18th January, 2022
By Taiye Agbaje
The All Progressives Congress (APC), on Tuesday, told the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that Gov. Bello Matawalle of Zamfara cannot be joined in the suit filed before a Federal High Court, Abuja, seeking his removal from office.
The APC, through his counsel, Peter Nwatu, told Justice Inyang Ekwo that joining Matawalle would have amounted to setting the law against itself.
Nwatu, who argued that the party sought to be joined was unknown to law, urged the court to refuse the application.
“The applicant PDP) has sought to join a person that is unknown to law in the person of Governor Matawalle.
“I urge you to refuse this application in the sense that the 1st person sought to be joined ought not to be joined,” he said.
Corroborating Nwatu’s statement, counsel to the governor, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, said based on Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution, Matawalle is immune to being sued.
He said the section named those persons, who are shielded against such suits as governor, deputy governor, president and the vice president.
“In this case, the person they want to join is Governor Bello Mohammed Matawalle,” he said.
They are not suing him in his nominal capacity
Ozekhome, who argued that Sections 180 and 188 had already provided how a governor could be removed from office, said this could either be as a result of death, resignation, impeachment or at the expiration of the period of his office.
“No criminal or civil proceeding can be instituted against any person holding the positions of governors, deputy governor, president and vice president
“So whether they call him (Matawalle) governor or not, apart from being a non-juristic person, he cannot be sued as a person,” he said.
Counsel to PDP, James Onoja, SAN, disagreed with the defence counsel.
He said most of the issues they raised had already been countered in their processes.
The senior lawyer argued that the suit was not a pre-election matter but a post-election case.
He insisted that in post-election matter, a governor can be sued.
“My lord, we also know that it is not only Matawalle we want to join.
“And when a statue of the governor is being challenged , the immunity of the governor is also called to question.
“This is a post-election issue that we are questioning whether he has the right to continue as governor after his defection,” he said.
Onoja argued that if immunity covers governors after their election, then there would be no need for the setting g up of an election petition tribunal.
On his part, counsel to the Independent Nations Electoral Commission (INEC), Anthony Onyeri, said the commission did not file any counter affidavit regarding the suit.
Justice Ekwo adjourned the matter until Feb. 24 for ruling on whether Governor Matawalle is to be joined in the suit or not.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the opposition party had, previously, sued INEC, APC, President of the Senate, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Governor of Zamfara and Chief Justice of Zamfara as the 1st to 7th defendants. respectively.
The party had in a motion for joinder marked: FHC/ABJ /CS /650/2021 on Oct. 30, 2021, asked court to join Matawalle, the three Zamfara senators and 27 other lawmakers who defected from the party to the APC in the lawsuit.
The PDP is specifically asking the court to sack Matawalle, the three senators, six members of the House of Representatives and all state House of Assembly lawmakers who dumped the party for the APC.
NAN reports that Matawalle, alongside the three senators, six members of the House of Representatives and the 24 members of the Zamfara House of Assembly had, on June 29, defected from the ruling party.
While the governor defected from APC, the deputy governor, Mahdi Gusau, did not.
Against this development, the PDP had sought the court order, joining Matawalle as the 8th defendant since only his office had been sued in the earlier request.
The party, which urged the court to join its deputy, Gusau, as the second plaintiff, also called on the court to join the senators, members of the House and the 24 state lawmakers as the 7th to 38th defendants.
The PDP, in an originating summons dated and filed on July 8, requested the court’s interpretation of Articles 1 (2), 188, 287, 221, 177 (c), 106 (d) and 65 ( 2) (b), among other provisions of the 1999 Constitution as amended for the determination of four main issues as set out in the petition.
It asked the court to determine whether Matawalle and all lawmakers are eligible to continue to hold the various political offices in which they were elected on the plaintiff’s platform.
“This part of the plaintiff’s complaint in the originating summons also concerns the attempts of the 5th to 7th defendants to initiate and initiate impeachment proceedings against the 2nd party (Gusau) sought to be joined, which is member of the requesting political group. party and was elected to the post of deputy governor of Zamfara State on the platform of the complainant.
“That the parties requested to be joined have been named in the originating summons and that their actions and inactions form part of the material facts which gave rise to the cause of action and to the object of the originating summons proceedings and are therefore persons whose interests may be affected by the outcome of this case ”, among others.
The party stated that the request was made in the interests of justice to join said persons as co-plaintiff and defendant in order to enable the court to examine and resolve in an efficient and effective manner all the issues in dispute. in the matter once and for all and to avoid a multiplicity of actions on the same subject.
It said the ruling was intended to ensure that “the ends of justice are not overcome by mere technical objections to the joinder of the parties.”
Mr. Matawalle became governor of the state, following a Supreme Court ruling on March 24, 2019, which overturned the CPA primaries in the state.