NIGERIA: Defected APC Legislators Petition NJC

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Thirty-seven legislators of the House of Representatives who defected last December from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC) have petitioned the National Judicial Council (NJC), praying it to intervene in the judicial misconduct of Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
Also yesterday, an Abuja High Court, presided over by Justice Ahmed Mohammed granted the application by APC to be joined as a co-defendant in the suit filed by the PDP and its National Chairman, Adamu Mu’azu, against the 11 senators that defected from the ruling party to the main opposition party.
Justice Ademola had in March 2014, ruled in a suit filed by the PDP declaring that the defected legislators were not competent to sponsor, contribute or vote on any motion, calling for a change in the leadership of the House.
He premised his judgment on the fact that there was no division within the rank of PDP, citing Section 68 (1) (g) of the constitution which prohibits defecting lawmakers from holding on to their seats.
But in the petition signed by the affected 37 APC legislators and submitted to NJC on May 13, the lawmakers are asking the NJC to adjudicate on the suit filed against them by the PDP challenging their defection.
Their grouse against Justice Ademola was enumerated as follows: That he overruled superior courts in issuing a preservatory order while the jurisdiction of the court was being challenged; he made a pronouncement on a substantive suit – concerning vacation of members’ seats – before another judge; and that he is a serially controversial judge with questionable motives and faulty prayers.
They were also of the view that Justice Ademola granted the “application for injunction as requested by the PDP when in fact there were preliminary objections against the jurisdiction of the court.”
The lawmakers contended that: in principle, “judges must not ordinarily fiddle suo motu into matters not canvassed before them. However, because this judge was so ready to rule against the defendants for reasons best known to him, he became even more political than the plaintiff.
“The plaintiff nowhere sought for a relief under S. 68 (1) (g) of the constitution. Indeed, their lawyer, Yunus Usman (SAN), in an open court said that the matter had nothing to do with S. 68 (1) (g) of the constitution.
“All the defendants to the suit including those who belong to PDP filed preliminary objections to the jurisdiction of Justice Ademola on various grounds, amongst which were issues of non-justifiability of the case,” they added.
They argued that all lawyers to the defendants informed the court that since the preliminary objections were challenging the jurisdiction of the judge, it must be ruled upon first and that the judge should not have issued any preservatory order.
“The judge (Justice Ademola) after long hours of argument, though agreeing with the positions taken by the defence (House leadership), decided to make orders that the status quo be maintained and that leadership should not be changed until the determination of the main case,” the 37 legislators said.
The lawmakers also wondered how a judge could have ruled that a political party had the locus to stop a legislative house from carrying out its internal affairs, contending that a legislative house would be restrained perpetually from voting somehow or from changing its leadership.
The eight-page petition to the NJC appealed to the council to investigate Justice Ademola in order to sanitise the judiciary, even as the lawmakers stated that they “owe it a duty to the Nigerian judiciary and the state to report what we consider as travesty of justice occasioned by a judge whose disposition from the onset of the case showed undiluted bias”.
They concluded that the “judgment of Justice Ademola and the orders he made as well as the passing comments were clearly politically motivated and did not demonstrate legal jurisprudential erudition”.
In a related issue, an Abuja High Court has granted the application by APC to be joined as a co-defendant in a suit filed by the PDP seeking to unseat 11 senators who had defected to the APC.
The suit was instituted before Justice Ahmed Mohammed by the PDP and Mu'azu.
PDP wants the court to declare the seats of the affected senators vacant on the grounds that they abandoned the party on whose platform they were elected senators.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed, in a short ruling yesterday, granted APC's prayer to be joined along with the already existing 13 defendants, which include the 11 defected senators.
Senate President,s David Mark and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) are the first and the 13th defendants, respectively.
Although the plaintiffs had earlier opposed APC's application to be joined in the suit, they latter changed their mind.
The court subsequently struck out PDP's counter-affidavit after its counsel, Dr. Amaechi Nwaiwu (SAN), informed the court that the party was withdrawing its opposition to the application.
The court then ordered the plaintiffs to serve their originating summons on APC through its counsel, James Ocholi (SAN).
The judge ruled: “The application dated April 15, 2014 seeking leave for the APC to be joined as a co-defendant in this suit is hereby granted as prayed.
“The originating summons shall be served on the APC through its counsel, Ocholi James (SAN).”
He adjourned the matter till July 8 for further mention.
APC had urged the court to allow it to be joined because the 11 senators in question are its registered members, arguing that it would be affected by the outcome of the suit.
The affected senators, who were joined as the second to 12th defendants included Abdulahi Adamu, Ali Ndume, Umaru Dahiru, Shaaba Lafiaji, Bukola Saraki, and Magnus Abe.
Others were Wilson Ake, Danjuma Goje, Bindowo Jibrilla, Aisha Al-Hassan and Ibrahim Gobir.
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