The Speaker of the House of Representative, Aminu Tambuwal, has petitioned the National Judicial Council, NJC, after a member of the House, Abiodun Akinlade, filed a suit asking a Federal High Court in Abuja to sack him as speaker and member of the House.
The suit, No. FHC/ABJ/CS/871/2014, joins the House of Representatives, Federal Government of Nigeria, and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, as defendants.
In his petition, Mr. Tambuwal said he was aware the suit has been assigned to Court 8, presided over by Justice E.S.J Chukwu, a judge, whose antecedents, the speaker said, cannot guarantee fairness.
“Sometime in 2013, the said Presiding Judge, Justice ESJ Chukwu presided over the case of Peoples Democratic Party & 12 ORS VS. INEC & 4 ORS, wherein he made a judicial pronouncement, which has been interpreted by some, to the effect that there was no division, in Peoples Democratic Party,” the speaker wrote in his petition.
The 2013 ruling concluded that there was no division in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, despite the formation of a group of estranged party members led by a former party leader, Abubakar Baraje. The group, called new PDP, later joined the All Progressives Congress, APC.
That judgement has been severally cited by the PDP in lawsuits against members of the House who decamped from its fold to the APC.
The Nigerian Constitution permits a public official elected on the platform of a given party to defect only if the party is in crisis and has factions.
Mr. Tambuwal’s cites divisions in the PDP as reason for his recent defection to APC, a claim the ruling party rejects and wants him sacked.
The Speaker however said Justice Chukwu’s ruling portends bias, more so, since his arguments were relied upon by another judge, A.F.A Ademola, even when the suit before him had nothing to do with defection.
“And as such, the defendants in that case, who are members of the House of Representatives, who have similar cases as mine, currently pending in the Federal High Court Abuja, were not protected by proviso to Section 68(1) (g) of the 1999 Constitution.
“He (Ademola) rested his decision on that earlier judgement of Justice Chukwu aforementioned,” he said.
Also, the speaker said Mr. Ademola’s ruling is currently a subject of four pending appeals at the Court of Appeal in Abuja.
Mr. Tambuwal said his concern regarding the case instituted by his colleague lawmaker, Mr. Akinlade, is in respect of the presiding Judge, Mr. Chukwu, and the likelihood that he will not be fair.
“Having made a pronouncement on similar issues, in similar cases, decided by him, clearly shows that he has an iron cast judicial position or opinion in respect of Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/871/2014 concerning me, Sir, which has just been assigned to him,” the speaker said in the petition sent through the Chief Justice of the Federation, Mahmud Mohammed.
Mr. Tambuwal added that a review of the new case assigned to Justice Chukwu shows that the PDP is asking the judge to interpret the decisions of the Court in the two cases mentioned earlier, invariably meaning “to sit on Appeal over his own decision”.
“My apprehension is further fortified by the fact that both decisions of Justice Chukwu and Justice Ademola as captured in the said suits are subject of Appeal in the Court of Appeal,” he said.
Quoting judicial precedent, Speaker Tambuwal highlighted that there is a strong likelihood of bias if Justice Chukwu is assigned the suit filed by Mr. Akinlade.
“I humbly urge my Lord to re-assign the said Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/871/2014 to a neutral judge, who has not made any judicial pronouncement on the issue, or made public his own opinion on the issue at hand,” Mr. Tambuwal said.