Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court has said that the defection of 53 members of the National Assembly is unlawful.
He stated this while ruling on a case seeking to remove the lawmakers for defecting from one party to another when there was no division in their parties as claimed.
According to him, their defection is unlawful and in violation of Section 68(1) G, which holds that except there is a division in a political party, any member of the National Assembly who defected from the political party that sponsored such a person, that person must vacate his or her seat in the assembly.
The judge said there was no division of the kind recognised by the Supreme Court to allow the defendant retain their seat.
He explained that this was so because, during the time they claimed there was division in their parties, those parties were still functioning as political parties.
Justice Abang said there was no evidence before the court to show that it is impossible and impracticable for those political parties they decamped from to function as political parties.
He insisted that the said division was not of the kind that would enable them defect to another party.
During the time they defected, according to the judge, those political parties were still functioning and attending to their programmes and activities.
He noted that he agreed with the counsel to the plaintiff that the lawmakers defected at the time their parties needed them most.
Justice Abang said there was no division, neither was there any merger of a kind envisaged in the Constitution to avail them justifications to seek the protection of the court.
He highlighted that the parties they left were not infested with the virus of division and if that was the case, why didn’t one of the factions approach a court for recognition.
The judge stressed that at the time they defected from the APC and ADC, there was no faction that stopped the parties from functioning as political parties.
He, however, said the lawmakers only made reference to a division to enable them to scale through their judicial iniquities.
An advocacy group, Legal Aides Assistant Project (LEDAP), had instituted the case against the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, as well as 52 other lawmakers.
On whether the plaintiff has a locus standi, Justice Abang held that the plaintiff was not a political party that sponsored the defected lawmakers, or the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) conferred with the powers to monitor political parties.
He added that LEDAP was neither a constituent of the defectors nor a registered voter that voted for them.
Justice Abang said the plaintiff has not put anything before the court to show that the voters urged them to sue on their behalf.
He added that the group did not show any injury it would suffer if its prayers were not granted.
The judge noted that the plaintiff has a good case and a good intention of promoting good political behaviour and rule of law.
He also said its action was aimed at ensuring political stability in the country and stopping the selfishness exhibited by politicians.
Justice Abang, however, ruled that the plaintiff had no locus standi to sue the lawmakers.
He said, “How I wish the plaintiff has a locus standi. They have a good case but I cannot go ahead to deliver judgment when the plaintiff will not suffer any injury.
“There is nothing before the court showing where the plaintiff has suffered any loss as a result of the action of the lawmakers.”
The judge added, “This court has the capacity to determine whether the lawmakers should lose their seat but the plaintiff must have a locus standi, except there is a fiat from the Attorney-General of the Federation who has the locus to sue on behalf of the generality of Nigerian, and the plaintiff did not obtain that fiat.”
“The plaintiff not having locus standi has no right to come to court,” he held.
Justice Abang stated that the court cannot take a decision affecting the defected lawmakers without hearing from the persons that nominated them.
In respect of the main case, as it affects the Senate President, the Speaker, and 52 others, the judge struck out the plaintiff’s case.
He, however, held that the plaintiff’s case against former Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill, lacked merit because the senator did not defect.
According to him, Senator Akpabio only joined the All Progressives Congress after he was expelled by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).