Opposition political parties in the House of Representatives on Tuesday walked out of plenary in protest of defection of Hon. Nnanna Igbokwe from the Peoples Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress.
The protest was by members of PDP, All Progressives Grand Alliance and Labour Party, who accused the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, of partisanship in the handling of Igbokwe’s defection.
In his defection letter read by Dogara, Igbokwe said his decision to leave the PDP was due to “the crisis that plagued the party 11 months ago”.
Igbokwe said he stopped paying his dues and attending PDP meetings since January, 2017.
The opposition lawmakers raised a point of order, asserting that based on a Supreme Court ruling, any member of the House who dumped his party without valid reason must vacate his or her seat.
However, relying on Section 68, sub-section 2 of the 1999 Constitution, Dogara ruled them out of order.
He said: “Even if there is no division, the House must come to a conclusion first and decide by resolution which is in favour of the majority.”
In a swift reaction, the Deputy Minority Whip, Hon. Binta Bello, told newsmen that the speaker’s ruling on Igbokwe’s defection contravened the Constitution and judgement of the Supreme Court.
According to Bello, the apex court held that any defection can be considered legal when the party under which an elected lawmaker contested is engulfed in a crisis and has two or more factions.
She condemned the speaker’s action, describing it as a breach of the provisions of the 1999 Constitution and Standing Order of the House.
She said that the opposition members would approach the Supreme Court for an interpretation of its ruling.
Bello insisted that there was no division in the PDP and demanded that Igbokwe vacated his seat in line with the Supreme Court ruling on PDP crisis.
Similarly, Hon. Nicholas Ossai said that Section 68 (2) which the speaker read provided that documents submitted by the defecting lawmaker ought to be verified by the House after which a resolution would be reached.
According to Ossai, the issue at stake requires that those documents must be perused by all the 360 members and thereafter an investigative panel be set up to look into the issue and report back to the House.
Igbokwe’s defection letter dated December 19, 2017, and addressed to the speaker, indicated that he registered and joined the APC in January, 2017.
The letter stated: “My decision to join the APC as at the time I did was as a result of the leadership crisis and division that rocked the PDP.
“You would recall that the judgment of the Supreme Court of Nigeria that finally resolved the leadership crisis was delivered in July, 2017, six months after I joined the APC.
“I have since January, 2017 been attending all APC caucus meetings and functions in my ward, local government, state and national levels, and l have been paying my dues and levies.
“Copies of the payment slips are attached herewith.
“Furthermore, the pending leadership litigations and division in Imo chapter of PDP and the current legal crisis within the national leadership evidenced by the suit instituted by Prof. Taoheed Adedoja further strengthens my resolve to quit the PDP.
“This letter becomes necessary to clear doubts in the minds of my colleagues, constituents and the public as to the political party I belong to.’’
Imo state Governor, Rochas Okorocha, witnessed the proceedings.