House of Representatives members under the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) on Wednesday kicked against the defection of Ephraim Nwuzi (Etched/Omuma Federal Constituency of Rivers) and David Abel (Gashaka/Kurmi/Sardauna Federal Constituency of Taraba) both formerly of the PDP.
The two lawmakers had announced their defection in separate letters to Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila read during plenary.
While Nwuzi was present at plenary and officially received into the APC by House Leader, Ado Doguwa, Abel was absent.
The Speaker ruled since he was not present, his defection should be taken on the next legislative day.
However, opposition leaders and PDP members objected to the continued stay of the members in the House and asked the Speaker to declare their seats vacant.
Minority Leader, Ndudi Elumelu, raised a constitutional order saying such defection can only be allowed if there was crisis in the party.
He said: “The member whose letter has just be read is from Rivers State and I am aware that there is no crisis in the PDP in Rivers State. As a result of that, we are demanding that the seat be declared vacant”.
Deputy Minority Leader, Tobi Okechukwu said: “This country is based on law and due process. It is clear that our colleagues who wrote to defect are simply quoting the charisma of the Speaker.
Leader of the PDP caucus in the House, Kingsley Chinda, said the law was very explicit on defection of members, adding that the Speaker swore to uphold the constitution and the law.
He said in one of its decisions, the Supreme Court held that a lawmaker who defected to another political party other than the one on whose platform he was elected shall have his seat declared vacant and that the Speaker has the responsibility of upholding the rule.
Gbajabiamila responded: “When I was Minority Leader, I said exactly the things you are saying now when we lose members to your party and you shouted me down.
“You must look at the combined reading of section 60 of the constitution and our House rules. It is in the rules of the House that people can cross and you sanctioned it. You have said I should do the right thing which I will do.”
Referring to provisions of section 68 of the Constitution when a member’s seat can be declared vacant, he said: “You are aware of a particular member of your party that has not been present on the floor of this House since we started seating. Should I declare his seat vacant?”
Elumelu fired back: “Mr. Speaker, you have just made an allegation. Maybe we should ask the Clerk of the House to bring the attendance register for verification”.
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