* indicts Justice Okorowo
The Centre for Africa Liberation and Socioeconomic Rights (CALSER) has raised an alarm over an alleged plot by some members of the Rivers State Assembly to thwart the conduct of by-elections in the state.
The Centre, which made this known at a press conference, said the lawmakers plan to approach the courts to challenge the legality of the letter sent to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct by-elections to fill the vacuum created as a result of their defection to another political party.
The Executive Director of the Centre, Princess Ajibola, also alleged that the 27 lawmakers have induced Justice Donatus Okorowo of the Federal High Court Abuja to rule in their favour.
Ajibola, however, called on the lower courts not to allow itself to be used to undermine the stability of the country by rejecting the overtures from the 27 defected lawmakers in the Rivers State House of Assembly.
She added: “The position of the Supreme Court is clear about defection from one political party to another. 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.’
“We must recall that in 2022, a Federal High Court in Abuja sacked 16 Ebonyi House of Assembly members for defection. The court held that the movement breached Section 109(1)(g) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, providing that defector legislators are not allowed to retain their legislative seats.
“The same provisions were also applied in Cross River state, including the Federal House of Representatives. Suppose this is the position of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended in Section 109(1)(g). In that case, the lower courts do not have the jurisdiction to entertain any matter of defection from one political party to another.
“The Centre for Africa Liberation and Socioeconomic Rights wishes to remind the lower courts that any attempt to entertain the planned suit by the 27 defected members of the Rivers State House of Assembly would amount to turning the law on its head.
“Therefore, we are firmly convinced that the 27 defected lawmakers do not have any locus standi to approach the courts to challenge the legality of the letter sent to the Independent National Electoral Commission to conduct by-elections to fill the vacant seats.
“If the lower courts entertain such a matter, it would amount to judicial rascality and with its attendant implications for the growth and development of democracy in Nigeria.
“Nigerians must resist the planned judicial rascality in Rivers State. The plan by the 27 defected lawmakers must be resisted by all and sundry. The lower courts must prove to Nigerians that the judiciary is the dispenser of Justice, protector of the rights of the people, and guardian protector of the Constitution of the State. “