The 37 Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members of the House of Representatives, who defected to the All Progressives Congress, APC, on Tuesday appealed Justice Adeniyi Ademola’s ruling that they illegally left the PDP for the APC and, therefore, should resign.
Describing the ruling as a miscarriage of justice, the lawmakers vowed not to vacate their seats because there is no court judgment in the House of Representatives directing them to do so.
In the appeal papers filed on their behalf by M. A. Mahmud, SAN & Co, which have been sent to Speaker Aminu Tambuwal, the applicants said the trial judge erred in law when he dismissed the appellants’ preliminary objection on grounds that the suit was not competent.
They listed particulars of error to include: The judge did not advert his mind to provisions of Section 4 of the Nigerian Constitution; failed to reckon his mind with the provisions of Section 60 and failed to follow the decisions in the cases of Attorney General of the Federation and 22 others.
They also contended that the judge erred when he refused to hold that the first respondent does not have the locus standi to institute the suit, when he granted the reliefs of the first respondent and went further to hold that the 1st -39th respondents ought to have resigned their seats.
That the first respondent’s suit was predicated upon speculations and that the reliefs sought were not justifiable, unknown to law and do not disclose any cause of action against the appellants.
In all, the defected members mentioned seven particulars of error and sought an order setting aside the decision of the Federal High Court as well as an order allowing the appeal.
This came as the APC called on the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) to sanction Justice Ademola for engaging in mischief that could bring the bench into disrepute.
Minority Whip of the House, Rep. Samson Osagie, APC, Edo State, while briefing journalists on the judgment said: “Our fears were further confirmed when the judge, after granting the reliefs sought in the suit, went ahead to render an opinion on issues that were not before him nor solicited by the plaintiffs.
“Yesterday, Monday, a Federal High Court presided over by Justice Adeniyi Ademola handed down a ruling in which he restrained 37 APC members, who joined our great party on December 18, 2013, from effecting the change of leadership in the House of Representatives, thereby granting the prayers of the plaintiffs — the PDP — in the suit.
“For us in the APC, we were not surprised because in the course of the proceedings the same judge had earlier issued a preservative order as soon as the arguments against his jurisdiction in the case were taken. This was our first apprehension at the commencement of the case.”
Osagie explained that “consequently, a section of the media and indeed the public have been misled by the court ruling into believing that the said judgment has effectively terminated the tenure of office of the affected members. This is not only untrue but also a mere obiter dicta expressed by a judge, who veered off the course of the case before him in order to do the bidding of the ruling party.
“At best, the judgment has turned law on its head and cannot stand. Our colleagues have taken steps to appeal the judgment and we are confident that justice will prevail. In the meantime, we want to assure members of the public that there is no court judgment before the House directing any member of the APC to vacate his or her seat.
“In any event, Section 68 (2) of the 1999 Constitution makes it clear that satisfactory evidence must be presented to the House before any of the provisions of S.68 (1) can become applicable.
“At the moment, the APC in the House remains strong and focused on the need to provide necessary checks and balances to the rudderlessness of the ship of state as being piloted by the ruling party in this country today.
“Nigerians, we know, cannot succumb to the shenanigans of the ruling party that has plundered this nation for 15 years. The House of Representatives remains the bastion of hope of the traumatized and pauperized Nigerians and we shall not give in to the attempt by some of our PDP colleagues in collusion with a certain judge to turn facts and law on its head to achieve some sinister ends.
“Finally for the avoidance of doubt, let me state unequivocally on behalf of our members that the import of yesterday (Monday) ruling was that our 37 members cannot participate in the removal of Principal Officers of the House. Nothing more, nothing less.
“Every other pronouncements by the judge as to the status of our 37 members of the House were mere opinion. In any event, this judgment was given in vain and in ignorance of the House rules which governs the appointment of party leaders in the parliament. It is also an attempt by the court to meddle into the internal affairs of the parliament.
“This certainly is not the import of the doctrine of judicial review. As we speak, our colleagues have appealed the vexatious ruling and we hope to get justice soon. We believe the House of Representatives will take due notice of the appeal in this case.”
The APC, in a statement by its Interim National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, said Justice Ademola cannot order the 37 members of the House of Representatives, who defected to the APC, to vacate their seats because he is not competent to issue such a ruling, as the issue of whether or not they can defect was not before him.
He stated that the party would appeal the ruling because Justice Ademola’s perpetual injunction restraining the concerned lawmakers from participating in motions and debates in the House is unconstitutional and defeats the very purpose for which the members were elected into the House.
APC said Justice Ademola’s unsolicited comments were clearly gregarious, unnecessary, superfluous and have no foundation in law or fact, hence should be ignored.
It asked the Chief Justice of Nigeria to act urgently to sanction Justice Ademola for engaging in mischief that could bring the bench into disrepute.
He said: “If this case had been issued a day later than Monday, we would have said the judge was caught in the web of April Fool! Alas, he indeed made the ruling on Monday, hence the need for us to take it very seriously for several reasons.
“Firstly, the question whether the House of Representatives members should vacate their seats was not a question before Justice Ademola for determination. The only question for him to determine was whether the APC members, with their numerical strength at that time, had the right to change the House leadership such as the Majority Leader, Chief Whip and their deputies. So Justice Ademola had no business commenting on seats being vacated.
“Secondly, it is highly unprofessional and unethical for one judge to delve into a matter that is subjudice in another court. A judge should not make comments on matters being litigated in another court. The question of seats being vacated or otherwise is being heard by Justice Ahmed Mohammed in the Federal High Court in Abuja who, on March 29, 2014, said the issue was still live before him and is not ripe for judgment.”