Court sacks Ebonyi senator for defecting

Sonni Ogbuoji

@ StateReporter News
A Federal High Court sitting in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, has declared the Ebonyi South Senatorial District seat being occupied by Sonni Ogbuoji vacant and ordered him to vacate the seat immediately.
The Court in a judgement delivered by Justice Akintola Aluko held that Ogbuoji by defecting from the PDP, under whose platform he was elected to another party, flouted section 68(1)g of the 1999 constitution.
The Court also ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to withdraw the certificate of return issued to the Senator immediately and to conduct a fresh election immediately to fill the seat.
Furthermore, the court also ordered the lawmaker to refund all monies be it salaries, allowances or any order form of payment he may have received as benefits from the position of Senator from the date of his defection to the coffers of government.
The said section 68(1)g says that “a member of Senate or House of Representatives shall vacate his seat in the House if being a person whose election to the house was sponsored by another political party, he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which that house was elected. Provided that his membership of the latter political party is not as a result of a division in the political party which he was previously a member or of a merger of two or more political parties or factions by one of which he was previously sponsored”
In other words, any lawmaker who defects to another political party when the party under whose platform he was elected was not undergoing any form of crisis or was not part of a merger with two or more political parties shall vacate his seat.
Justice Aluko in the 71 page judgement held that Ogbuoji who defected from the People’s Democratic Party, PDP to the All Progressive Congress, APC, in 2018 flouted the above section of the constitution.
The judgement was in respect of suit number FHC/AI/CS/44/2018 filed by Evo Ogbonnaya Anegu, Oti Ama Ude, Uche Richard Ajali, Una Sunday Okoro and Simon Ajali Ogbadu for themselves and on behalf of the teaming members of the PDP in Ebonyi South Senatorial District.
They had sued Mr Ogbuoji and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC(2nd Defendant) asking the court to declare Mr Ogbuoji’s seat vacant for defecting to the APC when there was no crisis or division in the PDP.
They also prayed the court to order the 1stdefendant (Ogbuoji) to refund all monies that may have been paid to him since January 2018 when he defected from the PDP to the APC.
The plaintiffs in their arguments through their counsel, Barr Roy Umahi, expressed worry that Ogbuoji’s conduct if not condemned and upturned would encourage political prostitution and legislative rascality and destroy the reasons for the laws made to regulate defections of National Assembly members by the constitution.
But Ogbuoji in his defence claimed that he resigned his membership of the PDP and defected to the APC on January 27, 2017 and not January 2018 as claimed by the Applicants.
He noted that the crisis in the party was finally resolved in July 2017 by the Supreme Court but that before then he had resigned his membership of the party via a letter of resignation he submitted to the PDP Secretary of his Ebunwana Ward, one Ukpo Regina Agwu in January 27, 2017.

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