The All Progressives Congress (APC) yesterday denied claim by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that ex-Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, has defected to the party before the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja. Dogara was re-elected to the House at the 2019 general election on the platform of PDP, but defected to APC last year.
However, the APC’s denial was contained in a counter-affidavit it filed in opposition to a suit by PDP seeking Dogara’s sack for allegedly abandoning unlawfully, the party, on which platform he rode to the House.
Head of Legal Department of APC, Dare Oketade, was quoted in the party’s counter-affidavit, to have claimed that he is not aware that Dogara has defected from PDP. Oketade said he has checked the membership register of APC and did not find Dogara’s name in APC’s membership register.
“In fact, the 5th defendant (APC) has not received an application for membership from the 1st defendant (Dogara) or any other person acting under the instruction of the 1st defendant; neither the 5th defendant has issued any membership card to the 1st defendant. “Recording the name of the 1st defendant as member of the 5th defendant in the membership register of the 5th defendant and the subsequent issuance of APC’s membership card to the 1st defendant confers 1st defendant the membership of the 5th defendant,” APC said.
It, however, described the suit by PDP as speculative and instituted in bad faith. The ruling party prayed the court to dismiss all the claims of the plaintiffs in the interest of justice. The trial judge, Justice Okon Abang, had earlier granted the plaintiffs’ application for an abridgment of time within which the case could be heard. The application, which was moved by plaintiffs’ counsel, Jibrin S. Jibrin, was not opposed by the defendants, following which Justice Abang adjourned till February 4 for hearing.
Defendants in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/ CS/1060/2020 are: Dogara, the House of Representatives’ Speaker, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and APC.
PDP and its Bauchi State Chairman, Hamza Akuyam, listed as plaintiffs in the suit, stated that Dogara, representing Dass, Tafawa Balewa and Bogoro Federal Constituency of Bauchi State, defected from APC to PDP before the last general election and won a re-election to the House on the platform of PDP. They added that Dogara, on July 24, 2020, abandoned PDP for APC when he submitted his resignation letter to PDP chairman in Bogoro ‘C’ Ward in Bauchi State.
The plaintiffs are contending, among others, that by virtue of Section 68(1)(g) of the constitution, Dogara ought to vacate the seat for defecting from the party that sponsored him to the Ninth National Assembly before the expiration of his tenure. They said the former speaker was no longer qualified to partake in the activities of the House while still using his former party’s ticket.
Akuyam stated, in a supporting affidavit, that there was no crisis or division in the first plaintiff, being the political platform by which the election of the first defendant (Dogara) as a serving member of the National Assembly was sponsored and from which he has defected to the fifth defendant (APC) before the expiration of the period for which he was elected.
He also stated that there were no mergers involving PDP, from which Dogara defected. Akuyam averred that having defected from PDP before the expiration of his tenure, Dogara “has lost his seat/office as a member of the House of Representatives and is no longer entitled to participate in the legislative proceedings and other businesses of the National Assembly and/or entitled to salaries and allowances as a member of the National Assembly.”
He added that given the facts and circumstances of the case, the Speaker of the House “is under legal obligation” to declare Dogara’s seat vacant and allow INEC to conduct an election for his replacement. The plaintiffs are praying the court to, among others, declare that Dogara has ceased to be a member of the National Assembly from the date he defected to APC.
They prayed the court to direct Dogara to vacate his seat in the National Assembly and to refund all the salaries, allowances and emoluments he collected from the date of his defection from PDP. They also prayed the court to direct the House speaker to give effect to Section 68(1) of the constitution forthwith, declare Dogara’s seat vacant and for INEC to conduct a by-election for his replacement.