The Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday suspended its reserved judgement on a suit seeking an order to declare vacant the seats of Bukola saraki, Senate President, and Yakubu Dogara, Spaeaker of the House of Representative, and 52 other members of the National Assembly who defected from their original parties in the build-up to the 2019 elections.
According to Justice Okon Abang, the presiding judge, the decision to suspend judgement on the suit was taken upon pleas from the defendants who had asked for more time to file their defence in the matter.
However, the judge condemned the reaction of the lawmakers to court summons, having refused to participate in the proceedings and failed to file their defence in the suit despite being served with the plaintiff's suit and the court's hearing notices.
There was an intense argument between Ede Uko, the plaintiff's counsel, and Mahmud Magaji (SAN), the legislator's lawyer, when the court resumed hearing on Thursday about whether the court should proceed to deliver its judgement or not.
After the argument, the judge held that the court could not overlook the processes filed by the defendants, but he commended the plaintiff's lawyer for proper articulation of the eforts of the lawmakers to frustrate the proceedings.
"The right to be heard is a fundamental right," he said.
The judge fixed Friday for hearing of the defendants' motion as they are expected to file their defence between now and then.
Legal Defence and Assistance Project, a civil society group, had filed the suit in September in the wake of the gale of defections that swept across the National Assembly. The suit is urging the court to compel the affected legislators not only to vacate their seats in the National Assembly but also to refund all allowances and remuneration they had received since their defection.
The suit is also seeking an order compelling the Independent National Electoral Commision (INEC) to conduct by-elections in the constituencies the legislators are representing.
Filed on September 18, 2018, with number FHC/ABJ/CS/996/ 2018, the suit was targeted against 17 senators and 37 members of the House of Representative who defected from the parties that sponsored their elections to the National Assembly.