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Legal consequences of planned defection of Zamfara State governor from PDP to APC

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Can a candidate who was nominated and sponsored by a political party, legally defect to another party, without vacating the seat which he occupies on behalf of the sponsor party? NKEM OKORO argues that Zamfara State Governor Dr Bello Matawalle could face be dire legal consequences if he attempts to do so.

A story captioned “APC Extends Registration As Matawalle Set To Join Party” was reported by Daily Trust Newspaper on Friday, the 2nd of April, 2021 refers.

This article is intended to review the legal consequences of such alleged intended defection from the Peoples Democratic Party to the All Progressive Congress, by the governor of Zamfara State, given the circumstances under which Dr. Bello Mohammed Matawalle emerged as governor.

Dr. Bello Mohammed  Matawalle emerged as the governor of Zamfara State, by virtue of the judgment and order of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, hence any step taken, by him, contrary to the judgment and order of the Supreme Court, will not only be  illegal but also immoral. By the subsisting order of the Supreme Court, All Progressive Congress, did not contest election in May 2019 in Zamfara, and the candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party, were all declared winners of the various elective post in the State. By the judgment of the Supreme Court, the occupant of the seat of the governor of Zamfara State, must be a Peoples Democratic Party, faithful and not All Progressive Congress.

Though the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is silent, on the issue of defection of a sitting governor, from the party under which he won his election to another party, one believes, that this reoccurring issue of defection by governors can be put to rest by the courts in Nigeria, whenever the opportunity is presented to the courts to determine the issue. A  court of law can declare the office of the governor and deputy governor of any state vacant, where the occupants of such seats defect from the party, which nominated and sponsored them to contest the gubernatorial election in Nigeria  and under whose platform, they won elections as candidates of the said party.

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Section 221 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, provides as follows:

No association other than a political party, shall canvass for votes for any candidate at any election or contribute to the funds of any political party or the election expenses of any candidate at an election.

The Supreme Court while interpreting the provisions of section 221 of the Constitution had variously held that independent candidature in election is not applicable in Nigeria, that, in reality and in keeping with section 221 of the Constitution, it is the party which sponsors a candidate in an election that wins the election since a candidate cannot contest an election without being sponsored by a party. Thus, votes are garnered on behalf of the political party in an election. See the case Faleke V INEC (2016) 18 NWLR (Pt. 1543) 61 (P. 173, paras. D-F).

It is not in dispute that Dr. Bello Mohammed Matawalle was nominated and sponsored to contest for the post of the governor of Zamfara State, in May 2019, by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). This clearly means that the governor of Zamfara State, cannot abandon the party that nominated him, and sponsored his election as the governor of Zamfara State, without legal consequences. The legal consequences can only be determined by a court of law, in a case properly brought before it, in accordance with the provisions section 6(6b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended, which provides for the judicial powers of the court in all matters between persons, or between government or authority and to any person in Nigeria, and to all actions and proceedings relating thereto, for the determination of any question as to civil rights and obligations of that person.

The Peoples Democratic Party, has a right over who occupies the governorship seat in Zamfara State in view of the planned defection of the governor of Zamfara State from the PDP, to the APC, and is therefore entitled to remedies properly sought before a court of law in the unlikely event that the governor defects. The latin maxim of ubi jus ibiremedium, is applicable to the facts and circumstances of this case. It is to be noted that  “jus” signifies the legal authority to do or demand something and “remedium” means the right of action or the means given by law for recovery or the declaration or assertion of that right. In other words, the maxim presupposes that where the law gives a right, it also gives remedy, that remedy must be founded on a legal right. See the case of Bello v. A.-G., Oyo State (1986) 1 NWLR 828; Thomas v. Olufosoye (1986) 1 NWLR (Part 18) 669.

