fourth defendant who joined or intended to become members of another political party vacant in view of the present circumstance in the fourth defendant as vacant. “An order restraining the fifth defendant (INEC) from accepting nominations of any purported candidate and conducting by-election aimed at filling the seats of any of the plaintiffs or other members of the fourth defendant who joined or may wish to become members of another political party in view of the present circumstance in the fourth defendant.” The defendants, particularly Tukur and PDP, have opposed the suit. They want the court to dismiss it on several grounds. They argued that the substance of the case “is an intra-party matter for which the fourth defendant (PDP) has various administrative and legal mechanisms which are yet to be exhausted by the plaintiffs.” The party and its ex-chairman urged the court to dismiss the suit on the further grounds that the plaintiffs “lacked that requisite legal standing to institute and sustain this suit,” that the suit amounts to an abuse of court process, that it was wrongly commenced and that there is no reasonable cause of action that lies against the defendants.
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