There was confusion in the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party on Thursday as it made two conflicting demands from both the House of Representatives Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal , and the Federal High Court, Abuja on the defection of 37 of its members to the All Progressives Congress.
While the PDP released a statement in which it requested Tambuwal to declare the defectors’ seats in the House vacant, in the court, it asked for an order compelling them to return to its fold.
In the statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh, the party argued that since the 37 lawmakers had renounced their membership, the Presiding Officers of the House must declare their seats vacant without any further delay.
The PDP said that a court order which the 37 lawmakers referred to while announcing their defection on Wednesday was wrongly interpreted.
Metuh’s statement reads, “The attention of the PDP has been drawn to claims by 37 defecting members of the House elected on the platform of the PDP to the APC that they obtained an injunction restraining the leadership of the National Assembly and the party from declaring their seats vacant in line with provisions of the 1999 Constitution.
“We have, after a careful review, discovered that this claim is false. For the avoidance of doubt, the order of the court clearly says that ‘status quo’ be maintained which means the affected members shall remain members of the PDP.
“The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in section 68 (i) (g) clearly spells out the consequences of defection when there is no division in any Party. We wish to re-emphasise here that the courts have pronounced, and INEC has concurred, that there are no factions in the PDP.”
Metuh said this shall be in adherence to our grund norm, which is the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).
But at the FHC, Abuja, the PDP asked that the 37 lawmakers ‘ defection should be declared “null and void.”
It warned that their defection could lead to a breakdown of law and order in the National Assembly and the entire polity if not reversed.
In the suit filed by its counsel, Joe-Kyari Gadzama (SAN), on Thursday, the PDP maintained that the defection contravened the order made by the Abuja FHC on December 17, 2013, when counsel to the 37 lawmakers tried to move a motion for interlocutory injunction, seeking to stop a plan to declare their seats vacant.
According to the PDP, the FHC had on December 17 ordered the 37 lawmakers to revert to the status quo, pending the hearing and determination of the motion for interlocutory injunction.
The party therefore wants “an order from the court declaring the defection, on December 18, 2013, by 37 of the plaintiffs from the PDP to the APC as null and void and contrary to the order made on Tuesday, December 17, 2013.”
The PDP also asked for “a mandatory order that the 37 legislators revert to the status quo pending the hearing of the plaintiffs’ motion on notice for interlocutory injunction.”
As an alternative to the mandatory order directing the lawmakers to revert to the status quo, the PDP asked for “an order setting aside the earlier order on parties to maintain the status quo pending the hearing of the motion for interlocutory injunction.”
In an affidavit in support of the motion, which was deposed to by one Tajudeen Ayeni, the ruling party averred that the subject matter of the suit bordered on the alleged “intention” by the plaintiffs to defect to the APC.
It added, “The plaintiffs were worried that the defendants would declare their seats vacant in the House of Representatives on account of their proposed defection and so instructed their counsel to file a motion for interlocutory injunction before this court.
“When this matter came up for hearing on December 17, 2013, counsel for the plaintiffs sought to move a motion for interlocutory injunction but this was resisted by the 1st and 4th defendants/applicants counsel. The honourable court then made an order suo moto that status quo be maintained.”
The PDP argued that in spite of the order, the 37 legislators decamped to the APC . It stressed that the defection was aimed at putting it(PDP) at a huge disadvantage ahead of the next hearing date in the matter, which is January 22, 2014.
The party said, “It is necessary for this honourable court to reverse the action of the 37 plaintiffs which is clearly in disobedience of the order of this court.
“The action of the 37 plaintiffs, if not reversed, is capable of dissipating the res in this matter and may also lead to a breakdown of law and order in the National Assembly and affect the entire polity.”
Gadzama had earlier in a letter informed Tambuwal of the suit filed by the party in a bid to reverse the defection of the 37 lawmakers.
In the leter, he said, “We have today filed a motion on notice, which has already been served on your office, seeking to overturn the purported movement of the 37 plaintiffs to the APC.
“It is in the light of this that we enjoin you to act in obedience to the order of court and direct the plaintiffs to revert to the status quo ante bellum.
“Anything contrary to this will send out wrong signals to Nigerians and the world that federal legislators have no regard for the law and constitution which they have sworn to uphold.”
The letter added that the action of the 37 lawmakers “if not contained, may lead to a state of anarchy.”
The defection of the lawmakers had given the APC a simple majority in the House, increasing its numerical strength from 135 to 172, against PDP’s 171.