News reports from the National Assembly today indicate that fifteen senators have defected from the All Progressive Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). We note that under Section 68 (1)(g) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), any legislator who defects from the party which sponsored his election to the National Assembly, where there was no division in the party, must vacate his seat in the National Assembly.
The Supreme Court has affirmed this position in a number of cases. In the case of HON. IFEDAYO ABEGUNDE V. THE ONDO STATE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY-SC.643/2014, the apex court stated thus, “The principles enunciated by this Court in the two cases, Fedeco v Goni supra and AG Federation v Abubakar (supra), is to the effect that only such factionalisation, fragmentation, splintering or “division” that makes it impossible or impracticable for a political party to function as such will, by virtue of the proviso to Section 68(1) (g), justify a person’s defection to another party and the retention of his seat for the unexpired term in the house inspite of the defection. Otherwise, as rightly held by the courts below, the defector automatically looses his seat.”
It must be recalled that in this 8th assembly of the National Assembly, there have been a number of defections from one party to another, even though there has not been division in the APC or PDP to legally warrant or justify the defections. The National Assembly as the law makers of the nation must obey the law.
Section 68(1)(g) of the Constitution clearly provides that, “ A member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives shall vacate his seat in the House of which he is a member if, being a person whose election to the House 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, Provided that his membership of the latter political party is not as a result of a division in the political party of which he was previously a member or of a merger of two or more political parties or factions by one of which he was previously sponsored”. Therefore any Legislator defecting to another party, must resign, otherwise such legislator will be acting unlawfully and, has no right of vote at the National Assembly. Thus, all Motions or Bills passed by the National Assembly in which such legislator participated in the debate or voted in the passage are null and void.
The Legal Defence and Assistance Project-LEDAP will, if these legislators fail to resign, seek legal action to nullify their continued sitting in the upper chambers and to nullify all Bills and Motions in which they participated or voted.
For: LEDAP – Legal Defence and Assistance Project
Chino Obiagwu Esq.