The Federal High court sitting in Ilorin, has declared that the defection of 22 members of the Kwara State House of Assembly elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), but defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC), was legal and constitutional.
Justice Olayinka Faji, in his judgment, on Thursday, said that the defendants would not lose their seats for another re-election, adding that there was an established case of crisis in their party which prompted their defection.
A legislator in the state assembly, who stayed back in PDP, Ibrahim illiyasu, had dragged the defendants to court that they should vacate their seats and stand another election having dumped the party for APC.
Counsels for the plaintiff, Mr Salman Jawondo, assisted by O. J. Adeseko, had urged the court to declare the seats of the speaker and others vacant in view of the fact that they were elected on the platform of PDP, but defected to APC.
Jawondo posited that having left PDP for APC, the defendants’ seats should be declared vacant and that they must stand another election for them to retain their seats.
But counsels to the defendants, Wahab Bami-dele, Tosho Yakubu, led by Bola Razaq Gold, argued that the defendants had the rights to defect to any other party because of the prevailing crisis in their former party.
However, Justice Olayinka Faji, in his ruling in suit no FHC/IL/CS/6/2014, PDP, illias Ibrahim Vs Razaq Atunwa and 20 others and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), declared that the defection of the lawmakers was legal and constitutional.
The judge relied on judgement by Justice Chukwu, which restrained Alhaji Baraje, from parading himself as the INEC recognised chairman of PDP.
Justice Faji explained that mere ruling that Bamagar Tukur was recognised as the official chairman of People’s Democratic Party and a restraining order was filed for Baraje not to parade himself as the INEC recognised chairman, showed indeed, that there was a faction.
The Judge explained that at the time of the defection by Kwara Assembly members, there was indeed a faction in PDP which made the defection by Kwara Assembly members legal and constitutional.
In his reaction, a member of the House of Representatives, representing Ilorin East/Ilorin South Federal Constituency, Dr Ahmad Ali, said that Justice Faji’s judgement has laid to rest the constitutionality of defection by the legislators.