Again: Saraki, 51 other lawmakers stall hearing of case against their defection

Nigerian senate chambers where senators attend plenary
Nigerian senate chambers

The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and 51 other lawmakers on Friday forced an adjournment in the case seeking to declare their seats vacant. A civic group had asked that their seats be declared vacant due to their defection from the parties on which platforms they were elected.

An application brought by the counsel representing the lawmakers resulted in a further adjournment.

A group, the Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP), dragged Mr Saraki and the other lawmakers before the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court.

LEDAP in the suit filed on September 14 asked the court to order that the members of the National Assembly 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), four joined the African Democratic Congress (ADC) while one did not announce his new party at the time.

On the same day, 14 APC senators defected to the PDP.

A lawyer, Mahmoud Magaji, had appeared in court on Wednesday with an application which forced the court to suspend delivering judgement on the matter.

Following the application by Mr Magaji, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, the court presided over by Okon Abang adjourned till Friday to entertain arguments by parties.

But on Friday, another lawyer, Efut Okoy, asked the court for a further adjournment to allow the defence to regularise their processes.

In his reaction, Mr Abang said the defendants were not supposed to appear before his court with an oral application related to their stance regarding the jurisdiction of the court.

Mr Abang frowned at the application for adjournment, stressing that the law does not permit a court to grant a request for a postponement, just to allow a lawyer to bring in a fresh application.

The lead prosecution lawyer, Jibril Agbakoba, who was also in court, accused the defence team of acting with motives “aimed at perverting the cause of justice.”

In reaction, Mr Okoy said his team of lawyers was just beginning to appear in the matter, therefore their request for adjournment could not have been ill-motivated.

The court then adjourned the matter till April 18 for hearing of the application by the lawmakers after asking parties to file their processes.

Mr Abang warned that parties who fail to comply with the directives for the filing of their processes will have themselves to blame when the matter is called on April 18.

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