The Peoples Democratic Party is insisting that its members in the National Assembly who defected to the All Progressives Congress must lose their seats.
The PDP told an Abuja Federal High Court so in its preliminary objection to a suit filed by Senator Bello Hayatu and 50 others, including members of the House of Representatives who defected to the APC, to stop their seats from being declared vacant.
PDP, its National Chairman, the Senate President, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the Independent National Electoral Commissioners are listed as the defendants in the suit, which came up for hearing on Wednesday before Justice Ahmed Mohammed.
In the suit, the plaintiffs are asking the court to restrain the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives from conducting any proceedings aimed at declaring their seats, and that of any other member of the PDP who intend to join another political party, vacant.
They are equally asking the court to restrain INEC from accepting nominations of any candidate and conducting bye-elections aimed at filing their seats.
The court had on December 17, 2013, ordered all the parties involved in the suit to maintain status quo, pending the determination of the matter. After the order, the PDP wrote Speaker Aminu Tambuwal, asking him to order the 37 defected lawmakers to return to the party.
But the suit could not be heard at the resumption of proceedings on Wednesday because all the parties had not filed their processes.
Moves by PDP counsel, Chief Joe-Kyari Gadzama, SAN, to get the court to hear his preliminary objection were not successful as Justice Mohammed ruled that if the originating summons was not ripe for hearing, the preliminary objections would also not be ripe for hearing.
Justice Mohammed adjourned the matter to January 29 to hear the preliminary objection, in the event that the originating summons would be ready for hearing.
However, although PDP’s response to the suit was not heard on Wednesday, the party, in a copy of its preliminary objection, which was obtained by journalists, insisted that the seats of the defected lawmakers must be declared vacant.
The party said, “Both the law and the PDP Constitution are very clear on the issues raised by the plaintiff. One cannot abandon the political party upon whose platform he was elected as a member of parliament and then proceed to another political party while holding unto that parliamentary seat.
“Additionally, the law should take its course in that the seat of any of the plaintiffs who decamp to other political parties should be declared vacant.”
In the same vein, PDP maintained that the lawmakers had failed to show that they were qualified to benefit from the provisions of section 68 (1) (g) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, which allows for such defection in cases of division within political parties.
The party said the plaintiffs had failed to show the existence of such division in the party.
PDP insisted that the suit should be struck out because the lawmakers lacked the legal standing to institute and sustain it, adding that it displayed no cause, and was an abuse of court process.
It also argued that the matter was an intra-party affair for which it has various administrative and legal mechanisms which were not exhausted by the lawmakers.
The lawmakers had in the suit, argued that they went to court to protect their rights as members of the National Assembly following threats by the PDP to declare their seats vacant, but the party (PDP) argued that the legislators had no rights to protect as the Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives enjoyed immunity for acts done on the floor of the Senate and the House, including conducting proceedings towards declaring their seats vacant.