A Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday fixed January 29 for hearing on the preliminary objection filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), challenging the jurisdiction of the court over a suit instituted by 79 members of the House of Representatives, who defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC), seeking to stop the House leadership from declaring their seats vacant.
Specifically, the 79 defecting members had approached the court for an order restraining PDP from declaring their seats vacant in the event of their defection to APC.
At the resumed hearing of the matter, Joe-Kyari Gadzama, counsel to the first defendant (Bamanga Tukur) and fourth defendant (PDP) told the court that based on prevailing circumstances, “we have filed a notice of preliminary objection to the originating summon and it is contained in our written address in support of our counter affidavit in line with Order 16 of the Federal High Court rules.
Gadzama said the written address was earlier filed on November 12, 2013.
After making his submissions to support his application, he urged the court to grant his request of arguing orally, the preliminary objection to the jurisdiction of the court on the originating summon.
On his part, lead counsel to the plaintiffs, Mahmd Magaji, urged the court to discountenance the submission of the PDP’s counsel and held that the second defendant (Senate President) and third defendant (Speaker, House of Representatives) should take steps to regularise their processes before the court.
Magaji insisted that the objection was not ripe for hearing and urged the court to reject Gadzama’s application.
Ruling on the argument whether the preliminary objection challenging the jurisdiction of the court should be taken when parties have not all been served, the court, presided over by Justice Ahmed Mohammed, said, “Considering the circumstances of this matter, I am of the view that the originating summon is not ripe for hearing; the preliminary objection draws strength from the originating summon and since it is not ripe for hearing, the court will not be competent to hear the preliminary objection.”
The court further held: “In this wise, the consideration of taking the preliminary objection and the originating summon together does not arise; therefore, the court is unable to accede to the application of the first and fourth defendants for court to hear their preliminary objection.
Justice Mohammed stated that “the Senate President and the Speaker of House of Representatives have not responded to the originating summon of the plaintiffs, therefore this court holds that the first and fourth defendants’ application should wait until the originating summon is ripe for hearing.
Against this backdrop, the matter was adjourned to January 29, for hearing of the second and third defendants’ objection, a period, the originating summon would have been ready and ripe for hearing.
In its preliminary objection, PDP is urging the court to dismiss the entire suit in limine based on the grounds that the plaintiffs lacked the requisite legal standing to institute the and sustain the suit.
The party added that the “the suit is an abuse of court process, wrongly commenced by originating summons instead of writ of summons. There is no reasonable cause of action that lies against the 1st and fourth defendants”, the PDP stated.
It would be recalled that the 79 plaintiffs had filed a suit against the PDP and three others by way of originating summon dated September 11, 2013 at the Federal High Court Abuja