Court clears Akpabio on defection

The Federal High Court in Abuja has cleared Senator Godswill Akpabio from the legal suit challenging his defection from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC).  Justice Okon Abang delivering judgment on Friday on a suit seeking the vacation of the seats of Senator Akpabio and 53 other members of the National Assembly, who defected from one political party to another in 2018, was of the view that Akpabio, former Senate Minority Leader, can move from one party to another.

The Legal Aides Assistant Project (LEDAP) had instituted the suit against the lawmakers, demanding the court to declare their seats vacant, noting that there was no division in their parties as claimed.

Senator Akpabio, however, said before the court that he joined the All Progressives Congress (APC) was because he was expelled from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Justice Abang remarked that Akpabio neither decamped nor defected to the APC with the facts placed before the court. The Judge rather held that Senator Akpabio only moved or joined the ruling party on August 3, 2018, and this is based on his freedom of association as envisaged by the law.

The judge said having been expelled by the PDP, the defendant has the constitutional right to join any political party of his choice.

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He added that the fact that he was expelled from the opposition party showed there was no division in APC, stating that the plaintiff ought not to have joined him in the suit for his seat to be declared vacant.

Justice Abang also held that the matter was subjudice because there was a case concerning Senator Akpabio before a court.

He noted that joining him in the suit amounted to an abuse of court process and as such, the claim as affects him ought to be dismissed.

The judge said at the time the lawmaker joined APC, he was no longer a member of a political party having been expelled by the PDP and was entitled to joining any party without losing his seat.

He said that he agreed with Senator Akapbio that the violation of the law was in good fate, adding that declaring his seat vacant amounted to punishing him for exercising his right to association.