The Federal High Court in Abuja, on Monday, sacked the Speaker of the Cross River State House of Assembly Eteng Williams, and 17 of his colleagues over their defection from the Peoples Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Two members of the House of Representatives from the state, Michael Etaba and Legor Idagbor, were also sacked by the court.
The judge, Taiwo Taiwo, while delivering judgement on a suit instituted by the PDP to challenge the lawmakers’ defection, dismissed all the preliminary objections raised by the sacked lawmakers.
“A day must surely come when elected officials, must ask the people who voted for them before defecting to other political parties,” Mr Taiwo said.
He noted that “the lawmakers wined and dined under the umbrella of the PDP,” but ditched the party even when there was no justification for their action.
“The defendants court documents were contrived and filed with loopholes. The papers are manifestly defective,” the judge said while granting all the reliefs sought by the PDP.
The defendants in the suit were the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the APC and clerk of the State House of Assembly.
The judgement comes about two weeks after Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja sacked Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State, his deputy, Kelechi Igwe, along with 15 lawmakers in the state House of Assembly.
The lawmakers defected alongside the Cross River State governor, Ben Ayade, on 20 May, 2021, triggering a lawsuit by the PDP on August 27, 2021.
The affected lawmakers include — Michael Etaba, Legor Idagbor, Eteng Williams, Joseph Bassey, Odey Agbe and Okon Ephraim.
Others are: Regina Anyogo, Matthew Olory, Ekpo Bassey, Ogbor Udop, Ekpe Okon, Hillary Bisong, Francis Asuquo, Elvert Ayambem, Davis Etta, Sunday Achunekan, Cynthia Nkasi, Edward Ajang, Chris Ogar and Maria Akwaji.
While Mr Etaba represents Obubra/Etung federal constituency of Cross River State, Mr Idagbor represents Obudu/Obaliku/Bekwarra federal constituency of state.
In arguing its case, PDP’s lawyer, Emmanuel Ukala, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), sought the court’s interpretation of the provisions of Section 109(1)(g) of the constitution, which prohibits a lawmaker from defecting to another political party without justifiable reasons.
Mr Ukala also drew the court’s attention to the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Ifedayo Abegunde versus Ondo State House of Assembly (2015).
He contended that the lawmakers being persons whose election to the parliament was sponsored by the PDP and having become members of another political party, their seats should be declared vacant.
In the court papers filed before the judge, the PDP prayed for “an order of injunction restraining the lawmakers from acting as members of parliament both in Abuja and Calabar, the Cross River State capital.
The plaintiff also sought “an order of injunction restraining INEC, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, clerk of the National Assembly, the House of Assembly for Cross River State and the clerk of the State Assembly from according recognition to the dismissed lawmakers.”