The Federal High Court Abuja has fixed May 17 to deliver judgment in a suit seeking the removal of Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, and 52 other lawmakers.
Justice Okon Abang fixed the date after taking arguments from all parties involved in the matter bordering on change of party affiliations.
An advocacy group, Legal Defence and Assistance Project, LEDAP, dragged the lawmakers to court seeking a declaration that they were no longer members of the National Assembly having defected to other political parties before the expiration of their tenure.
The defendants are 17 senators, 37 members of the House of Representatives, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, and clerks to both houses.
At the resumed hearing, the Counsel to Saraki and other senators, Mahmud Magaji argued that the plaintiff has no locus standi to institute the suit since it was not a political party, politician, constituent of the lawmakers or an executive member of either of the political parties.
He described them as meddlesome interlopers who instituted the suit to annoy the defendants, Nigerians and their constituents who voted them to represent them. “Allowing this suit will amount to slapping Nigerians and I urge the court to resist the temptation and dismiss the suit,” he submitted.
Counsel to Dogara and other members of the House of Representatives, Josh Amupitan urged the court to discountenance the argument of the plaintiff that it has locus standi because it was a registered organisation.
“They claim that they are a registered Non-Governmental Organisation, NGO, and that since this is an issue of public interest litigation, they have the locus.
“We have referred the court to our address where we said that public interest litigations in Nigeria are limited to statutory cases.
“The Supreme Court only allows the expansion of locus standi because of the provisions of criminal procedure act which recognises the rights of a private prosecutor.
“Public interest litigation is limited to cases of fundamental rights especially where the exercise of such rights has been vested on public officers or public institutions like INEC, the Senate president or the speaker,” he argued.
Amupitan added that the plaintiff had failed to provide any document before the court to back its claim that there was a defection. and urged the court to dismiss the suit on the grounds that the plaintiff was a stranger and an interloper in the matter.
Arguing on behalf of the plaintiff, Jubrin Okutepa maintained that his client had the requisite locus standi to appear in court.
On the argument that his client has not been able to prove the defection, let alone division, Okutepa said facts admitted, need no further proof.
“Since they themselves have admitted that they defected, the allegation that we have not proved defection is a moot point and not a life issue. The defendants themselves put up a defence of division,” he submitted
Okutepa urged the court to grant the reliefs of the plaintiff and resist the temptation to accept the submission of the defendants which he said appeared attractive but was a dangerous omen for the Nigerian society.
Justice Abang in a short ruling noted that the court had on April 11 suspended delivering judgment in the suit, even though it is ready because of an application from the defendants to be heard.