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However, in pursuing this remedy, one will also consider the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in line with the judicial powers of the Court. It is to be noted that the Constitution did not provide for the removal of a governor from office by virtue of defection to another party, unlike section 68(1g) of the Constitution which provides for the vacation of the seat by a member of the National Assembly who defects to another party before the expiration of his term.

The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provides in section 188 for the removal of the governor from office, but not on the ground of defection to another party. Whereas section 189, also provides for the cessation of the term of office of the governor or deputy governor under certain circumstances which did not also include defection to another party.

However, the big question is, whether the constitution is conclusive on the mode of removal of a governor or deputy governor from office, or the cessation of office of a governor. The answer to this question, will lie in the judicial interpretation of the provisions of sections 188 and 189 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.  The writer is of the view that sections 188 and 189 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, are not conclusive on the issue of the grounds upon which a governor can be removed from office, especially by a court of law.

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The constitution of any country is usually called the organic law or ground norm of the people. It is the formulation of all the laws from which the institutions of state derive their creation and legitimacy. It is the unifying force in the nation and it apportions rights and imposes obligations on the people who are subject to its operations. The constitution of a nation is, therefore, a very important composite document, and its interpretation is subject to recognized cannons of interpretation known to law and designed to enhance and sustain the reverence in which constitutions are held the world over. See [Shosimbo v. State (1974) 10 SC. 91. A.-G., Abia State v. A.-G., Fed. (No. 2) (2002) 6 NWLR (Pt. 763) 264; Federal Republic of Nigeria v. Ifegwu (2003) 15 NWLR (Pt. 842) 113; Nafiu Rabin v. Kano State (1980) 8-11 SC 130; Balewa v. Doherty (1963) 2 SCNLR 155.

The Constitution could not have intended that a candidate who was nominated by a political party, sponsored by the political party, could defect, under any circumstance to another political party, without vacating the said seat, which he occupies on behalf of the party that sponsored his election.

Dr. Bello Mohammed  Matawalle, the governor of Zamfara State, should, therefore, have a rethink, while allegedly making plans for defection to All Progressive Congress,(APC), from the Peoples Democratic Party,(PDP), that there could be dire legal consequences, in view of the subsisting judgment and order of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. (The Nation)

Okoro, Constitutional Lawyer and Human Rights Activist writes from Garki, Abuja.

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PDP To Commence Zonal Stakeholders’ Consultations

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…As NWC Receives Prof. Jerry Gana*

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is set to commence consultations with critical stakeholders across the six geo-political zones in furtherance of its democratic efforts to rescue our nation from misrule.

The party is also working on templates that will enable it to, within the ambits of laws, further harness suggestions from Nigerians on democratic means to tackle the festering insecurity, guarantee the safety of life and property as well as restore our national stability and cohesiveness.

PDP National Chiarman, Prince Uche Secondus, PDP BoT Chiarman, Ambassador Walid Jibrin and PDP BoT member, Professor, Jerry Ghana

PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, stated this at the PDP national secretariat on Wednesday, while receiving former Minister of Information and National Orientation and founding National Secretary of the PDP, Prof. Jerry Gana, who recently returned to the party.

Prince Secondus stressed that main objective of the PDP is to rescue the nation from misrule adding that it was imperative to tap from the wealth of experience of leaders like Prof. Gana.

“The main objective of the PDP is to rescue our nation from collapse. Our country is threatened and this is not a joke. We are confronted with a guerrilla warfare and the very foundation of our country is being threatened. That is why the PDP is leading the charge in seeking solution to the ugly situation our nation has been plunged into by the All Progressives Congress (APC)”, the National Chairman said.

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Stating that the party is glad that Prof. Gana was back to its fold, the National Chairman urged him to deploy his wealth of experience and intellect in the collective quest of well-meaning Nigerians to forge a direction for the nation.

Earlier during the visit, Prof. Gana emphasized that Nigeria “is in a dire strait” adding that all hands must be on the deck to rescue the nation.

