Court Fixes July 16 to Hear Suit Seeking to Remove Matawalle

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The Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja has fixed July 16 for the hearing of a suit, which kick-started the legal battle by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to unseat the Governor of Zamfara State, Hon. Bello Matawalle, for defecting to the All Progressives Congress (APC).

The suit, filed in the names of two PDP members from Zamfara State, Sani Ahmed and Abubakar Muhammed, is seeking to oust the governor for dumping the PDP.

The duo, in the suit, marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/489/2021 is contending that in view of an earlier judgment of the Supreme Court that the APC had no candidates in the 2019 governorship election in Zamfara State, having not conducted valid primaries, it would be unlawful for Matawalle to retain his office while defecting from the PDP to the APC, and thereby transfer PDP’s victory to the APC.

The plaintiffs want the court to, among others, declare that Matawalle must resign from his office before his defection to allow the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct a fresh election, within three months, for the PDP to replace him.

The governor, two weeks ago, had defected from the PDP, which brought him to power to the ruling APC, an action which the plaintiffs considered wrong, illegal and unlawful.

When the matter was called yesterday, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), who argued the ex-parte application, told the court that the plaintiffs have been unable to serve processes on the defendants hence the request to do so through substituted means.

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He prayed for an order “granting leave to the plaintiffs/applicants to serve the motion on notice seeking leave to amend hearing notices and all other processes on the first and second defendants by substituted means, to with: pasting same at the Zamfara State liaison office at No: 6/7 Sangha Street, off Mississippi Street, Maitama District, Abuja or leaving it with any adult person in that office.”

Justice Inyang Ekwo in a short ruling, granted the request as prayed and ordered service of the originating processes on Matawalle and his deputy, Alhaji Mahdi Gusau, through the national secretariat of APC in Abuja.

Justice Ekwo thereafter fixed July 16 for the report of court papers on the two defendants.

The plaintiffs, who claimed to be members of the PDP in Zamfara State, want the court to among others declare that Matawalle and Gusau must resign from their offices before their defection to allow INEC to conduct a fresh election, within three months, for the PDP to replace them.

Filed on June 17, 2021 before Matawalle eventually defected to the APC, the suit has as defendants: Matawalle, Gusau, APC, and INEC.

Ahmed in an affidavit he deposed to in support of the suit, is claiming that he suffered along with other members of the PDP in Zamfara State and that Matawalle and Gusau’s defection would deprive them of the efforts they put into ensuring PDP’s victory in the election.

The deponent stated that it would amount to injustice against him and other members of the PDP in Zamfara if Matawalle and Gusau, being beneficiaries of the Supreme Court judgment were allowed to defect to the APC without relinquishing their current offices.

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“As one of the members of PDP, who worked tirelessly and invested so much of our time and money to secure the victory of our party in the 2019 governorship election in Zamfara State, the second plaintiff and I will be highly prejudiced if the offices we worked so hard to win for PDP is transferred to APC, through the defection of the first and second defendants (Matawalle and Gusau), while they are still in the offices into which they were elected as members of and as candidates sponsored by PDP.

“As indigenes of Zamfara State, who joined other indigenes of the state to give our collective mandate for the governorship of Zamfara State to PDP, the second plaintiff and I will be highly prejudiced if the mandate we gave to PDP in respect of that office is transferred unilaterally by the first and second defendants to APC, who did not participate in or sponsor any candidate in the said election,” they said.

The plaintiffs want the court to declare “that the APC, which did not hold primaries for the governorship election in Zamfara State in 2019 and did not participate or sponsor a candidate in the said election cannot lawfully occupy through any of its members the office of the governor or deputy governor of Zamfara State which, by the combined effect of sections 177(c), 187(2) and 221 of the constitution, is meant for persons who are members of a political party that participated in and sponsored candidates in the election into those offices.

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“A declaration that by the combined effect of sections 177(c), 187(2) and 221 of the constitution, the first and second defendants, which were elected into office as governor and deputy governor respectively of Zamfara State as members of, and as candidates sponsored by the PDP, cannot transfer those offices to the APC by defecting to that political party while they are still in office as governor and deputy governor of Zamfara State in view of the judgment of the Supreme Court in Appeal No. SC/377/2019 between the APC and another vs. Senator Kabiru Garba Marafa and 179 others, to the effect, that the APC did not participate in the 2019 governorship election of Zamfara State and therefore its members are not entitled to hold the office of governor or deputy governor of Zamfara State.”

Meanwhile, the PDP in another application is seeking to be joined as an interested party in the suit.

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