BY IKECHUKWU NNOCHIRI
ABUJA—A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, yesterday, gave the five Peoples Democratic Party, PDP governors, who defected to the All Progressives Congress, APC, seven days to reply to a fresh motion that was filed by their former party, the Peoples Democratic Party, asking that it should be allowed to serve copies of the suit seeking to declare their seats vacant on them through their various state liaison offices in Abuja.
In the motion, which it filed through a consortium of three Senior Advocates of Nigeria led by Dr. Alex Iziyon, SAN, PDP, maintained that, in view of the refusal of the five governors to accept previous copies of the suit that was served on them at the national secretariat of the APC in Abuja, “We have filed a motion to serve them by their liaison offices, which is also recognised by law.”
PDP insisted that the court should compel Governors Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State, Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers, Alhaji Magatakarda Wamakko of Sokoto, Alhaji Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano and Alhaji Abdulfatai Ahmed of Kwara State, listed in the suit as 2nd to 6th defendants, respectively. to vacate their offices.
The plaintiff is urging the court to go ahead and order that the Deputy Governor or Speaker of the State Houses of Assembly of the respective states, be sworn in to replace the defendants.
It will be recalled that presiding Justice Gabriel Kolawole had on 13 December 2013, granted PDP leave to serve all the relevant court processes on the governors via substituted means.
However, on 27 January, PDP, returned to the court, saying that it found it difficult to reach any of the defendants, even as it pleaded to be allowed to paste the processes at the National Secretariat of the APC situated at No 6 Guinea Bissau street, Wuse Zone 6, Abuja, as well as, publish the hearing notice on two national newspapers, an application that was accordingly granted.
Though all the governors subsequently entered their appearances in the matter, they however challenged the powers of the court to proceed with hearing the substantive suit against them, insisting that PDP failed to effect proper service of the processes on them.
Stressing that their appearances was in protest having seen the hearing notice in the newspapers, the governors, said they would not join legal issues with their former party pending when they are properly served with the originating processes.
PDP had explained to the court on the last adjourned date that the court bailiff pasted the processes at the APC national secretariat at No 6 Guinea Bissau street, Wuse Zone 6, not knowing that the party had relocated to a new address at No 40 Blantyre Street, Wuse 2.
Spirited effort by PDP to serve the process on the governors through their counsels proved abortive as they declined to accept the papers, saying their clients did not give them such mandate.
The governors, through separate applications, insisted that the court must, first of all vacate the initial ex-parte order for substituted service, which they said was granted in error.
Nevertheless, at the resumed sitting on the matter yesterday, fresh argument arose between PDP and the governors over whose motion should be heard first.
Whereas PDP argued that in terms of priority, its fresh motion to serve them at their various liaison offices ought to be heard first, the governors disagreed, contending that their own ought to be heard and determined first.
After listening to all the parties yesterday, Justice Kolawole, gave the defendants, seven days within which to file their response to PDP’s application, even as he adjourned the matter till April 7 to hear all the pending application.
PDP argued that going by the provisions of sections 177 (c), 221 and 222 (c) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the court, ought to declare that the governors are ineligible to remain in office having defected to the APC.
It is seeking “A declaration that by the combined provisions of section 177 (c), 221 and 222 (c) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) the 2nd-6th Defendants who were elected under the platform of the plaintiff cannot continue to enjoy the mandate given to the plaintiff by the people/electorate of the respective states as the 2nd – 6th Defendants have defected to the All Progressive Congress (APC).
“A declaration that in the absence of any division known and recognised by law in the Plaintiff, the 2nd – 6th Defendants who were elected under the plaintiff’s platform have vacated or forfeited their seats forthwith upon their defection to APC.
“A declaration that having combined provisions of section 87 of the Electoral Act 2011 (as amended), section 177 (c), 221 and 222 (c) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) the 2nd – 6th Defendants defection from the Plaintiff to the APC, the offices of the 2nd – 6th Defendants have reverted to the Plaintiff.