Senator Godswill Akpabio, Tuesday told a Federal High Court, Abuja, that he did not defect from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), rather he was expelled from the party before moving over to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The former Governor of Akwa Ibom State, who now represents Akwa Ibom North West senatorial district in the Senate, told the court that he was pushed out of the PDP and should not be counted among those who defected from the party which is now subject of litigation.
Akpabio, through his counsel, Sunday Ameh (SAN), urged the court to dismiss the suit filed last year by the Legal Defence and Assistant Project (LEDAP) seeking to declare his seat and 57 other national lawmakers vacant over their alleged defection.
LEDDAP had approached the court in 2018,seeking court’s declaration that those who moved from one party to other than the one whose platform they were elected into the National Assembly, had no constitutional ground to retain their seats after defection.
Arguing his case, Akpabio said the PDP in his ward suspended him, after which he was expelled from the party at the local government level.
Speaking through his counsel, the Senate said the date of two incidences, in exhibits A and B, was July and August 2018.
“When juxtaposed with the calendar for the primary elections as issued by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the intention if the PDP then, was to render him fait accomplished and to deny him a platform to contest the election as his nomination must come from the ward up”, Ameh told the court.
The senior counsel said Akpabio, who is the 3rd defendant in the suit filed by LEDAP was thrown out of the PDP at a very crucial moment in a political arrangement towards 2019 general election.
“In order not to fall prey of the gang-up, calculated to turn him into political orphan and prevent him from participating in the 2019 general, he has to take advantage of his constitutional right under Section 40 of the constitution to join the APC that was willing to accept him after his party has thrown him out “, adding that what the PDP did to Akpabio was an uncommon situation and that he seeks constitutional remedy.
He said if Akpabio’s action was not correct, the PDP would have applied to be joined in the matter to say that the 3rd defendant willingly left the party and urged the court to dismiss the suit for been incompetent and lacking in merit.
Earlier in his oral submission, counsel to the plaintiff, Jibrin Okutepa (SAN) insisted that there was no division to warrant the defendants’ defection, adding also that the further counter affidavit deposed to personally shows that defendants have admitted that there was no division in their parties.
Okutepa, while urging the court to discountenanced the arguments of Akpabio’s counsel said, “When you have a petty local quarrel with in your political party at the ward level, it does not give you an unbridled licence to join another political party.
“What they put as expulsion from his local branch, does not constitute a division known to law to bring the case of the 3rd defendant under Section 58(1)(g) of the 1999 constitution, as amended”, Okutepa added.
He urged the court to hold that the defence raised in the further counter affidavit cannot avail the 3rd defendant the ground to stop the court from making an order sacking the defendants from their seat at the National Assembly
Counsel to Senate President Bukola Saraki and first set of defendants in the suit, Mahmud Mogaji (SAN) in his submission, urged the court to dismiss the suit as filed by the plaintiff for constituting an abuse of court process.
“If a person is suspended, expelled or removed from a political party, he can move to another political party of his choice. The 3rd defendant only exercised his freedom of association and urged the court to dismiss the suit without cost.
The trial Judge, in a bench ruling said judgment in the suit will be delivered on May 17, 2019, subject to availability of judicial time.
LEDAP had last year approached the Court with a suit seeking to declare the seat of the affected national lawmakers vacant over their defection to the two major political parties in 2018.