The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, on Wednesday, okayed three separate suits seeking to declare the seats of Governors Samuel Ortom of Benue State, Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State and Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara State, vacant, following their defection to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
The suits marked FHC/ABJ/CS/901/2018, FHC/ABJ/CS/940/2018 and FHC/ABJ/CS/943/2018, respectively, were lodged before the court by a civil society group under the aegis of Incorporated Trustees of Advocacy for Change and Social Values Network. The group is praying the court to direct the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to within 90 days, conduct fresh poll to elect new Governors in the three states and a Deputy Governor in Benue State, in accordance with the law.
Tambuwal, Ortomand Ahmed It equally applied for an interim order, directing Chief Judges of the states to swear-in Speakers of the State Houses of Assembly, to hold office as Acting Governors, pending the conduct of fresh elections by INEC. Whereas Governor Ortom was sued alongside his Deputy, Mr. Benson Abounu, both Tambuwal and Ahmed were sued alone. Also joined as Defendants in the suits were INEC and the All Progressives Congress, APC.
Specifically, the plaintiff, among other things, wants the court determine, “Whether having regard to the totality of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria I999 (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, as amended, and the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of AMEACHI v lNEC (2000) S NWLR (Pt.l080) 227, it was not the APC that won the 2015 governorship election in Benue, Sokoto and Kwara states. Whether having regard to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I999 (as amended), there is any provision that allows or empowered the three governors and the deputy governor of Benue State, elected under the 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 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended)?
“Whether, except for the offices or positions and under the circumstances specified in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (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 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (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 of 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? As well as, “Whether having regard to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (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, sought for a declaration 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, was unconstitutional in the absence of any statutory provision or authority that permitted 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 PDP, was unconstitutional and in 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.