Court grants Senator Akpabio permission to defend self

A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has granted leave to Senator Godswill Akpabio to personally challenge a suit seeking his removal from office for allegedly defecting from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Trial judge, Justice Okon Abang, granted Akpabio’s plea on Monday after the senator’s counsel, Sunday Ameh, had moved his application for leave to allow him file a further affidavit of facts.

The plaintiff, Legal Defense and Assistant Project (LEDAP), filed the suit against Akpabio and 53 others who had defected from one party to the other.

By the suit, which was filed last year, LEDAP is praying the court to declare the seat of the affected National Assembly members vacant over their defection in 2018.

Justice Abang had already heard parties in the matter on April 30, and fixed May 17 for judgement before Akpabio filed his application.

Akpabio’s contention was that he was not served with the originating summons personally and that he came to know about the case recently.

Akpabio insisted that since the matter is not a class action, it behooves on the court to allow him defend himself and explain why he took the decision to join APC.

However, the plaintiff opposed the application on the ground that it was aimed at arresting the judgement of the Court already slated for May 17, 2019.

But ruling on Akpabio’s application on Monday, the judge agreed with submissions of his lawyer, Sunday Ameh SAN, that the suit “is not a class action hence, the applicant is entitled to be heard before judgment is delivered.

Abang held that it would not be proper to shut the applicant out of the case, when he was not aware of the pendency of the case, adding that it is mandatory to hear all parties before a decision is taken.

“Service of originating process on a person cannot be presumed, it cannot be waived” Abang said, adding that “He must be heard, it is his fundamental right”.

The court said in accordance with section 36 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the 3rd defendant (Akpabio) is entitled to fair hearing.