The Peoples Democratic Party and the Senate President, David Mark, on Wednesday opposed a request by members of the National Assembly who defected to the All Progressives Congress, for another adjournment in a suit they filed at an Abuja Federal High Court to stop plans to declare their seats vacant.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed had on February 18 adjourned till March 26 the judgment in the suit filed by the senators and members of the House of Representatives after the PDP leadership insisted that they should vacate their seats as a result of their defection.
However, when the court resumed for the scheduled judgment, the plaintiffs asked the judge to adjourn delivery of its verdict, indefinitely, pending the determination of a referral application they filed at the Court of Appeal in respect of the suit.
In the referral application, counsel for the defected lawmakers, Mahmoud Magaji, SAN, asked the Court of Appeal to interpret the provisions of section 68 (1) (g) of the 1999 Constitution, which is the subject matter of the suit as well as four other pending cases that arose from the crisis in the PDP, which culminated in the defection of some members of the National Assembly.
Section 68 (1) (g) of the 1999 Constitution allows for defection in cases where there is a division within political parties, and the defected lawmakers are arguing that there was a split in the PDP that gave them grounds to defect and still retain their seats.
But the ruling party is insisting that there was no such division within its ranks and as such, the defection of the lawmakers was illegal and their seats should be vacated.
After the counsel for the parties had announced appearances, Magaji promptly asked the court to adjourn the judgment indefinitely pending the referral application the defected lawmakers filed at the Court of Appeal.
He said, “We have a notification dated March 21 seeking adjournment sine die (indefinitely) pending the outcome of our referral application to the Court of Appeal.”
PDP’s lawyer, Joe Gadzama, SAN, as well as counsel for the Senate President, Ken Ikonne, spiritedly opposed the defected lawmakers’ bid to stop the judgment.
Gadzama urged the court to refuse the plaintiffs’ request for an indefinite adjournment but to instead proceed immediately to deliver the scheduled judgment.
“This matter is for judgment today and was adjourned for judgment a month and half ago. It is a matter of urgent national importance which several sections of the society are interested in.
“Everybody is waiting anxiously for the judgment which concerns tenure in office that is time-bound,” he said.
Counsel to Tambuwal, Alex Marafa, aligned with the arguments advanced by Gadzama and Ikonne.
The Independent National Electoral Commission maintained its neutral stance in the case by not supporting or opposing the argument of any of the parties.
Responding, the defected lawmakers’ lawyer, Magaji, urged the court to discountenance the submissions of the defendants by granting the application and in so doing, adjourn the judgment indefinitely.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed fixed Friday, March 28, to determine whether or not to postpone the judgment, as requested by the defected lawmakers.