2019: Group sues Saraki, Akpabio, other defecting lawmakers, wants seats declared vacant

Nigerian Senate
The Chamber of the Nigerian Senate

A public advocacy organisation, Enough is Enough (EiE) Nigeria, has filed a law suit against members of the National Assembly who have defected from one party to another.

EiE has asked the Federal High Court, Abuja, to declare the seats of the defectors’ vacant.

Some of the federal lawmakers who have changed parties include Senate President Bukola Saraki and former minority leader Godswill Akpabio. While Mr Saraki moved from the APC to the PDP, Mr Akpabio moved the other way.

In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/923/2018 filed on August 28, EiE argued that the defecting lawmakers circumscribe the freedom provided in Sections 39 and 40 of the Constitution, which guarantee the fundamental rights of expression, conscience and opinion as well as freedom of association.

The group also argues that “in Abegunde vs Ondo State House of Assembly (2015) LPELR-24588(SC), the Supreme Court held that: the kind of division that would entitle a politician to defect as envisaged by Sections 68(1)(a) and (g) and (222)(a)(e) and (f) of the 1999 Constitution is such that results in factionalization, fragmentation, splintering or division that makes it practically impossible or impracticable for a political party to function as such will by virtue of the provision to Section 68(1), justify a person’s defection to another party and the retention of his seat for the unexpired term in the House inspite of the defection. Otherwise, the defector automatically loses his seat.”

EiE in partnership with #OfficeOfTheCitizen radio partners, is asking the court to give an order mandating the 53rd Respondent (Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to immediately conduct bye-elections to fill the 1st to 52nd Respondents seats in the National Assembly.

It is also asking the court to grant consequential order(s) as the court may deem fit.

The suit on on EiE’s behalf by its counsel, Olumide Babalola, reads in part: “There is no division in the Respondents previous political parties that will justify defection to another party during the subsistence of their terms, we are of the respectful submission that the Respondents have voluntarily surrendered their seats in the National Assembly.

“Having decamped from the political parties that sponsored their elections, defectors should resign from the National Assembly and seek a fresh mandate from the electorate.

“In Kaduna State House of Assembly, the seats of two decampees have been declared vacant by the Speaker. This process should be implemented in the other 35 states and the Federal Capital Territory.”

No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit, as the case has not been assigned to a judge.

The group’s Programme Officer, Dapo Awobekun, called for the swift response of the judiciary to the suit.


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