A federal high court in Abuja has sacked 20 members of the Cross River state house of assembly.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had instituted a suit against the lawmakers over their defection to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The judgement in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/975/2021 was delivered on Monday.
Ruling on the case, Taiwo Taiwo, the presiding judge, held that the lawmakers should vacate their seats, having abandoned the political party that sponsored them to power.
The affected lawmakers are Michael Etaba, Legor Idagbor, Eteng Jonah William, Joseph A. Bassey, Odey Peter Agbe, Okon E. Ephraim, Regina L. Anyogo, Matthew S. Olory, Ekpo Ekpo Bassey, Ogbor Ogbor Udop and Ekpe Charles Okon.
Others are Hillary Ekpang Bisong, Francis B. Asuquo, Elvert Ayambem, Davis Etta, Sunday U. Achunekan, Cynthia Nkasi, Edward Ajang, Chris Nja-Mbu Ogar and Maria Akwaji.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), speaker of the house of representatives, national assembly, clerk of the national assembly, Cross River state house of assembly, clerk of the state house of assembly and the APC were also joined as defendants in the suit
Mike Ozekhome, counsel to the 4th-25th defendants, had challenged the court’s jurisdiction to hear the suit.
He submitted that the cause of action arose in Calabar and that the matter should be transferred to the high court in Calabar.
But the presiding judge held that “there is nothing against the law that the suit be heard by this court”.
He said the 4th-25th defendants are joined with other defendants who have their offices in Abuja.
“Where there is more than one defendant, the suit can be established anywhere, subject to the discretion of the court,” he said.
“I find no merit in the application for transfer.”
‘THEY CAN’T ABANDON THEIR SPONSOR’
Furthermore, in their defence, the lawmakers argued that there was rancour in the PDP which led to their expulsion from the party.
The APC had in its submissions told the court that the lawmakers are not registered members of the party.
However, the judge held that the defendants had intentions to mislead the court. He said he found gaps and loopholes in their defence as they tried to twist events to suit their own narratives.
“They wined and dined under the umbrella of the plaintiff who also gave them shelter,” he said.
Taiwo noted that they not only defected loudly, “they took pictures of their defection and were received by the officials of the 26th defendant”.
“The is no doubt that the defendants can belong to or join any political association and assembly as they are free to do so,” he ruled.
“I consider the attempts of the 6th – 25th defendants to justify their defection, feeble in the circumstances of this case.”
Taiwo said the public voted for the lawmakers through the plaintiff who sponsored them and they were not elected as independent candidates.
“They had a vehicle which conveyed them and that vehicle belongs to the plaintiff. They cannot abandon the vehicle,” he held.
The judge said politicians treat citizens who elected them into power as if they don’t matter when they assume office.
He said a day will come when elected officers must resign if they migrate to another party — or seek the permission of the people before they decamp.