Defection: Court stops hearing in Matawalle’s case

Justice Inyang Ekwo of a Federal High Court, Abuja, on Thursday, stopped the continuation of the hearing in a suit filed against Zamfara State Governor, Bello Matawalle, over his defection from the Peoples Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress.

Justice Ekwo said the move became necessary due to a similar matter pending before the Court of Appeal.

“I take full cognisance that there is an appeal in a similar matter pending in the Appellate Court.

“I will exercise a restraint until that matter is determined,” he said.

The development occurred shortly after the judge dismissed an application brought by 14 chairmen of local government councils in Zamfara, praying the court to join them in a PDP’s suit against Matawalle and others.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Matawalle, state and federal lawmakers from the state defected from the PDP to the APC.

But the PDP, in a suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/650/2021 had prayed the court for an order removing Matawalle as governor over his defection to APC.

The party also asked the court to sack the senators, House of Representatives members and state House of Assembly members who decamped alongside the governor to APC.

NAN also reports that the 14 local government chairmen in the state had, on April 29, prayed the court to be joined as 39th to 52nd defendants and for all the processes to be amended and served on them.

The chairmen, through their lawyer, Emeka Okpoko, had argued that whatever decision was given by the court would affect their interest and the entire council.

The chairmen are Ahmed Anka, Aminu Kofoji, Kabiru Ladan, Bashir Muawiya, Mohammed Sadiq, Abubakar Takwas, Sanusi Sarki, Nasiru Yakamata and Ummaru Maradun.

Others are Salisu Dangulbi, Abdulrahman Shinkafi, Dahiey Garbadu, Aminu Tsafe and Auwal Moriki.

The applicants, in a motion on notice dated and filed on April 6, also said that whatever verdict delivered by the court would affect their federal constituencies, senatorial districts and the mandate given to the governor and all the lawmakers (5th to 38th defendants) in the state.

But Emmanuel Ukala, SAN, counsel to the PDP and Barrister Mahdi Aliyu Mohammed, the impeached deputy governor, opposed the motion for joinder.

Ukala informed that a counter affidavit had been filed to the effect on April 13, urging the court to dismiss the application.

He argued that his clients did not make any claim against the chairmen that would have affected them.

In his ruling on Thursday, Justice Ekwo declared that the applicants were not necessary parties in the suit, hence, their application constituted an abuse of court process.

He held that there was no nexus between the applicants, who are local government chairmen, and the defendants that would have made them relevant in the matter.

“This application is incompetent and I made an order dismissing it,” he ordered.

The judge then asked counsel to the parties if they were ready to proceed with the substantive suit.

Although all the counsel who appeared in court said they were ready to proceed, lawyer to the lawmakers (5th to 38th defendants), Sylvanus Maliki, spoke on the contrary.

Maliki said he was in court to hold brief for Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, who was unavoidably absent, and that what he was told was that the business of the day was for ruling.

Justice Ekwo then said that he was aware of a similar matter pending before the Court of Appeal, saying he would exercise restraint until the apex court case is determined.

He, therefore, said that the matter would be adjourned.

But James Onoja, SAN, who appeared for the plaintiffs (PDP and Barrister Mahdi Aliyu Mohammed), informed that part of their grievances was that there was an attempt to impeach Mohammed and that while the matter is pending, the state assembly went ahead to impeach him.

“And we filed a motion, praying that the impeachment should be reversed because as it is now, our client stands impeached in the eye of the law,” he said.

Onoja expressed worry over the plan by the judge to adjourn the matter.
But Justice Ekwo assured that though the matter would be adjourned, the court’s final decision must be binding on the parties.

Ekwo consequently adjourned the matter until Oct. 27 for hearing.

NAN

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