Few hours to the inauguration of the new 8th National Assembly in Abuja, a Federal High Court in Nigeria’s capital city,has rejected a prayer for the disqualification of a member-elect and the immediate past Minority Leader in the 7th House of Representatives, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, from contesting the position of the Speaker.
The All Progressives Congress, which constitutes the majority in the incoming National Assembly, had, held a mock election on Saturday where the party nominated Gbajabiamila as its sole candidate for the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The nomination is expected to set the mode for the inauguration of the new 8th National Assembly and trend which the election of the principal officers of both the Senate and the House of Representatives will take.
A group, Social Justice and Civil Rights Awareness Initiative, had, on June 4, 2015, filed an ex parte application asking the court to restrain the House of Representatives from accepting Gbajabiamila’s nomination as an aspirant for the speakership position.
The plaintiff had filed the ex parte application along with the main suit (FHC/ABJ/CS/501/2015) in which Gbajabiamila, the House of Representatives and the Attorney-General of the Federation were joined as the 1st to the 3rd defendants.
It also filed a motion on notice seeking an interim injunction against respondents, a prayer similar to what is contained in its ex parte application.
The plaintiff’s anchored his prayer on alleged “conviction” of Gbajabiamila in the state of Georgia, United States of America, for unethical practices in the course of his practice as a lawyer.
Gbajabiamila was said to have been suspended from practising as a lawyer for 36 months in Georgia State of the USA.
The plaintiff also accused Gbajabiamila of possessing United State of America’s passport even as a Nigerian descent. The plaintiff alleged this contravened “our Constitution as regards membership of the House of Representatives.”
The plaintiff in its prayer in the ex parte application sought “an interim injunction restraining the 2nd defendant (the House of Representatives from accepting the nomination of the 1st defendant (Gbajabiamila) as an aspirant for the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives pending the determination of the motion on notice.”
But Justice Abdukadir Abdu-Kafarati, on Monday, rejected the plaintiff’s ex parte application seeking to disqualify Gbajabiamila to contest for the office of the Speaker.
The judge, who heard the plaintiff’s lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), inside his chamber, however, ordered the respondents to appear in court on June 18 to show cause why the prayer sought by the plaintiff in the ex parte application should not be granted.
It was learnt that the judge ordered that the processes filed in the suit be served on all the respondents in the suit.
Chairman, Board of Trustees of the Social Justice and Civil Rights Awareness Initiatives, Alozie Nmeregwa, stated in the affidavit filed in support of the ex parte application, that Gbajabiamila’s character had been tainted and thus not qualify to hold the office of the Speaker.
The affidavit read in part, “That few days ago, it came to public knowledge that the 1st defendant was a leading candidate to the position of the 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 disbarred for 36 months.
That I also discovered that the 1st defendant has United States international passport even though he has Nigerian decent which 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 tainted or questionable character.”
In the motion on notice, the plaintiff urged the court to determine “whether, upon the construction of Section 66 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the 1st defendant is a fit and proper person to be elected to the House of Representatives and/or the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives.”
It consequently argued that the 1st defendant is not a 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.