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Defection: CSO sues Tambuwal, Ortom, Ahmed, wants court to declare their seats vacant

The vacation judge of Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba on Wednesday, granted permission to hear three separate suits, seeking to declare vacant the seats of three State Governors: Samuel Ortom (Benue); Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto) and Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara).

The suits marked FHC/ABJ/CS/901/2018, FHC/ABJ/CS/940/2018 and FHC/ABJ/CS/943/2018, also named the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as co-defendants to the suit.

The suits were filed by a civil society group under the aegis of Incorporated Trustees of Advocacy for Change and Social Values Network.

The group is asking the court for an order, directing INEC to within 90 days, conduct fresh election to elect a new Governor in the three states, as well as a new Deputy Governor in Benue State, in accordance with the law.

It further applied for an interim order directing Chief Judges of the various States to swear in Speakers of the State House of Assemblies to hold office as Acting Governors, pending the conduct of fresh elections in their states by INEC.

While Ortom was sued alongside his deputy, Mr. Benson Abounu, both Tambuwal and Ahmed were sued alone.

The All Progressives Congress (APC) was also named as co-defendants to the suits.

Specifically, the plaintiff is asking the court to among other things, determine, “Whether having regard to the totality of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) a person elected into office as Governor or Deputy Governor on the sponsorship of a particular political party which won the election,

can move or defect to another political party without the consent of the sponsoring political party, whilst still retaining the benefit of the election won by the initial political party?

“Whether by the combined provisions of Sections 177(c) and 221 of the 1999, Constitution and the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Amaechi v lNEC (2000) S NWLR (Pt.l080) 227, it was not the APC that won the 2015 governorship election in the three states.

“Whether having regard to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I999 (as amended), there is any provision which allows or empowered the three governors and the deputy governor of Benue State, elected under a political party (APC), to move or defect to another political party?

“Whether an election victory won by a political party, in this case the APC, can be transferred to another political party without the express consent of the political party that won the election and contrary to the express provision of the 1999 Constitution (as amended)?

“Whether, except for the offices or positions and under the circumstances specified in the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the Defendants who were declared elected into the office or position of Governor and Deputy Governor on the sponsorship of a particular political party (the APC) can transfer the victory of such election to another adverse political party by retaining the office or position?

“Whether, except for the offices or positions and under the circumstances specified in the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the Defendants who have withdrawn and resigned their membership of the political party upon which they were elected, are still entitled to the rights and privileges that accrued to them as, and while they were, members of the initial political party (the APC)”.

In the case of Benue State, the plaintiff asked the court to further determine “Whether the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Defendants (Ortom, Abounu and the APC) can,

either expressly or impliedly and outside the contemplation of the law, reconfigure, restructure or extinguish the political platform and framework upon which they canvassed and secured votes and mandate of the electorates represented by the Plaintiff and the other electorates in the 2015 General Governorship Election in Benue State,

and still retain the position, and if not, was the 2nd and 3rd Defendant’s defection and invariable restructuring and reconfiguration of the political platform and framework upon which they were voted, not unlawful, ultra-vires the Constitution and amounts to a violation of the electorates’ right to elect political party of their choice?

“Whether having regard to the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the circumstances and justice of this case, the proper order for the Court to make is not one directing the 1“ Defendant (INEC) to conduct a new election for the completion of the unexpired term of the 2nd and 3rd Defendants as Governor and Deputy Governor of Benue State respectively?”.

Upon determination of the legal questions, the plaintiff is asking the court to declare that the defection, movement, crossing of carpet or howsoever called, by the three governors and the deputy governor of Benue State,

from the Political Party that sponsored them and also won the 2015 General Governorship Election in the states, to another political party, is unconstitutional in the absence of any constitutional provision or authority permitting such movement.

“A declaration that the continued stay in office of the three Governors and the Deputy Governor of Benue State, having withdrawn and resigned their membership of the APC which was the Political Party that sponsored them and also won the 2015 General Governorship Election,

and defected to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is unconstitutional and mount to gross violation of mandate of the electorates.

“A declaration that the Defendants, having withdrawn and resigned membership of the APC, the Political Party that sponsored them and also won the 2015 General Governorship Election in their states and defected to another Political Party,

the composition of the Office of Governor as presently being held and occupied by two different political parties, represented by the APC and the Defendants, is unconstitutional, violates the mandate of the electorates including those represented by the Plaintiff.

“A declaration that under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999. (as amended) and existing laws, no two adverse political parties can present a single candidate in an election in which both party are contesting or lay claim to victory in one elective position or office, except as provided and contemplated by the Constitution.

“A declaration that under the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the legal right to the electoral victory won by a political party, in this case, the vested right of the APC in electoral victory in the 2015 General Governorship Election in Benue, Sokoto and Kwara States,

cannot be severed or transferred from the political party that won the election, to another political party, without subjecting same to a re-election by the electorates, in accordance with the law.

“A declaration that the Defendants cannot, either expressly or impliedly, reconfigure, restructure or extinguish the political platform and framework upon which they canvassed and secured votes and mandate of the electorates, including those represented by the Plaintiff, in the 2015 General Governorship Election, except in accordance with the law.

“A declaration that the defection and invariable restructuring and reconfiguration of the political platform and framework upon which the Defendants canvassed and secured votes and mandate of the electorates,

including those represented by the Plaintiff in the 2015 General Governorship Election in Benue, Sokoto and Kwara States , is unlawful, ultra-vires the Constitution and amounts to a violation of the electorates’ right to elect political party of their choice.

Meantime, Justice Dimgba has ordered service of all the court processes on the Defendants to enable them to appear before the court on the next adjourned date of October 10.

The court also approved substituted service of the processes on the Defendants through their states liaison offices in Abuja.

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