By Olalekan Awojodu
Nigeria’s main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has instituted a suit, asking a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja to sack a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara for defecting to the All Progressives Congress APC.
Listed as defendants in the suit are Mr Yakubu Dogara, the former House of Representatives Speaker, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the APC.
While justifying filing of the suit, PDP argued that Dogara became the Speaker while still bearing the mandate of the party.
At the resumed hearing of the suit, counsel to the plaintiffs, Jibril Jibril urged the court to abridge the time for the hearing of the suit owing to the fact that Mr. Dogara is already enjoying legislative privileges as a member of the House of Representatives.
After granting the application, Justice Okon Abang has subsequently fixed February 4, 2021 for further hearing.
Dogara, representing Dass, Tafawa Balewa and Bogoro Federal Constituency of Bauchi State, it would be recalled defected from the APC to the PDP before the last general election and won a re-election to the house on the platform of the PDP.
The PDP and its Bauchi state chairman, Hamza Koshe Akuyam who were listed as plaintiffs in the suit, are contending, among others, that by virtue of section 68(1)(g) of the constitution, Mr. Dogara ought to vacate the seat for defecting from the party that sponsored him to the ninth National Assembly before the expiration of his tenure.
In his arguments, the plaintiffs claimed that the former speaker was no longer qualified to partake in the activities of the house of representatives while still using his former party’s ticket.
Akuyam in a supporting affidavit stated that there was no crisis or division in the first plaintiff party, being the political platform by which the election of the first defendant (Dogara) as a serving member of the national assembly was sponsored and from which he has defected to the fifth defendant (APC) before the expiration of the period for which he was elected.
He also stated that there were no mergers involving the PDP, from which Dogara defected.
Akuyam averred further that, having defected from the PDP before the expiration of his tenure, Dogara “has lost his seat/office as a member of the house of representatives and is no longer entitled to participate in the legislative proceedings and other businesses of the national assembly and/or entitled to salaries and allowances as a member of the national assembly”.
He added that given the facts and circumstances of the case, the speaker of the house of representatives “is under legal obligation” to declare Dogara’s seat vacant and allow INEC to conduct an election for his replacement.
The plaintiffs are praying the court to, among others, declare that Dogara has ceased to be a member of the National Assembly from the date he defected to the APC.
They prayed the court to direct Dogara to vacate his seat in the national assembly and to refund all the salaries, allowances and emoluments he collected from the date of his defection from the PDP.
They also prayed the court to direct the House of Representatives speaker to give effect to section 68(1) of the constitution to forthwith declare Dogara’s seat vacant and for INEC to conduct a by-election for his replacement.
The court had initially rescheduled its hearing from the seventh of December, 2020 to March 5, 2021.