Former Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio has distanced himself from the joint defence conducted for him, the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki and others in a suit challenging the propriety of their defection from their last political party.
He made this known in a motion he filed before a Federal High Court, which his lawyer argued on Monday.
Akpabio, who was elected Senator in 2015 on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) had, in 2018 defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Saraki, House of Representatives Speaker, Yakubu Dogara and others also defected from the APC to the PDP, a development a civil society organisation (CSO), Legal Defence and Assistant Project (LEDAP) challenged.
LEDAP urged the court to declare the defection unlawful and declare the seats of the affected lawmakers vacant on account of their said defection in 2018. In the motion, Akpabio prayed the court for an extension of time to personally file his defence in the suit filed by before decision is taken in the originating summons filed by LEDAP.
Akpabio argued that he was not consulted by the leadership of the National Assembly in deciding on how to defend the suit.
He insisted that his attention was not drawn to the suit by the Clerk of the National Assembly, neither was he personally served with the suit.
Akpabio stated that he did not author the letter of engagement of Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mahmud Magaji (SAN), who has been representing the 54 lawmakers in the suit.
Akpabio insisted that the suit was not a class action; hence he is at liberty to engage a lawyer of his choice and to personally defend himself.
Plaintiff’s lawyer, Ede Uko objected to Akpabio’s motion and urged the court to discountence his argument.
Uko argued that Akpabio’s intention was merely to arrest judgment in the case, which the court had scheduled for May 17.
He argued that Apkabio was afforded time to enter defence, but that he refused to furnish the court with the facts of the case.
Uko further argued that Akpabio should not be allowed to make a u-turn at the 11th hour to seek leave of court to file any process after the matter has been heard and adjourned for judgment.
Ruling, Justice Okon Abang upheld arguments by Akpabio’s lawyer; Sunday Ameh (SAN) of his lawyer, to the effect that the suit is not a class action hence, the applicant is entitled to be heard before judgment is delivered.
Justice Abang was of the view that it would not be proper to shut the applicant out of the case, when he was not aware of the pendency of the case, adding that it is mandatory to hear all parties before a decision is taken.
He said: “Serving of originating process on a person cannot be presumed, it cannot be waived”, he said, “He must be heard, it is his fundamental right”.
Justice Abang rejected the plaintiff’s contention that Akpabio’s motion was an abuse of court process which is aimed at arresting judgment slated for May 17.
He granted Akpabio leave to conduct his separate defence and adjourned till May 14 for parties to adopt their processes.
The judge hinted that, despite the leave granted Akpabio, he may still deliver judgment in the case on May 17.