SAN FRANCISCO, January 20, (THEWILL) – A Federal High Court in Abuja presided over by Justice Adeniyi Ademola has issued an order stopping the House of Representatives from changing its leadership pending the determination of a suit filed by the leadership of the embattled Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) seeking to block the move.
Justice Ademola further ordered the leadership of the House to maintain the status quo until further notice.
The ruling frustrates moves by the opposition All Progressive Congress (APC) to take over the leadership of the House following the defection of about 37 members of the PDP to it which gave it majority in the House.
The House of Representatives has been ordered to stop its planned leadership change following the defection of some Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members to the All Progressives Congress (APC),a development which now gives the APC the majority in the House thus necessitating a change of leadership.
A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja gave the order on Monday stopping the change in leadership pending the determination a suit filed by the PDP seeking to restrain the lower chamber from altering the composition of its leadership.
Presiding judge of the court, Justice Adeniyi Ademola, who gave the order directed parties in the suit to maintain the status quo.
While ruling PDP is the plaintiff in the suit, the House of Representatives, Speaker Aminu Tambuwal, Deputy Speaker Emeka Ihedioha, other principal officers of the House and its former members who defected to APC as defendants.
While ruling on whether to hear the objections filed by the defendants before the main suit, Justice Ademola ordered that the objections would be heard with the originating summons.
The judge ruled that none of the parties should attempt to change the leadership of the lower chamber of the National Assembly during the pendency of the suit which has been adjourned to February 3 for hearing.
Justice Ademola said that since parties had joined issues, they should wait for the outcome of the suit and refrain from doing anything that would destroy the outcome of the case.
PDP in a suit filed on January 7 had asked the court to restrain the House from altering the composition of its leadership.
It asked the court to among others, restrain the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, other principal officers of the House and its defecting members in the House from taking any step “to alter or change the leadership of the 1st defendant (PDP).”
In a supporting affidavit, an officer of the PDP, Nanchang Ndam, said while the defection of some of the defendants was still a subject of litigation before Justice Mohammed, the defendants, particularly the Minority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, had issued threats to change the leadership of the House.
Ndam submitted that unless the defendants were restrained, they could carry out the threat and thereby prejudice the earlier suit, cause a breakdown of law and order and cripple the activities of the House.
In the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/2/2014, PDP raised two questions for the court’s determination and sought four reliefs.
It wants the court to determine whether, in view of the mandatory provision of Section 68(1)(g) of the Constitution, and in view of the pendency of an earlier suit by the defecting law makers, they (the defecting legislators) can participate in any proceedings to remove the House’ principal officers.
The ruling party also wants the court to determine whether, in view of the provision of Section 68(1)(g) of the Constitution and the pending suit by the defecting legislators, they (the defecting law makers) can lawfully alter the composition or constitution of the House’s leadership.
The plaintiff is also praying the court to declare that in view of Section 68(1)(g) of the Constitution and the pending case marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/621/2013 the defecting lawmakers “cannot lawfully vote and contribute to any motion for the removal or change of any of the principal officers” of the House.
Furthermore, PDP wants the court to declare that the defecting lawmakers, who are plaintiffs in the earlier suit before Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the same court, “are not competent to sponsor, contribute or vote on any motion calling for the removal or change in the leadership of the House or the removal of any principal officers of the House.”
It asked the court for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants from “altering or changing the House’s leadership.”
The PDP equally filed an application for interlocutory injunction restraining the defendants from altering the leadership of the House pending the determination of the substantive suit.
One of the defendants’ lawyer, Sebastine Hon (SAN) urged the court to strike out the suit for want of jurisdiction.
In a notice of preliminary objection filed on Monday, Hon contended that the plaintiff lacked the locus standi to institute the suit; that the suit was not justiceable; that the court lacked the jurisdiction to dabble into the internal affairs of the House, and that the case amounted to an academic or hypothetical exercise.
He also filed a counter affidavit to the plaintiff’s application for interlocutory injunction, challenging the competence of the application.
It would be recalled that Justice Ademola had last week refused an ex-parte application by the PDP, in which it sought to restrain the defendants from among others, altering the House’s leadership.
He ordered the party to put the defendants on notice.
Also last week, the defendants’ lawyers, Hon, Mohammud Magaji (SAN), James Ocholi (SAN) and Eric Apia, objected the move by the plaintiff’s lawyer, Yunus Ustaz (SAN) to argue his application for interlocutory injunction.