BY IKECHUKWU NNOCHIRI
ABUJA — Temporary respite came the way of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Monday, as a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, restrained members of the House of Representatives that defected to the All Progressive Congress, APC, from altering or changing the leadership of the House, pending the determination of a suit before the court.
Justice Ademola Adeniyi who made the order sequel to a suit that was filed before the High Court by the PDP, directed that members of the House should maintain their status-quo till February 3, when both the substantive suit and preliminary objections by the defendants will be heard.
It will be recalled that PDP had approached the court, begging it to issue an order of perpetual injunction that would restrain the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal and 52 other lawmakers, from taking any step capable of changing the present leadership structure at the lower legislative chamber of the National Assembly.
Meanwhile, members of the House of Reps, led by the Speaker, challenged the jurisdiction of the court to dabble into what they said was purely an issue within the domestic affairs of the House.
In urging the court to dismiss PDP’s suit as lacking in merit, the defendants, in their eighteen paragraphed counter-affidavit deposed to by one Mr. Mike Msenge, told the court that from prolonged practice of the House of Reps (1st defendant), the political party with majority of members in the House forms its core leadership.
According to them, “The Plaintiff/Applicant is not a human being but is one of the registered political parties in Nigeria. The leadership seats in question are being occupied by the 2nd -8th defendants, who are human beings.
“That I have perused the Constitution of Nigeria and have not seen anywhere the Plaintiff/Applicant has voting rights with respect to the enthronement or removal from office of any or all of the 2nd -8th defendants.
“That before the defection of the 12th – 53rd defendants from the plaintiff to the APC, the plaintiff had majority membership in the 1st defendant; hence the 2nd-8th defendants, being members of the plaintiff, were elected into those leadership positions they are currently occupying in the 1st defendant.
“But with the defection of the 12th -53rd defendants from the plaintiff to the APC on December 18, 2013, the plaintiff has lost its majority status, which has switched to the APC.”
The lawmakers further challenged the locus-standi of the PDP to seek an interim injunction against them, noting that, “the plaintiff has decided to fight the battles of the 2nd -8th defendants while they are still alive and not complaining, without disclosing any sufficient interest in the legal tussle. We boldly submit that the plaintiff lacks locus-standi to do so.
“Supposing, for the sake of argument, that the 2nd defendant is removed today as the Speaker of the 1st defendant, will the plaintiff, which is not a member of the 1st defendant, be elected to replace the 2nd defendant? The answer is a resounding NO! The same goes with the 3rd to 8th defendants.”
They further argued that the plaintiff’s suit is not justiciable; saying the election and removal of the Speaker is an internal affair of the House which no political party has the jurisdiction to dabble into.