Legal Nigeria

Defection: Court Orders Substituted Service of Suit Seeking Removal of Edo Lawmakers

By Alex Enumah

•Adjourns suit till September 27

Justice Chuka Obiozor of the Federal High Court, Benin City, Edo State, has ordered the service of a suit seeking the removal of eight lawmakers in the Edo State House of Assembly following their defection from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), last October.

Justice Obiozor issued the order while delivering ruling in an exparte application seeking service of the suit through substituted means.

The lawmakers, who include the Speaker of the House, Francis Okiye, Ojiezele Sunday, Onoben Iziegbeya, Okoduwa Ewah, Aluebhosele Ephraim, Asoro Roland, Yekini Idiaye and Nosayaba Okunbor, had left the APC for the PDP few weeks to the governorship election last year.

The Edo State House of Assembly has a total of 10 members.

However, an aggrieved member of the APC, Mr. Emankhu Addeh in a suit sought the removal of the eight lawmakers on the grounds that their defection violated the law.

The plaintiff, in addition to the suit, filed a motion exparte praying the court to order the service of the suit on the defendants through substituted means.

In a short ruling, the judge granted the application and ordered the pasting of the suit at the usual or last known abode of the defendants at the Edo State House of Assembly Quarters.

Justice Obiozor further ordered that a pictorial representation of all such pasted processes is attached to the affidavit in proof of service.

He subsequently adjourned till September 27 for mention of the suit.

The Plaintiff in the Suit marked FHC/B/CS/63/21 asked the court to declare vacant the seats of 8 out of the 10 members of the Edo State House of Assembly for defecting from the party that sponsored their election, the APC, to the PDP.

Some of the questions presented to the court for determination included, “Whether by the construction of Section 109 (1)(g) of the Constitution, the 1st to 8th defendants have automatically vacated their seats in the Edo State House of Assembly, by the fact of their defection from the All Progressive Congress (APC), the political party that sponsored their election to the seats in the House of Assembly, to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) variously on 5/10/2020 and 1/2/2021 on the floor of the Edo State House of Assembly, before the expiration of the lifespan of the House of Assembly for which they were elected into?

Addeh urged the court to make the following declarations if the answers to the questions were in the affirmative

“A declaration that the 1st to 8th defendants have automatically vacated their seats as members of the House of Assembly of Edo State, having defected to another political party and having left the All Progressives Congress (APC), which sponsored their election to the House of Assembly of Edo State, within the tenure of the House of Assembly of Edo State.

He also wanted the court to direct the 1st to 8th defendants to vacate forthwith, the Edo State House of Assembly seats of: Esan South East Constituency; Esan West Constituency; Esan North East Constituency; Esan North East Constituency 2; Igueben State Constituency 3; Orhionmwon Constituency 2; Akoko Edo Constituency 1; and Orhionmwon Constituency 1, which they occupied respectively.

“An Order of Court directing the Independent National Electoral Commission, (the 10™ Defendant) to immediately conduct bye-elections to fill the vacant seats of Esan South East Constituency; Esan West Constituency; Esan North East Constituency 1; Esan North East Constituency 2; Igueben State Constituency; Orhionmwon Constituency 2; Akoko Edo Constituency 1; Orhionmwon Constituency 1: in Edo State House of Assembly”, and any other order as the Honorable Court may make in the circumstances. 

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