Reps speakership tussle: Suit against Gbajabiamila suffers setback

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Legal move to disqualify Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila from emerging as the Speaker of the House of Representatives failed before the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court on Monday.
In a chamber ruling, Justice Abdul Kafarati, instead of restraining the House of Reps from accepting the nomination of Hon. Gbajabiamila as ‎an aspirant for the office of the Speaker, directed the plaintiff to go and put the defendant on notice. 
Justice Kafarati ordered the service of all the relevant court processes on Gbajabiamila to enable him to appear in court on June 18 to show cause why he should not be disqualified from holding the Speakership position following his alleged conviction by the Supreme Court of Georgia in 2007. ‎The plaintiff in the matter, the Registered Trustees of Social Justice and Civil Rights Awareness Initiative, had in the suit they lodged through their lawyer, Mr. Chukwuma Nwachukwu,‎ contended that Hon. Gbajabiamila is not morally fit to head the third arm of governance in Nigeria. 
The group adduced evidence indicating that Gbajabiamila was on February 26, 2007, “convicted in the state of Georgia for unethical practices and was debarred as a lawyer for 36 months”. The group, in an ex-parte motion it filed pursuant to Order 26 Rule 8 of the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules, 2009, ‎Monday, prayed the high court to stop Gbajabiamila from even presenting himself for the speakership position. 
The motion was argued on behalf of the group by Human Rights lawyer, Chief ‎Mike Ozehkome, SAN. Aside Gbajabiamila, the House of Representatives and the Attorney General of the Federation were equally cited as defendants in the matter. Femi-Gbajabiamila Specifically, the plaintiff prayed the court for, “An order of interim injunction restraining the 2nd defendant from accepting the nomination of the 1st defendant as an aspirant for the ‎office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives pending the determination of the motion on notice”. 
In a 14-paragraphed supporting affidavit ‎that was deposed to by one Alojie Nmerengira, the plaintiff told the court that its investigations revealed that Gbajabiamila was hitherto convicted by the apex court of Georgia, even as it attached a copy of the order of the court as ‘Exhibit A’. Nmerengira averred: “That I am the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the plaintiff organization by virtue of which I am very conversant with the facts deposed herein. “That the 1st defendant is a member of the House of Representatives who nurses the ambition of becoming the Speaker of the House in the next Assembly. That the 2nd defendant is the constitution body created to carry ‎out legislative functions for the good governance and advancement of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. “That the 3rd defendant is the Chief Law Officer of the Federation that ensures the sue enforcement of our Laws so that the nation does not fall into the pit of lawlessness. “That as a sensible and responsible organisation, my board deemed it proper that to achieve the objective of the organisation, that we ‎should intervene in public interest litigation in deserving situations.
“That few days ago it came to the public domain that the 1st defendant was a leading candidate to the position of the office of Speaker of the House of Representatives.
“That my organisation, following the ‎wind of change that has pervaded the political environment in Nigeria, deemed it proper to carry out a background check on the leading candidates for the position of Speaker of the House of Representatives. “That I discovered that the 1st defendant ‎was a lawyer and practised in the United States of America, particularly in the state of Georgia. “That upon further enquiry, I discovered that the 1st defendant was convicted in the state of Georgia for unethical practices and was debarred for ‎36 months. A copy of the order of the Supreme Court of Georgia to that effect is hereby attached and marked ‘Exhibit A’. 
“That I also discovered that the 1st defendant has a United States international passport even though he has Nigerian descent which I discovered contravened our constitution as regards membership of the House of Representatives. “That the mood of the nation today will ‎not warrant placing the position of the Speaker of the House of Representatives in the hands of any individual that has a tainted or questionable character.
“That it is in the interest of justice to grant the plaintiff’s prayers ‎as no single person’s ambition is worth the diminishing of our collective patrimony in good governance and social justice.
“That I depose to this affidavit in good faith believing same to be true and correct in accordance with the Oaths Act, 1990″. 
Meantime, in its substantive suit marked FHC/Abj/CS/501/2015, the plaintiff urged the court to go ahead and determine “Whether upon the construction of section 66 of the 1999 constitution as amended, the 1st defendant is fit and proper person to be elected to the House of Representatives and/or to the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives”.
In their written address, the plaintiff said it has raised a triable ‎issue “and as a responsible organisation has brought out an issue of national interest and importance for the due determination of the court”.
Besides, it prayed the court for the following reliefs, “A de‎claration that the 1st defendant is not fit and proper person to be elected as a member of the House of Representatives and/or as the Speaker of the House of Representatives. “An order of injunction restraining the 2nd defendant from accepting the nomination of the 1st defendant as an aspirant for the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives. “An order of injunction restraining the 1st defendant from parading himself as a member of the House of Representatives and also as an aspirant for the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives. As well as, “An order of injunction restraining the 2nd and 3rd defendants from recognising the 1st defendant as a member and also as an aspirant for the office if the Speaker of the House if Representatives”. (Vanguard)

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