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Published On: Tue, Jan 21st, 2014

Do Not Change House Leadership, Court Orders Rep…We Disagree- APC


LAGOS JANUARY 21ST (URHOBOTODAY)- An Abuja Federal High Court on Monday ordered members of the House of Representatives to refrain from changing or taking step to change the leadership of the legislative body, pending the determination of a suit filed by the Peoples Democratic Party.
The court, presided over by Justice Adeniyi Ademola, ordered the lawmakers to maintain status quo.

In the pending suit, PDP is asking for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the House of Representatives; its Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal; Deputy Speaker, Emeka Ihedioha; and 49 others, including the 37 lawmakers that defected to the All Progressives Congress, from changing or altering the leadership of the House.
The court gave the order at the resumption of hearing in the pending suit on Monday, after counsel to the PDP and the defendants argued over which applications the court should hear first.
PDP lawyer, Yunus Usman, SAN, wanted the court to hear his motion for interlocutory injunction first.
Meanwhile, counsel for the defendants, including Sebastine Hon, SAN, asked the court to commence proceedings with their preliminary objections.
In a short ruling after listening to the submissions of the two parties, Justice Ademola ruled that the court would hear the preliminary objections along with the originating summons.
He fixed February 3 for the hearing.
But the judge went ahead to order the members of the House of Representatives to maintain status quo until the final determination of the case.
Noting that the court has a duty to preserve the subject matter before it, Justice Ademola stated, “The defendants, particularly the first to eleventh defendants, are to maintain status quo pending the hearing and determination of this suit.”
The first to eleventh defendants are namely: the House of Representatives; Speaker, Aliyu Tambuwal; Deputy Speaker, Emeka Ihedioha; Majority Leader, Mulikat Akande-Adeola; Deputy Majority Leader, Leo Ogor; Chief Whip, Isiaka Bawa; Deputy Chief Whip, Ahmed Mutkar; Minority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila; Minority Whip, Samsom Osagie; Deputy Minority Leader, Sumaila Kawu; and Deputy Minority Whip, Graba Datti.
Forty-two other members of the House, including those that defected from PDP to the APC, were listed as the 12th to 53rd defendants, while the Clerk of the House was cited as the 54th defendant.
The defection of the lawmakers had reportedly given the APC a simple majority in the House, increasing its numerical strength from 135 to 172, against 171 PDP members.
In a brief encounter with journalists afterwards, one of the lawyers of the defendants, Sebastine Hon, SAN, said he and his colleagues would meet their clients to know the next course of action.
On the other hand, PDP lawyer, Usman, stressed that the order means that all the principal officers in office as at the time the suit was filed should remain in office, and must not be tampered with, until the final determination of the matter.
PDP had filed the suit against a backdrop of speculations that some members of the House would push for a change in leadership once the lawmakers resume from recess.
The National Assembly will resume today.
In the pending suit, PDP is asking the court for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the lawmakers, “their agents, servants, privies, or through any person or persons however, from taking any step or further steps, sitting, starting or doing anything to alter, remove or change the leadership of the House of Representatives.”
In the same vein, PDP asked the court to declare that, in view of section 68(1)(g) of the 1999 Constitution, and another pending suit with No. FHC/ABJ/CS/621/2013, in which the defected lawmakers sought to stop the party from declaring their seats vacant, the 11th to 52nd defendants cannot lawfully vote or contribute to any motion for the removal or change of any of the principal officers of the House.
The court was equally asked to declare that the concerned lawmakers are not competent to sponsor, contribute or vote on any motion calling for the removal or change in the leadership of the House of Representatives or the removal of any of the principal officers.
PDP asked the court to determine whether the defected lawmakers can validly function as members of the House of Representatives and thereby contribute to or vote on any motion or debate for the removal of any of the principal officers of the House; and whether the concerned lawmakers can alter the composition of the House’s leadership.
The defendants have however, asked the court to dismiss the suit.
In their preliminary objections, they argued that the suit was incompetent, and that the court lacked the jurisdiction to hear the matter.
In another development members of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the House of Representatives, on Monday, vowed to disobey a court order restraining them from effecting leadership changes in the House today.
Rising from an emergency meeting late evening, the lawmakers said they would change the House leadership today, barring any last minute change of decision, upon the plurality attained by the party after the defection of 37 members of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP to the APC last December.
The legislators insisted that the court order did not come to them as a surprise because they had prior knowledge of its outcome.
An APC lawmaker who attended yesterday’s meeting told our correspondent that the court lacked the jurisdiction to issue such an order, describing it as “a black market judgement.”
He said: “Hopefully, we will make the changes today at plenary since we now have the majority and are expecting more members to join us.
“Yes, the order has been issued, but our decision is that we will not accept this black market judgment. This is illegal, and as lawmakers we won’t accept any illegality. This will not be accepted anywhere in the world.”

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