Presidency May Approach Supreme Court Over G-5 Governors Defection
An epic legal battle may follow the defection of five state governors from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC), as the presidency and the ruling party are set to seek the Supreme Court’s interpretation of section 306 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) over the constitutionality or otherwise of the state chief executives’ action.
Governors Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano), Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto), and AbdulFatah Ahmed (Kwara) on Monday after a meeting with the APC and “new PDP” leaders in Abuja announced their defection to the APC.
Already, their supporters in the National Assembly are planning to follow suit.
But a presidency source said Weekend that President Goodluck Jonathan has asked some of his egg-heads under a five-man committee headed by State House counsel Jalal Alabi to consult and brief him within a week on the next line of action over the governors’ defection.
The source hinted that the PDP might go to the apex court to seek the interpretation of the relevant sections of the constitution on the matter.
“President Jonathan was disappointed over the defection, especially while the reconciliation process is still ongoing; the presidency believes what those governors did was unlawful, citing the Rotimi Amaechi vs PDP case where the Supreme Court ruled that the mandate was given to the party and not to an individual.
“But some officials have also cited the Atiku Abubakar v Federal Government case where the apex court ruled that Atiku should remain as vice president under the administration of former president Olusegun Obasanjo despite his defection to the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) as a verdict that should be scrutinised. But some believe the two cases are not the same. So, the party may be asked to seek the intervention of the judiciary on the issue.”
On political defection, Section 68(1) (109(1)) of the 1999 Constitution states that:
“A member of the Senate or House of Representatives (House of Assembly) shall vacate his seat in the House of which he is a member if-
“(g) Being a person whose election to the House was sponsored by a political party, he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which that house was elected:
“Provided that his membership of the latter political party is not as a result of a division in the political party of which he was previously a member or of a merger of two or more political parties or factions by one of which he was previously sponsored.”
So, for the legislature the constitution is clear: in attempting to cross to another political party, he must prove that a division in his political party exists or a merger of that party with another or factions in the party. Even then, he cannot successfully cross over to another political party until the presiding officer of the House – Senate president, speaker of House of Representatives or speaker of a House of Assembly, as the case may be – endorses the decamping.
Section 68(2) (109(2)) states that: “The President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House of Representatives, as the case may be, shall give effect to the provisions of subsection (1) of this section, so however that the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House of Representatives or a member shall first present evidence satisfactory to the House concerned that any of the provisions of that subsection has become applicable in respect of that member.”
Section 306 of the constitution in sub-section 1 states, “Save as otherwise provided in this section, any person who is appointed, elected or otherwise selected to any office established by this constitution may resign from that office by writing under his hand addressed to the authority or person by whom he was appointed, elected or selected.
(2) The resignation of any person from any office established by this constitution shall take effect when the writing signifying the resignation is received by the authority or person to whom it is addressed or by any person authorised by that authority or person to receive it.
(5) The notice of resignation of the governor and of the deputy governor of a state shall respectively be addressed to the Speaker of the House of Assembly and the Governor of the State.
(6) The notice of resignation of the President of the Senate and of the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall in each case be addressed to the Clerk of the National Assembly, and the notice of resignation of the Speaker of a House of Assembly shall be addressed to the Clerk of the House of Assembly of the State.
(7) The notice of resignation of a member of a legislative house shall be addressed to the president of the Senate or, as the case may require, to the Speaker of the legislative house in question.”
The presidency source further disclosed that any member of the National Assembly who defects to the APC would have his or her seat declared vacant by the PDP. “The position of the law is clear on that and this is why some of them who have been threatening to decamp have not summoned the courage to do so.
“Also, members of the National Assembly or their counterparts in the state who dare to follow these people would have their seats declared vacant. Go and read Section 306 of the constitution, it is very clear and unambiguous. This is why those who have been telling us they are going have refused to defect. Let them go ahead and do that. Their seats would be declared vacant and, within 90 days, a fresh election would be held to replace them; it is then we would know who is on ground,” he said.
Meanwhile, a PDP BoT member has asked the leadership of APC to get ready for the worse with the entrant of the five governors to its party.
When asked to react to the defection of the aggrieved chieftains, the former national officer of the ruling party said, “It is bye-bye to bad rubbish. I congratulate the PDP and I congratulate Nigerians on having the opportunity to identify politicians who are opportunists, who are not reliable and dependable. You can only know this type of people in time of crisis. Another lesson we should all learn from this show of shame is that, in Nigerian politics, anything goes and posterity will judge those who used PDP to become what they are but turned their back at the party.”
When told that the defection is an electoral fortune to the APC, he replied: “They are political pollutants and, with their presence in the APC, the party has inherited problems we have been battling with all this while. They need disinfectants to accommodate these political opportunists. Let me tell you, with what PDP has done since 1999 nationwide, it will be impossible for the APC to uproot it.”
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