Following the unprecedented event that took place in Rivers State yesterday, in which 27 members of the House of Assembly, known as loyalists of the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nysome Wike, defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC), there have been calls from the PDP and Labour
Following the unprecedented event that took place in Rivers State yesterday, in which 27 members of the House of Assembly, known as loyalists of the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nysome Wike, defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC), there have been calls from the PDP and Labour Party to recall the decamped members of lawmakers
The PDP in its reaction to the development, demanded that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) conduct a fresh election to replace the defected 27 lawmakers. According to a statement by the party’s National Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, PDP insisted that the defection of the lawmaker to the opposition party amounts to their automatic disqualification as lawmakers in the state.
The statement further referred to the constitutional ground which prohibits the lawmakers from continuing to be regarded as members of the state House of Assembly.
Mr Ologunagba thereby asked the speaker of the Rivers State House Assembly immediately comply with the provision of the Constitution by declaring the seats of the defected lawmakers vacant as stipulated by the law.
“The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) demands that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should immediately commence the process of conducting fresh elections into the 27 State Constituencies in Rivers State which have become vacant by reason of the defection of the 27 former State lawmakers in the Rivers State House of Assembly to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
“The PDP asserts that by defecting from the PDP, the political Party platform on which they were elected into the Rivers State House of Assembly, the seats of the respective 27 former lawmakers have become vacant by virtue of the provision of Section 109 (1) (g) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
“For the avoidance of doubt, Section 109 (1) of the 1999 Constitution provides that “a member of a House of Assembly shall vacate his seat in the House if … (g) being a person whose election to the House of Assembly was sponsored by a political Party, he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which that House was electe.”
“By reason of the above Constitutional provision and its clear interpretation by the Supreme Court, the 27 defected members of the Rivers State House of Assembly have vacated and lost their seats, rights, privileges, recognition and obligations accruable to members of the Rivers State House of Assembly.
“The PDP therefore demands that the Speaker of the Rivers State House Assembly immediately comply with the provision of the Constitution by declaring the seats of the 27 former lawmakers vacant.
“In view of the vacancy now exiting in the 27 State constituencies in Rivers State, the PDP demands that INEC should within the stipulated period under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) conduct fresh election to fill the vacancies”.
Similarly, the Labour Party, in a press statement released by the Rivers state chairman, Hilda Dokubo, stated that the lawmakers have violated the rule of law for defecting to another party despite being elected through another political party.
Mr Dokubo insisted that the constitution has already set a legal precedent to declare the defected lawmakers’ seats vacant, adding the law frowns at such cross carpeting especially when the term of service is yet to expire.
He further elaborated that the Supreme Court has set a clear explanation for a similar case in 2022, when the apex court ruled that a lawmaker who defected from Labour Party must vacate his seat as a federal lawmaker in the federal House of Representatives in Ondo state.
“Section 109. (1) (g) of the Nigeria constitution clearly states that ‘A member of a House of Assembly shall vacate his seat in the House if being a person whose election to the House of Assembly was sponsored by a political party, he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which that House was elected.’
“The above provision of the constitution is very clear about the fate that must befall on those legislators who betrayed the party that sponsored them. Therefore Labour is calling on the Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly to declare vacant the 27 seats of the defected members without delay in line with the laws of the land.
“The party is also calling on the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC to begin the process of conducting a fresh election to fill the vacant spaces.
“Labour Party recalls that in 2022, a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja sacked 16 Ebonyi House of Assembly members for defection. The court held that the movement was in breach of Section 109(1)(g) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended which provides that defector legislators are not allowed to retain their seats in the legislature.
“The same fate befell 18 members of the Cross River House of Assembly and 2 members of the House of Representatives who were asked to vacate their seats for defecting from their party last year.
“The Labour Party can also vividly recall that in 2012, our member representing Akure North/Akure South Federal Constituency defected to another party. This case lingered until the Supreme Court in 2022 ordered him to immediately vacate his seat following his defection from the Labour Party. The Court’s unanimous judgement held that the lawmaker who decamped from the Labour Party to another party was constitutionally unfit to retain his seat as a federal lawmaker in the federal House of Representatives.
“Though the case aforementioned was slow in coming, the fact that the apex Court did justice to the matter with a proper interpretation of the law is enough for the political class to be aware that it can no longer take both the electorate and the party that sponsored them for elections for a ride.”.
However, the All Progress has welcomed the decisions of the 27 lawmakers to defect to their party, stating that the massive decampment happened because of bad governance in the state.
The Chairman of APC, Rivers State Caretaker Committee, Tony Okocha, said the defected members have informed him of the state of governance in the state, which he described to be on the ground. He also added that there is hunger in the state, therefore the lawmakers are moving to solve the problem.
“We have gone past the era of 16 being above 19. I hope you remember that era where 16 was deemed to be higher than 19.
“And again, the Assembly members who have defected, had confided in me that leadership/governance in Rivers State has been run aground, that there is no government in Rivers State.”