Former Minority Leader of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio, on Monday, responded to the suit filed against him by an advocacy group on refund of salaries and allowances received from PDP to APC. The Senator informed the court that he only moved from PDP to APC and did not defect.
Senator Akpabio asked the court to suspend its judgment on a suit seeking to declare his seat vacant and 54 federal lawmakers that decamped from their respective political parties prior to the 2019 general election.
The Senator who lost his re-election bid for the second term, Godswill Akpabio has asked a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja to suspend its judgments on an application seeking to vacate seats of 54 federal lawamkers who defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The embattling congressman also prayed the court to allow him to respond to the suit that was filed against him and others by an advocacy group under the aegis of Legal Defense and Assistance Project, LEDAP which has applied for the refund of salaries and allowances of lawmakers who defected after their election into the National Assembly.
In a very smart moves to thwart the judgement, the Senator, few days to the judgement date for the suit, filed an application insisting that he was not consulted or officially informed before any lawyer was appointed to appear for the matter.
Akpabio said he was not informed by the clerk of the National Assembly or even personally served with the said suit. Informing the court that he only read about the case in the Newspapers, Akpabio said, the suit was not a class action and he was at liberty to use a counsel of his choice and to personally defend himself.
Among those the Plaintiff is asking the court to declare their seats vacant, include the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara. The lawmakers, comprising of 17 Senators and 37 House of Reps members, had earlier briefed two lawyers to represent each of the groups. The lawyers who also approached the court after the matter was earlier fixed for judgement on April 11, queried the locus-standi of the Plaintiff to declare their continued stay in the National Assembly as illegal and unconstitutional.
The plaintiff had through its lawyer, Mr. Jubril Okutekpa, SAN, argued that the only way to curb gale of defections that herald major elections in the country, was for the court to make Sakari, Akpabio, Dino and his co-defendants to pay for what it termed as their “political and constitutional iniquities”.
Among Senators the Plaintiff is asking the court to declare their seats vacant for defecting from political parties that sponsored their election, contrary to section 68 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, included Senators Dino Melaye, Rabiu Kankwaso, Lanre Tejuoso, Shaaba Lafiagi, Rafiu Ibrahim, Barnabas Gemade, Abdulazeez Nyako, Monsurat Sunmonu, Usman Nafada, Suleiman Hunkuyi, Ibrahim Danbaba, Ubale Shittu, lsah Misau, Suleiman Nafif. While the House of Reps members included Hon. Zakari Mohammed, Hon. Aminu Shagari, Hon Ooker-Jev, Hon. Rufai Chanchangi, Hon. Abdulsamad Dasuki, Hon. Sani Zoro, Hon. Benjamin Okolo, Hon. Bode Ayorinde, Hon. Sani Rank, Hon. Dickson Tarkighir, among others
Meanwhile, few days to the new judgment date, Akpabio, filed a separate application, insisting he was not consulted before any lawyer was appointed to appear for the matter. Akpabio said his attention was not drawn to the suit by the Clerk of the National Assembly, neither was he personally served with the suit. He told the court that he read about the case in the Newspapers.
Akpabio contended that the suit was not a class action, hence he was at liberty to use a counsel of his choice and to personally defend himself. Despite stiff opposition from the Plaintiff’s counsel, Justice Okon Abang, said he was minded to accede to Akpabio’s request.
Justice Abang based his decision on section 36 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, stressing that since the matter was not a class action, Akpabio’s right to fair hearing would be affected if the matter was decided without his input. Meanwhile, in his reaction after the proceeding, Akpabio who was joined as the 3rd Defendan, maintained that contrary to position of the Plaintiff, he said he never defected from the People Democratic Party.
Akpabio said he only moved into the All Progressives Congress, APC, after the PDP “was flooded”. Before the matter was adjourned till Tuesday for parties to exchange their addresses, Justice Abang, said he could still deliver judgment on the matter as earlier slated. Even though the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, were cited as 1st and 56th Defendants, respectively, however, none of them entered appearance nor filed any process either in support or against the suit.