The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court on Thursday agreed to delay making its ruling regarding the status of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and 51 other lawmakers who defected from their various parties ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Why? The court’s decision follows an application by Saraki and the other affected legislators to be heard before the court reaches a decision on the matter.
- Thursday was supposed to be the day of the verdict, but the lawyer representing the National Assembly members, Mahmoud Magaji, asked the court to allow them respond to the arguments.
- Magaji stated that the legislators had filed a written response to the issues raised by the applicants and are seeking the indulgence of the court to respond in open court.
- They are challenging the powers of the applicants – the Legal Defence and Assistance project (LEDAP) – to file the case. They are also challenging the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the matter since the applicants allegedly lack ‘locus standi’.
Backstory: On September 14, 2018, LEDAP sued Saraki and 51 other National Assembly members over their defection from the parties under which they had been elected into the National Assembly.
- Their suit asked the court to order that the lawmakers who defected should vacate their seats.
- In July 2018, 37 members of the House of Representatives defected from the All Progressives Congress (APC). About 32 of them joined the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), while four joined the African Democratic Congress (ADC). On the same day, 14 APC senators defected to the PDP.
- About a week after the senators’ defection, Saraki announced his decision to leave the APC for the PDP.
Next steps: Justice Okon Abang adjourned the matter to Friday when he will allow the application by Saraki and the other lawmakers to be heard.
The big picture: This case has serious implications for the way politics is practiced in the country. If the ruling goes against the lawmakers, it could substantially curtail the issue of defections by lawmakers especially just before general elections. Traditionally, lawmakers defect in droves after the primaries conducted by their parties, especially if they fail to get return tickets under the platform on which they were elected.