September 16, 2014

Court declares House of Reps’ seat vacant

By Dayo Johnson

Akure —THE Court of Appeal sitting in Akure, the Ondo State capital, yesterday, declared the seat of a member of House of Representatives, Ifedayo Abegunde, representing Akure South and North Federal Constituency vacant.

This followed his defection from Labour Party, LP, to the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN.

Abegunde had defected from LP in 2011 to the ACN and in a bid to pre-empt the party from recalling him, approached the Federal high Court.

But the Federal High Court ruled against his defection, describing it as unlawful since the party was not witnessing any internal squabbles.

Abegunde in a bid to remain in the National Assembly proceeded to the Court of Appeal which invariably sacked him, yesterday.

Abegunde had through his lawyer, Mr. Yemi Osibajo, SAN, sought the protection of the Federal High Court.

He asked the court to pronounce that the division within the LP facilitated his defection to ACN, now All Progressives Congress, APC.

In his originating summons, he sought the determination of whether or not in view of the provisions of section 68(1) (g) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, he was not entitled to dump the LP for another party.

However, the state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede, SAN, filed a counter-claim among others, claiming that he should automatically vacate the seat, having left the LP that sponsored him into the National Assembly.

The trial court presided by Justice C. Okeke in his ruling in 2012 upheld the position of the state Attorney-General that the lawmaker should vacate his seat, having defected from the party that sponsored him to the National Assembly.

Dissatisfied with the decision of the trial court, Abegunde asked the appellate court to upturn the judgment of the lower court.

After the exchange of briefs and written addresses by the plaintiff and defendants, the Appeal Court dismissed the appeal filed by the lawmaker.

Delivering judgment, the five-man panel of the appellate court headed by Justice A. G. Mshelia dismissed the appeal and affirmed the decision of the Federal High Court.

Mshelia said the appellant had violated the provision of section 68 (1) (g) of the Constitution of the Federal Repubic of Nigeria 1999 as amended.

The court further held that “there was no division within the LP to warrant a defection from it.”

The court therefore ordered the appellant to vacate his seat as a member of the House of Representatives representing Akure North/South Federal Constituency.