A Federal High Court in Abuja has struck the suit filed by Peoples Democratic Party seeking an order sacking the four sitting governors who defected from the party to the All Progressives Congress.
The defectors are Governors Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers); Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano), Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto), and Abdulfatai Ahmed (Kwara).
The name of one other affected governors, Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State, had been removed from the suit after he was impeached.
Justice Gabriel Kolawole, in a ruling on Friday, struck out the suit against the governors on the grounds that the originating processes filed by the PDP to initiate the suit were invalid.
The court upheld the arguments of the plaintiff that the originating processes were wrongly issued and served on the defendants.
Justice Kolawole held that failure of the plaintiff to seek court’s leave to serve the governors through substituted means by publication in the July 3, 2014 edition of This Day newspaper contravened provisions of Section 96 of Sheriff and Civil Processes Act.
He also held that absence of endorsement on the processes violated Section 97 of the same law.
He held that irregularities in service of a process on a party could only be ignored if such party decided to wave his rights.
The PDP had in December 2011, sued the governors and the Independent National Electoral Commission, asking the court to declare the defecting governors’ seats vacant.
They also asked the court to compel INEC to conduct fresh elections for their replacement.
The plaintiff had, upon an order of court, served the governors with the originating processes through a wrong address of the APC.
The governors, had through their respective lawyers, faulted the service, forcing the court to set the service aside.
The PDP, on June 27, again obtained an ex-parte order for substituted service of the originating processes through newspaper publication, which it published on July 3 in Thisday newspapers.
The defendants also faulted the procedure adopted by the PDP in serving them, arguing among others, that the plaintiff failed to first obtain the leave of the court to serve through substituted means.
They also argued that the originating processes were not endorsed as required under the Sheriff and Civil Processes Act.
Justice Kolawole on Friday upheld the governors’ argument that the originating processes, issued in the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, and meant for service outside jurisdiction ought to be endorsed as required under Section 97 of the SCPA.
He held that the plaintiff acted in violation of the provision of Section 96 of the SCPA as it ought to have applied for and obtained the court’s leave before engaging in substituted service.
The judge rejected the argument by the lawyer to the PDP, Alex Iziyon (SAN), to the effect that the governors could be served through their new party’s address.
Justice Kolawole held that it was “preposterous, audacious and breathtaking” for the plaintiff to argue that the defendants, sued individually in personal capacity, could be served through the office of the party to which they defected to.
He further held that, having been described as governors of Rivers, Kano and Kwara states, who carried out most of their functions in their states’ capitals, it was wrong to assume, as argued by the plaintiff, that they reside or operate from the APC headquarters in Abuja.
The judge also held that since APC was not a party in the suit, which was meant to sack the governors, it was wrong to provide the APC’s address as the place where the governors could be served.
”This suit is struck out as this originating summons has been declared invalid,” the judge held.