Attempt by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to surreptitiously remove the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, through an ex-parte application failed as the trial judge, Justice Ahmed Mohammed, ordered the party to put the Speaker on notice.
The court turned down the party’s request for an ex parte order to compel Tambuwal to vacate his seat as Speaker of the House of Representatives following his defection from the majority party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
PDP’s counsel, Chief Mike Ahamba (SAN), who argued the application, said Tambuwal had lost his seat by reason of his defection, according to the provisions of section 68 of the 1999 Constitution.
The party joined Tambuwal and the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives as respondents in the motion.
It urged the court to order Tambuwal to give effect to the provisions of section 68(1)(g) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to declare his seat at the House vacant.
PDP also prayed the court for an alternative order directing the deputy speaker of the House of to declare the Kebbe/Tambuwal seat vacant by an order of mandamus.
Also in the ex parte motion, PDP asked the court to stop Tambuwal from performing or continuing to perform the function of the Speaker in the House or sitting or continuing to sit in the House as a member.
A 16-paragraph affidavit in support of the ex parte motion, averred that Tambuwal, who was sponsored in the 2011 general election by the PDP, has left the party to join the APC, as he announced on October 28, thereby informing the House on his present status as required by law.
The affidavit as deposed to by one James Ugbogu, a lawyer, said it was constitutional for the House to declare Tambuwal’s seat vacant in the circumstance of his defection to APC.
Under Section 53(3) of the 1999 Constitution, the party said: “The deputy speaker should perform the functions of a speaker of the House in the absence of a speaker in valid occupancy of the position, or legal incapacitation of the incumbent speaker.”
The trial judge, Justice Mohammed, ordered that Tambuwal and other respondents in the motion be put on notice through substituted means and adjourned till December 12 for further hearing of the matter.
In the ex parte request, PDP is challenging the propriety of Tambuwal holding up to the speakership after defecting to the APC.
The plaintiff is praying the court to compel Tambuwal to vacate his membership of the House, having regard to his defection on October 28.
Upon the refusal of the ex parte application, Justice Mohammed consequently adjourned till December 12 for hearing.
In a different ruling, Justice Mohammed had also stopped the Chairmen of Kebbe and Tambuwal Local Government Areas in Sokoto State, Bala Konkani and Sambo Bello Modo respectively, from joining as co-defendants in the suit filed by Tambuwal, challenging the removal of his aides and seeking to stop the PDP members in the House to declare his seat vacant.
The court also stopped three members of the Sokoto State House of Assembly, Abdulsamad Ibrahim Dasuki (Tambuwal East constituency), Suleiman Hanse (Tambuwal West constituency) and Shuaib Umar (Kebbe constituency) seeking to be joined as co-defendants.
The court stopped them on grounds that their interest in the matter did not align with that of the defendants and as such could not join as co-defendants.
The court noted that the interest of the applicants bordered on the seat of the speaker, adding that Tambuwal, who is the plaintiff in the instant case, had presented all his requests before the court.
The applicants had last Friday applied to the court to be joined as co-defendants.
In the suit filed by PDP, the plaintiff is further seeking an order compelling Tambuwal to, in his capacity as speaker, prior to his action, declare vacant the Kebbe/Tambuwal constituency seat, which he represents.
The plaintiff also wants the court to give express effect to Section 68 (i) (g) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
The section provides that: “A member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives shall vacate his seat in the House of which he is member if being a person whose election to the House was sponsored by a political party and he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which that House was elected.”
Meanwhile, Tambuwal has written a petition to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, praying that his suit allegedly assigned to Justice Evoh Chukwu be re-assigned to another judge for likelihood of bias on Chukwu’s part.
In a petition against Justice Chukwu, Tambuwal who is billed to preside over plenary session when the House reconvenes tomorrow (Wednesday) barring any last minute changes, yesterday prayed the Federal High Court, presided over by Justice Ibrahim Auta to reassign the case 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.”
In the petition seeking the reassignment of the suit with registration number: FHC/ABJ/CS/871/2014 to another judge, the speaker observed that the presiding Judge, Justice Chukwu, had in the past “made a pronouncement on similar issues, in similar cases, decided by him,” and submitted that the learned Justice is likely to habour “an iron cast judicial position or opinion in respect to the suit.”
The document made available to journalists in Abuja yesterday read in parts: “My attention has been drawn to the above suit, which has been assigned to Court 8, presided over by Justice Chukwu, and we wish to make the following observations:
“Sometime in 2013, the said Justice Chukwu presided over the case of PDP and 12 Ors vs. INEC and 4 Ors, wherein he made a judicial pronouncement, which has been interpreted by some to the effect that there was no division in PDP. The above decision of Justice Chukwu was heavily relied upon and cited severally in the case of PDP vs. (1) House of Representatives; (2) the Speaker of the House of Representatives and 52 Ors, Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/4/2014.
“Consequently, Justice A.F.A Ademola, relying on the said judgment of Justice Chukwu, even though, the said suit before him, had nothing to do with defection, ruled that there was no division within the PDP. 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 rested his decision on that earlier judgement of Justice Chukwu aforementioned.
“The said judgment of Justice Ademola, in Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/4/2014 is subject of four pending appeals at the Court of Appeal Abuja judicial division via appeal no. CA/A/343/2014 and appeal no. CA/A/343A/2014 and CA/A/343B/2014 and appeal no. CA/A/343D/2014.
“My Lord, similar suits were variously instituted by various parties and are pending before the Federal High Court No. 7, presided over by Justice A.R Mohammed, in Suits No. FHC/ABJ/CS/621/2013; Between Senator Bello Hayatu Gwarzo & 78 Ors vs Bamanga Tukur & 4 ors and are at various stages of proceeding pending before Court 7, presided over by Justice A.R Mohammed.
“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.
Buttressing his position, Tambuwal made reference to the case involving Metropolitan properties Co. Ltd v. Lannan and Others, wherein Lord Denning said:
“In considering whether there was a real likelihood of bias, the court does not look at the mind of the justice himself or at the mind of the chairman of the tribunal, or whoever it may be, who sits in a judicial capacity. It does not look to see if there was a real likelihood that he would, or did, in fact favour one side at the expense of the other. The court looks at the impression which would be given to other people. Even if he was as impartial as could be, nevertheless, if right-minded persons would think that, in the circumstances, there was a real likelihood of bias on his part, and then he should not sit. And if he sits, his decision cannot stand … The court will not inquire whether he did, in fact, favour one side unfairly. Suffice it that reasonable people might think he did. The reason is plain enough. Justice must be rooted in confidence; and confidence is destroyed when right-minded people go away thinking: ‘The Judge was biased.”
“In view of the above stated facts, 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,” he prayed.