Federal Capital Territory High Court sitting in Bwari has restrained Senate President Bukola Saraki from declaring Godswill Akpabio’s former position as the Minority Leader of the Senate vacant.
Justice Othman Musa on Wednesday also ordered Saraki not to impede Senator Akpabio’s access to the building or take any action aimed at “overreaching his privileges and rights as a senator pending the determination of the originating summons of the applicant.”
Justice Musa ordered service of the originating summons and other processes on Saraki through either the Clerk of the National Assembly, Clerk of the Senate or any other clerk or reasonable official of the National Assembly at the Assembly complex.
The orders were made after an ex parte application by Akpabio’s lawyers, Chikaosolu Ojukwu and Ebere Ahanonu, seeking to stop moves to declare his seat vacant following his defection from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party to the ruling All Progressives Congress.
The suit has been adjourned till August 29 for further hearing.
Earlier, a group, Dynamic Patriotic Citizens Foundation, had asked the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja to declare Akpabio’s seat vacant.
Apart from Akpabio, other defendants in the suit are the Senate, the clerk of the Senate, the Senate President, the Deputy Senate President and the Independent National Electoral Commission.
In an affidavit of support of originating summons, Mr Akinola Apanisile argued that Akpabio had publicly declared his defection from the PDP to the APC but refused to vacate his seat.
The group averred that the position of the law was clear that the only valid reason to defect is if there was a division in a party or complications arising from a merger.
The plaintiff, therefore, asked the court to declare Akpabio’s seat vacant in the interest of justice.
The affidavit read in part, “That I know as a fact that Section 68 (1) (g) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria makes it mandatory for any member of the Senate or the House of Representatives who leaves his political party before the expiration of his tenure must vacate his seat.
“That I also know for a fact that a proviso under Section 68 (1) (g) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, a member of the Senate who leaves his party before the expiration of his tenure is permitted to keep his seat where there is a division in his political party or merger of a political party or faction thereof with another political party.
“That I know for a fact that there has never been any division, faction or crisis in the PDP to warrant the defection of the 5th defendant (Akpabio).
“That it is in the interest of justice to declare the seat of the 5th respondent (Akpabio) vacant in the interest of the Nigerian constitution and democracy.”