A Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday fixed July 22 for ruling on an ex-parte application seeking an order to restrain the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and members of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) caucus from the South-South from appointing the Senate Minority Leader.
The plaintiffs – Alaye Pedro and Dr. Okechukwu Ibeh – who are also members of the PDP, want the restraining order to last till when their main suit is heard and determined.
Pedro is a PDP member from Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers, while Ibeh is a PDP member from Umukegwu/Umuodia LGA of Imo State.
The aggrieved PDP chieftains argue that Order 3(2) of Senate Standing Orders 2015 (as amended) prohibits the appointment of a first time Senator into any position of the Senate’s principal offices.
The suit is obviously targeted at stopping former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio, a first-time senator, who is from the South South from getting the position of Senate Minority Leader, which has been zoned to the zone.
The PDP being the leading minority party in the Senate and in fact, in the House of Representatives, is in the position to present the Minority Leader of the Senate.
Arguing the plaintiffs’ ex parte application on Tuesday, their lawyer, Mr. B. J Akomolafe, referred the judge to a newspaper report which indicated that Akpabio had been tipped for the position of the Senate Minority Leader.
The newspaper report marked Exhibit D is part of the exhibits filed along with the ex-parte application and the main suit.
The plaintiff joined Saraki and Akpabio as the first and second respondents to the suit, which is marked FHC/ABJ/CS/602/2015.
Other respondents are 16 PDP senators from the South South, which include Senators Nelson Effiong, Bassey Albert, Emmanuel Paulker, Ogola Foster, Ben Murray Bruce, John Enoh, Gershom Bassey, Rose Oko, James Manager and Peter Nwaoboshi.
Also joined as respondents are Senators Ighoyota Amori, Clifford Ordia, Mathew Urhoghide, George Sekibo, Olaka Nwogu, and Osinakchukwu Ideozu.
The two PDP stalwarts in separate supporting affidavits contended that “the larger PDP caucus in the 8th National Assembly have concluded plans to subvert the mandatory provisions of Order 3(2) of the Senate Standing Orders”.
According to them, the PDP South-South caucus “is bound to select or appoint the Minority Leader in strict compliance with Order 3(2) of the Senate Standing Orders 2015 (as amended) which emphasises ranking as basis for appointment of principal officers.’’
The plaintiffs’ counsel, therefore, urged the court to restrain the respondents from taking steps on the appointment of the Senate Majority Leader, pending the determination of the suit.
He also asked the court to grant an order of substituted service on the respondents through newspaper publications.
Akomolafe also said his clients would indemnify the respondents if their ex-parte applications were found to be frivolous.
In their main suit, the plaintiffs ask for, “A declaration that Order 3(2) of the Senate Standing Orders 2015 (as amended) on the procedure for appointment of principal officers of the Senate is mandatory.
They also prayed for “A declaration that appointment of the Minority Leader of the Senate in breach of Order 3(2) of the Senate Standing Orders 2015 (as amended) is void.
They also prayed the court to grant “An order directing the respondents to comply with Order 3(2) of the Senate Standing Orders 2015 (as amended) in the appointment of the Minority Leader of the 8th Senate of the National Assembly.’’