The Cross River State Government has approached the Court of Appeal to seek an order for the stay of execution against the judgment of a Federal High Court in Abuja, which sacked the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Eteng Williams, and 17 of his colleagues over their defection from the Peoples Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress.
In a suit numbered FHC/ABJ/CS/976/2021 and filed on behalf of the applicants by their counsel, Mike Ozekhome, they appealed to the court for stay of execution of the judgment delivered by Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the FHC pending the final hearing and determination by the appellate court.
The PDP had instituted a suit against 20 of the lawmakers over their defection to the APC.
The affected lawmakers include Michael Etaba, Legor Idagbor, Eteng William, Joseph Bassey, Odey Agbe, Okon Ephraim, Regina Anyogo, Matthew Olory, Ekpo Bassey, Ogbor Udop, and Ekpe Okon.
Others are Hillary Bisong, Francis Asuquo, Elvert Ayambem, Davis Etta, Sunday Achunekan, Cynthia Nkasi, Edward Ajang, Chris Nja-Mbu Ogar, and Maria Akwaji.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Representatives, the National Assembly, Clerk of the National Assembly, Cross River State House of Assembly, Clerk of the state House of Assembly, and the APC were joined as defendants in the suit.
In opposition to the suit, Ozekhome, who is the counsel for the 4th to the 25th defendants, had challenged the court’s jurisdiction to hear the suit.
He submitted that the cause of action arose in Calabar and that the matter should be transferred to the High Court in Calabar.
However, Justice Taiwo, in his judgment on Monday, held that “there is nothing against the law that the suit be heard by this court.”
He said the 4th to 25th defendants were joined with other defendants, who had their offices in Abuja.
Justice Taiwo stated, “Where there are more than one defendant, the suit can be established anywhere subject to the discretion of the court.
“I find no merit in the application for transfer.”
The lawmakers had argued that there was rancour in the PDP which led to their expulsion from the party.
The APC had in its submission told the court that the lawmakers were not registered members of the party.
However, the judge held that the defendants had intention to mislead the court as he found gaps and loopholes in their defence as they tried to twist events to suit their own narratives.
“They wined and dined under the umbrella of the plaintiff, who also gave them shelter,” he said.
Justice Taiwo noted that the defendants not only defect loudly, “they took pictures of their defection and were received by the officials of the 26th defendant.”
“There is no doubt that the defendants can belong to or join any political association and assembly as they are free to do so. However, the truth must be told. Their freedom stops and the same is where constitutional provisions start if they move after being elected from one party to another.
“I consider the attempts of the 6th – 25th defendants to justify their defection feeble in the circumstances of this case.”
The judge noted that the public voted for the lawmakers through the plaintiff, who sponsored them, and they were not voted for as independent candidates.