According to him, “Nigeria is on the brinks. The economy is stagnated. There is insecurity everywhere. Nigerians are beginning to doubt our nationhood. The political answer to the situation today is for PDP to take back power. Nigerians do not deserve what we are going through today. We must take decisive steps that will help rescue our nation”.

Prof. Gana commended the Prince Secondus-led leadership of the party for its efforts in stabilizing the party adding that he was happy to be back to the fold.

Signed:

Kola Ologbondiyan
National Publicity Secretary

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Account for N10trn security allocation, PDP tells Buhari

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The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has called on President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC) to account for the N10.

02 trillion claimed to have been spent on security under their watch.

The party made the call in a statement issued by Kola Ologbondiyan, National Publicity Secretary on Tuesday.

It explained that its position is predicated on heightening allegations of diversion of funds meant for security as well as an alert by a pro-transparency organization, BudgIT on the absence of proper audit on the spending of national security funds from 2015 to 2021.

The party asserted that such situation points to why terrorism, banditry, kidnapping and other forms of violent acts had continued to worsen, with widespread complaints of lack of adequate combat equipment for the nation’s security forces, for which gallant soldiers, as well as thousands of compatriots, are paying with their blood under President Buhari and the APC.

The party recalled that the APC administration is yet to come clean on claims by the National Security Adviser (NSA), Gen Babagana Monguno, that billions of naira meant for security could not be traced.

The party said it is appalled that the APC and its administration have turned the heightened insecurity in the country which it said, was caused by their incompetence, divisiveness and gross mismanagement of the national diversity, into bloody merchandise for APC leaders.

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The PDP challenged President Buhari, as the commander-in-chief, to speak out on the alleged diversion of security funds under his command.

The party also called on the two chambers of the National Assembly to immediately commence an investigation into the spending of the N10.02 trillion.

The PDP said it is further alarmed by the clear scheme by the APC and its administration to frustrate the well-intentioned strategies from the PDP to check the tide of terrorism and banditry in our country.

The statement added, “Our party rejects the move by the APC to frustrate the establishment of a National Borders Protection Force as suggested by the PDP to check further infiltration by terrorist elements as well as inflow of illegal arms into our country.”

The PDP insisted that the setting up of a bureaucratic National Center for Control of Small Arms by the APC administration instead of a pro-active and operational Borders Protection Force that will ensure watertight security at our borders further exposes the lack of commitment by the APC to secure our borders and check the inflow of terrorists and ammunition.

The main opposition party asserted that by its outlook and operation, such a center cannot check the infiltration of terrorists as well as the flow of firearms into our country.

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The PDP, therefore, rejected the resort to “a sitting room measure in the face of our porous borders and heightened terrorist activities in our country.”

The PDP consequently urged President Buhari to immediately establish the Borders Protection Force which will draw personnel and equipment from the military and other armed services to man the nation’s borders and check activities by terrorists and their backers.

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INEC Commences Nationwide Verification For Polling Units Expansion

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday commenced a nationwide verification exercise for centres proposed for voting units to be converted to polling units across the country.

INEC chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, who disclosed this when he visited some of the proposed centres and existing polling units in FCT and Nasarawa State, said that the purpose of the verification exercise was to ensure that the right thing was done in the conversion of the voting points to polling units.

Yakubu spoke with newsmen at the exercise at the INEC’s office in Karu local government area of Nasarawa State.

“All the national commissioners are out, visiting the states of the federation to verify the work of converting the voting points to polling units.

So, we decided from the headquarters to visit some of the polling units and voting points in the FCT and also in the Karu local government area, Nasarawa State.”

“We have done that of FCT, we are now in Karu.

“You will recall that as part of our engagement with stakeholders, we show images of one of the congested polling units in the country from Karu in Nasarawa State.

“So, I have to verify that the right thing is being done in converting those voting points to polling units and relocating them in line with the Commission’s guidelines.

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“So far, it is a work in progress. At the end of the exercise will address the media,” he said.

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