By Tordue Salem – Abuja
The People’s Democratic Party, PDP, has sued the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, Rep. Ephraim Nwuzi, representing Etche/Onuma Federal Constituency of Rivers State and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, over the defection earlier this month to the All Progressives Congress, APC, by Nwuzi.
Rep. Nwuzi had on Wednesday, October 7, 2020, announced his defection from PDP, to the APC on the floor of the Green Chamber, sparking outrage.
The PDP, according to VANGUARD findings, is filed at a Federal High Court of Nigeria, the Port Harcourt Judicial Division yesterday with the suit number FHC/PHC/CS/159/2020.
The case, is between the PD (plaintiff) Rep Ephraim Nwuzi, the Speaker House of Representatives and INEC.
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But when contacted by VANGUARD on Thursday, Nwuzi who said he was trapped in Lagos, because of the #EndSARS protests, said he was not yet served the legal process.
“I’m just getting this information now; I have not been served. I’m trapped in Lagos at the moment, because of the protest”, he said.
Recall that a precursor to a legal battle, came on Wednesday, October 7, when Reps Ephraim Nwuzi’s defection was greeted with commotion from members of his former party.
The Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, had announced the defections on the floor, following it, with a strong defence for Nwuzi.
But leaders and members of the PDP in the House, did not take the defection lightly, as they openly objected their reasons for the defection, urging the Speaker to declare their seats vacant, in line with section 60 of the 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria.
The Minority Leader, Rep. Ndudi Elumelu who raised a constitutional point of order, said such defection, can only be allowed if their was a crisis in the party.
He said “the member whose letter has just be read is from Rivers State and I am aware that there is no crisis in the PDP in Rivers State. As a result of that, we are demanding that the seat be declared vacant”.
Also the Deputy Minority Leader, Toby Okechukwu noted that “this country based on law and due process. It is clear that our colleagues who wrote to defect are simply quoting the charisma of the Speaker. The law says there must be a crack in the party on whose platform the member was elected and in the absence of that, such a member should lose his seat. The Speaker must obey the constitution and ask those defecting to vacate their seat”.
Also contributing, Leader of the PDP Caucus in the House, Kingsley Chinda said the law was very explicit on defection of members, adding that the Speaker, as leader of the House swore to uphold the constitution and the law.
He informed the Speaker that he was on trial, reiterating that his decision on the issue, would go a long way to save democracy.
He buttressed his point, with several decisions of the court on the issue of defection.
He said the Supreme Court in a previous judgment, held that a lawmaker who defected to another political party other than the one on whose platform he was elected, shall have his seat declared vacant, and that the Speaker has the responsibility of upholding the rule.
He said “if you fail to uphold the law, it is either an act of cowardice or a deleberate refusal to uphold the law”
Responding to the contributions, Speaker Gbajabiamila said “when I was Minority Leader, I said exactly the same things you are saying now when we lose members to your party and you shout me down.
“You must look at the combine reading of section 60 of the constitution and our House rules. It is in the rules of the House that people can cross and you sanctioned it. You have said I should do the right thing which I will do”.
In reference to the provisions of section 68 of the constitution which says when a member’s seat can be declared vacant, he then queried that: “you are aware of a particular member of your party, that has not been present on the floor of this House since we started seating. Should I declare his seat vacant?
Elumelu in reaction to the Speaker’s position said “Mr. Speaker, you have just made an allegation. Maybe we should ask the Clerk of the House to bring the attendance register for verification”.
In his response, the Speaker said “if we do that, your party will suffer more because we are not talking about one person here. In any case, as you told me when I was Minority Leader, your points are noted”, after which he slammed the gavel and closed discussions on the matter.