Defections: Declare Saraki, Akpabio, Ors Seats Vacant —Tietie
The founder and Executive Director at Citizens Advocacy for Socio Economic Rights [CASER], Barrister Frank Tietie has raised an urgent need to declare the seats of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, former Peoples Democratic Party [PDP] Minority Leader in the Senate, Mr. Godswill Akpabio and other defectors vacant.
Mr. Tietie voiced this opinion on Galaxy Television on the 13th August, 2018, where he was a guest.
He maintained that the fact whether or not there exists a faction in a party can only be determined by the Independent National Electoral Commission [INEC] and not by personal whims and caprices.
To buttress his point, he cited Section 68 (1) (g) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As Altered).
The cited Section provides that the seat of a Senator or a Member of the House of Representative shall be declared vacant if he becomes a member of any other political party before the expiration of the period for which he is elected.
The exceptions to the above section are only where there exists one or more of the following situations:
- The existence of a Division in the political party of which the Senator or Representative was previously a member;
- The existence of a Merger of two or more political parties or factions by one of the parties of which the Senator or Representative is previously a member.
Explaining further, Tietie continued:
“Categorically, where none of the conditions herein above has been fulfilled, all such Senators and Members of the National Assembly who have defected from the party that originally sponsored their elections must have their seats declared vacant and INEC must proceed to immediately proceed to conduct bye elections to replace the affected Senators and Members of the House of Representatives.
“The fact whether or not there exists a faction in a party can only be determined by INEC.
“It is only where INEC is satisfied that there has been a Division or Merger before Senators or Representatives can begin to defect from one party to the other.
“A proclamation by powerful figures in a political party that there has been a division in a political party cannot satisfy the requirement by law.
“The existence of a division in a political party must be legally and official recognized by INEC before Senators or Representatives can defect from their previous political parties of sponsorship.
“See the general provisions on INEC in the 3rd Schedule and others combined as contained in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Thus, neither the Senate President nor Speaker of the House of Representatives has the powers to determine whether or not there has been a Division or Merger of a political party.
“Also, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria clearly lacks such powers and responsibility.
“Only the entire Senate or the House of Representatives can be convinced that there has been a Division or Merger based on an evidence presented to it by a member.
“At what time did members present such evidence to both Houses of the National Assembly? What is the quality of the evidence that was presented to the Houses of the National Assembly?
“Only INEC has the constitutional and statutory responsibility to superintend over the affairs of political parties in Nigeria. Therefore, only it can give the official status of a political party.
“Thus, in the absence of an official declaration by INEC whether or not that it recognizes that there have been divisions in the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party, all such defections flowing therefrom are illegal, unconstitutional and the seats of the affected defectors must be declared vacant forthwith.
“Subsection 2 of the above provides that either the Senate President or the Speaker of the House of Representatives, as the case may be, is responsible for giving effect to the above provision based only on the evidence, supplied by the defecting member, evidence of which must be satisfactory to the entire Senate or the House of Representatives.
“It must be emphasised that it is neither the Senate President, himself nor the Speaker of the House of Representatives, himself that must be satisfied with an evidence that there is a division in a political party.
“Rather, it is the entire Senate or the House of Representatives that must be satisfied by evidence given by the defecting member that there exists a Division or a Merger in his political party.
“The Senate or the House of Representatives must be satisfied or else that Senator of Representative would automatically lose his seat immediately. See generally Section 68 (2)
“Now, did the Senate or House of Representatives at any time, debate and resolved that there exist divisions in the APC and PDP?
“What evidence did the defecting Senators and Representatives present to both the Senate and the House of Representative for, being the ground for their defections?
“Is there any better evidence in law and fact that can be better than an official recognition by INEC that there exists a Division in a party?
“Where, therefore, the Senate or the House of Representatives does not possess that evidence which only INEC can give as proof that there has been a Division in the APC or PDP, then all those Senators, including Saraki and Akpabio and all of them who have recently defected in the National Assembly, must automatically lose their seats and that should be so declared.
“Just because a powerful figure like Buba Galadima declared that there is a Division in the APC is not a sufficient evidence to warrant the reckless Defections we have witnessed recently.
“It could have just been a political statement that was meant to given the disgruntled party men some more relevance.
“Therefore, based on law, the seats of Saraki, Akpabio and all the recent defectors in the National Assembly must be declared vacant forthwith by the appropriate authority,” concludes Tietie.