Court suspends judgment challenging defection of Saraki, 55 others

The Federal High Court in Abuja has suspended its decision to deliver judgment in a suit challenging the defection of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and 55 other members of the National Assembly.

The Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP) had dragged Saraki and the others to court following their defection from various political parties.

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LEDAP had asked the court to determine whether the respondents have the legal authority to remain in power, after decamping from the party that sponsored their election into office.
Having been satisfied that the processes were served on all parties and that the court had given all parties equal opportunities to a fair hearing, the court slated April 11 for judgment

However, when the case was called on Thursday, counsel to Saraki and the other lawmakers, Mahmud Magaji (SAN) begged the court to tarry in delivering judgment to hear from the defence team in order to deliver a better-informed judgment.

He also challenged the jurisdiction of the court to hear the matter on the grounds that the plaintiffs had no “locus standi” to file the suit.

Reacting to the submissions of the learned silk, the counsel to LEDAP, Ede Uko said the submissions of the defence counsel is primarily aimed at “arresting the judgment.”

He emphasized that the conduct of the defence in the matter was not worthy of sympathetic consideration.
He said this was because they were duly served with all processes of the court but deliberately refused to follow up proceedings.

He urged the court to discountenance and dismiss the application of the defendants and deliver the already prepared judgment.

Delivering a ruling, Justice Okon Abang agreed with the plaintiff counsel over the conduct of the defendants.
He said the actions of the senators is like slapping the court in the face and thus, does not deserve any sympathetic consideration.
Notwithstanding, Justice Abang held that the right to fair hearing is a fundamental right that should be upheld.
“I think the defendants should be heard before judgment is given.

” It will be a breach of the fundamental right of the defendants to a fair hearing, though they came late into the matter, for the court to proceed and deliver judgment.

“I will reluctantly suspend delivery of the judgment to allow the defendants to be heard,” Abang said.

Justice Abang added that “time is of essence and judgment in the suit has to be delivered before the defendants vacate office later this year”.

He ordered Magaji to serve the plaintiff their application before the close of Thursday.

The judge also held that a fresh date will be given for judgment as soon as the defendants were heard.
He adjourned the matter until Friday, April 12.

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